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.


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?

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!



Inspiration for the title: A Fine Romance; shows many photos of Billie Holiday. - Billie Holiday singing 'A Fine Romance'


Strong Women in Culture (blogpost mentioning Simone de Beauvoir) Simone de Beauvoir. Sartre's background  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.


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