Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir (January 9, 1908April 14, 1986) was a French author, philosopher, and feminist.

Born Simone Lucie-Ernestine-Marie-Bertrand de Beauvoir on January 9, 1908 in Paris, France, she eventually studied at the elite cole Normale Suprieure where, in 1929, she met Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1981 she wrote La Cérémonie Des Adieux (A Farewell to Sartre), a painful account of Sartre's last years.

Beauvoir has come to be seen as the mother of post-1968 feminism, with philosophical writings linked to, though independent of, Sartrian existentialism. She is best known for her work Le Deuxime Sexe (The Second Sex, 1949) which contained detailed analysis of women's oppression.

Simone de Beauvoir died of pneumonia on April 14, 1986 and was buried alongside Sartre at the Cimetire du Montparnasse in Paris, France.


The Second Sex

Simone de Beauvoir reasons through a feminist existentialism in The Second Sex, published first in French in 1953. As an existentialist, Beauvoir accepts the doctrine that existence precedes essence; therefore one is not born, but becomes a woman. Her analysis focuses on the concept of The Other. It is the construction of woman as the quintessential other that Beauvoir marks as fundamental to women's oppression.

Beauvoir argues that throughout history women have been considered the deviation, the abnormality. Even Mary Wollstonecraft considers men to be the ideal toward which women should aspire. Beauvoir says that this attitude has held women back by maintaining the perception that women are a deviation from the normal, that they are outsiders attempting to emulate "normality". She says that for feminism to move forward, this assumption needs to be broken.

Simone de Beauvoir asserts that females are just as capable of choice as males and can choose to elevate themselves and reduce male consciousness to immanence. Although not stated explicitely by Beauvoir, an example that actualizes females choosing transcendence is in the context of a sorority where females can claim their collective as "we" and being female is normal, reducing male consciousness to The Other.

'The Second Sex' by Simone de Beauvoir ( (Free Online Version - English Translation).

Other works

In 1943, de Beauvoir published L'Invitée (She Came to Stay, 1943), a fictionalized chronicle of the relationship she formed with one of her students, Olga Kosakiewicz, while she was teaching in Rouen during the early 30s. The novel also delves into the complex relationship between de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as how their relationship was affected by the inclusion of Kosakiewicz.

At the end of World War II, de Beauvoir joined Sartre as an editor at Les Temps Modernes, a political journal Sartre founded along with the likes of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Aside from her editorship, de Beauvoir used Les Temps Modernes as a platform for her introducing various works and remained an editor until her death.

Although the work receives little attention, Pour Une Morale de L'ambigut (The Ethics of Ambiguity, 1947) is perhaps the single best point of entry into French existentialism. The simplicity of the work is a marvel in and of itself, as de Beauvoir reduces the gnashing of teeth that many associate with reading Sartre's overly-analytical Being and Nothingness to a few pages of comparatively light reading.

It should be quite obvious that de Beauvoir was amazingly agile as an author; she was equally adept as a philosopher, novelist, political theorist, essayist, as well as biographer. After her death, de Beauvoir has garned extreme praise, not only due to the growing acceptance of feminism in academia, but also as we have become more aware of the influence she had on Sartre's masterpiece, Being and Nothingness. She is without question one of the greatest French thinkers throughout history.

Other major works: Les Mandarins (The Mandarins,1954); Memoires d'une jeune fille range (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, 1958).

'The Ethics of Ambiguity' by Simone de Beauvoir ( (Free Online Version - English Translation).


  • She Came to Stay, (1943)
  • Pyrrhus et Cinas, (1944)
  • The Blood of Others, (1945)
  • Who Shall Die?, (1945)
  • All Men are Mortal, (1946)
  • The Ethics of Ambiguity, (1947)
  • The Second Sex, (1949)
  • America Day by Day, (1954)
  • The Mandarins, (1954)
  • Must We Burn Sade?, (1955)
  • The Long March, (1957)
  • Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, (1958)
  • The Prime of Life, (1960)
  • A Very Easy Death, (1964)
  • Les Belles Images, (1966)
  • The Woman Destroyed, (1967)
  • The Coming of Age, (1970)
  • All Said and Done, (1972)
  • When Things of the Spirit Come First, (1979)
  • Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre, (1981)
  • Letters to Sartre, (1990)
  • A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren, (1998)

External links

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