Sunday, April 18, 2010


A newly translated unabridged version of Simone de Beauvoir's magnum opus, The Second Sex
--a collaboration between Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier came out last week.  The two authors did a book signing last Monday at the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF) to present their current translated version, available at Amazon HERE, (at a much lower price than the original).  The NewsGallery highly recommends this book as a mind-blowing read--it's much like an experience of arriving at a philosophical climax, left feeling as though you have a much better understanding of how both sexes play roles within a society, particularly women, who have intrinsic goals and desires that are questionably nurtured rather than natured. 

Below is an excerpt from the Introduction written by Borde and Malovany-Chevallier from their latest unabridged edition:

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
If Beauvoir has proved to be an irresistible subject for biographers, it is, in part, because she and Sartre, as a pharaonic couple of incestuous deities, reigned over twentieth- century French intellectual life in the decades of its greatest ferment. But the most fascinating subjects tend to be those richest in contradictions, and The Second Sex, no less than Beauvoir’s prolific and important fiction, memoirs, and correspondence, seethes with them. Deirdre Bair, Beauvoir’s biographer, touches upon a fundamental paradox in the introduction to her admirable life.
She and Sartre ’s biographer Annie Cohen-Solal had been lecturing together at Harvard. At the conclusion of their talk, she writes, “I could not help but comment to my distinguished audience that every question asked about Sartre concerned his work, while all those asked about Beauvoir concerned her personal life.” Yet Sartre ’s work, and specifically the existentialist notion of an opposition between a sovereign self— a subject— and an objectified Other, gave Beauvoir the conceptual scaffold for The Second Sex, while her life as a woman (indeed, as Sartre ’s woman) impelled her to write it. He had once told her that she had “a man’s intelligence,” and there is no evidence that he changed his mind about a patronizing slight that she, too, accepted as a compliment until she began to consider what it implied. It implied, she would write, that “humanity is male, and man defines woman, not in herself, but in relation to himself,” and by all the qualities (Colette ’s strain of “virility”) she is presumed to lack. Her “twinship” with Sartre was an illusion.

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