Friday, February 1, 2013

A Fine Romance - Sartre and Simone

When two highly intelligent people meet, and neither spirit extinguishes the other, what happens? A romance of the mind.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir met their friends at the Cafe de Flore or the Les Deux Magots in Paris to discuss the world events of their times. The warm cafes provided a forum to discuss literature, to form and test opinions with other writers and philosophers.  These locations became a regular gathering spot for the literary crowd.



Sartre and Simone, c.1920s at Balzac Memorial-PD,WC


For Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, their lives as teachers and philosophers at the Sorbonne in Paris gave them the credibility to launch new ideas, in support of the Existentialist philosophy. They  maintained separate living quarters, for each to work on their own writing. In retrospect, it seems that Simone generally deferred to Sartre, either from love for the man or love of his intellect.


Their relationship endured all others which came and went, but with no formal arrangement like marriage, affairs were indulged. Perhaps this arrangement worked for Sartre, but Simone had trouble accepting some of the affairs and was dismayed at her own jealousy. Sartre, who was known to consider himself a ladies' man, saw the jealousy as an emotion that Simone could learn to control. Perhaps she did.


Their relationship lasted 51 years under the pact that Sartre proposed (see link below).  Juliette Greco was one of those 'other' women that Sartre noticed and invited to join the group.  Juliette, however, considered Sartre and de Beauvoir the mentors she had admired from the fringes.


Simone de Beauvoir, PD, WC


A 'fine' romance, as the old song goes, this was a bittersweet lifelong affair for Simone.  At the end of his life, Simone cared for Jean-Paul and tried to get his last writings in order, at the expense of ignoring her own. They always edited each other's writing.

Simone never apologized for her way of thinking, saying she lived to please herself.  Sartre and Simone are buried together in the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.

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Do you think a writer's love life should be exposed for the world to see?  Are those authors who have numerous fans required to fulfill this desire?  Is it interacting with your fans or is it an invasion of privacy?

OR
Do you think Simone paid too high a price to be with the man she loved?

Please share in the comments, and thanks for stopping by!

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References:

YOUTUBE
Inspiration for the title: A Fine Romance; shows many photos of Billie Holiday.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FEQ8DnQo6k - Billie Holiday singing 'A Fine Romance'

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Strong Women in Culture (blogpost mentioning Simone de Beauvoir)
http://dghudson.blogspot.ca/2011/09/strong-women-role-models-in-culture.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simone_de_Beauvoir Simone de Beauvoir.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Paul_Sartre Sartre's background

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/09/26/050926crbo_books  A New Yorker article link, Stand by Your Man, The Strange Liaison of Sartre and de Beauvoir, with a bit about 'the pact' that tied Simone to Sartre.

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1 - Photo of Sartre and Simone:
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired

2 - Photo of Simone, smiling.
This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired

18 comments:

  1. Okay just wow. I read the New Yorker article. Fascinating. Thanks for pointing it out.

    In answer to your first question -- I think that after Sartre died and Bouvier exposed their life, was a catty thing to do. However, that being said, I think it was the only course she could take to get back at him. Jealousy does make you crazy whether you want to be or not, it's a human emotion and I think, our biggest failing. Also, for someone like Bouvier who wasn't afraid of breaking with convention, I think exposing her and Sartre's life for all the world to see was just part of who she was. As a fiction writer myself, I take parts of my own personal life and insert them into my stories. It's cathartic I suppose and I believe that was what Bouvier was trying to espouse.

    As for your second question -- I've always maintained that "you don't choose who you fall in love with, you just do" and whatever that entails, you put up with it. If she didn't want that lifestyle anymore, I think she was strong enough to walk away. Then again, contemplating heartbreak of that kind might have just scared her into staying, using the excuse "I love him."

    Thanks for this great post. An eye-opening "philosophical" idea.

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    1. She had the utmost respect for his thinking and his writing, and she published his writing and some letters after his death. I think she kept her feelings hidden for the most part trying to fit into the ideal of the 'modern woman'.

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  2. Rebellion against tradition/authority is the foodstuff of artists. I'm not surprised by their arrangement, though it sounds like she did most of the compromising.

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    1. I agree, LG. It's an age-old tale. She was brilliant herself, and had her own following.

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  3. Sad they never married.
    Some things shouldn't be sacrificed. Some things should be private.

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  4. I don't think many women would live that life in today's world. I like keeping my writing life and real life apart.

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    1. I think the same, Susan. But love and our hearts are unpredictable. I like my privacy too.

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  5. Thanks for the follow and welcome Wendy.
    Visited your blog to say hi.

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  6. too hard a question for me to answer---this was fascinating---and if we are talking about the same song--i love the way michael feinstein does it!

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    1. I think we are, Lynn. It's an old song.

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  7. I think Simone knew exactly what she was doing. Times were different then, French women were different, very different, from American women back then. I don't know what they are like now.

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    1. From what I saw when I was there a three years ago, French women have their own charm, as do their men.

      Simone was too smart not to know what she was doing. (IMO)

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  8. One of my favourite quotes of Simone's is something about staying connected for life to a guy just because he's the one you met when you were 19.
    I don't think that the private lives of writers, (or actors or musicians) are any of the public's business. I think that just because we might like the way someone tells a story, no matter what medium they use, it's none of our business were they shop, or what they had for dinner or who they're dating
    Why do we care anyways? And as I write this I know I'm a sucker for celebrity gossip! What is that?!

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    1. Everyone wants privacy, but it's a trade-off for being 'rich and/or famous.

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  9. I'm not sure anyone could care too much about modern-day writers. Their story makes a great story, though. Doesn't it? Fodder for us modern-day writers. :)

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    1. Great fodder, indeed, MPax. Research can be used for our books, as well as for blog posts.

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  10. No, I don't think it's our business, BUT everyone loves a great love story, even if that story didn't go quite the way we might agree with. If she was happy, then she didn't pay too steep of a price; it was her choice.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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