Simone de Beauvoir


Simone De Beauvoir The Second Sex

Franklin Library Simone de Beauvoir books

The Second Sex - signed limited edition - 1979

 

Who was Simone de Beauvoir?

Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, known as Simone de Beauvoir, was a French writer, philosopher, and feminist born on January 9, 1908, in Paris, France. A pioneering figure in existentialist philosophy and a key intellectual in the feminist movement, de Beauvoir is renowned for her significant contributions to literature, ethics, and feminist thought. De Beauvoir was raised in a bourgeois Parisian family and received an excellent education, excelling academically. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, where she encountered the influential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, with whom she would form a lifelong personal and intellectual partnership.

In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir published her seminal work, The Second Sex (Le Deuxième Sexe in French), a groundbreaking analysis of women's oppression throughout history. The book is considered a foundational text in modern feminist philosophy, exploring issues of gender, patriarchy, and the social construction of femininity. De Beauvoir famously declared, "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," emphasizing the societal and cultural influences on gender roles.

Apart from her philosophical contributions, Simone de Beauvoir was a prolific novelist and essayist. Her novels, including She Came to Stay (1943) and The Mandarins (1954), are notable for their exploration of existentialist themes and their portrayal of complex relationships. The Mandarins won the prestigious Prix Goncourt, establishing de Beauvoir as a respected literary figure.

Simone de Beauvoir's personal and intellectual partnership with Jean-Paul Sartre was characterized by a commitment to individual freedom and intellectual collaboration. They both engaged in existentialist philosophy, a movement that emphasized individual responsibility and the importance of personal choice. Throughout her life, de Beauvoir remained an active and influential figure in French intellectual circles. She continued to write essays, novels, and memoirs, addressing topics such as aging, death, and the complexities of human relationships.

What is existentialism to Simone De Beauvoir?

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emerged in the 20th century, primarily in Europe, and it focuses on the individual's experience of existence and the inherent meaninglessness of life. Simone de Beauvoir, a French existentialist philosopher and writer, made significant contributions to existentialist thought, particularly in the realm of feminist existentialism. Like other existentialists, de Beauvoir embraced the idea that existence precedes essence. This means that individuals exist first, and through their choices and actions, they define their essence or identity. There is no predetermined essence or purpose for human beings; it is up to each person to create their own meaning. Existentialism emphasizes individual freedom and the responsibility that comes with it. De Beauvoir argued that individuals must take responsibility for their choices and actions, even in the face of the constraints imposed by society.

De Beauvoir introduced the concept of "The Other" in her influential work The Second Sex. She explored the ways in which women are often treated as "the Other" in relation to men, leading to their marginalization and oppression. This feminist perspective added a crucial dimension to existentialist thought. De Beauvoir acknowledged the ambiguity of human existence. Life is filled with uncertainties, and individuals often face conflicting desires and values. Embracing this ambiguity is an essential part of the existentialist experience. De Beauvoir's book The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947) further explores existentialist ethics. She discusses the idea that individuals must live authentically, accepting the ambiguity of existence and making choices that reflect their commitment to freedom and responsibility. Simone de Beauvoir's contributions to existentialism, especially her feminist perspective, have had a profound impact on philosophy and feminist theory. Her works continue to be influential in discussions about freedom, responsibility, and the lived experience of individuals.

Simone de Beauvoir passed away on April 14, 1986, in Paris, leaving behind a lasting legacy as a philosopher, feminist, and literary figure. Her contributions to existentialist philosophy and feminist thought have inspired generations of thinkers and writers, and The Second Sex remains a foundational text in feminist literature and philosophy.

 

The Second Sex

Simone de Beauvoir’s masterwork is a powerful analysis of the Western notion of “woman,” and a groundbreaking exploration of inequality and otherness. This long-awaited new edition reinstates significant portions of the original French text that were cut in the first English translation. Vital and groundbreaking, Beauvoir’s pioneering and impressive text remains as pertinent today as it was back then, and will continue to provoke and inspire generations of men and women to come.

First published in Paris in 1949, The Second Sex by Simone de Beavoir was a groundbreaking, risqué book that became a runaway success. Selling 20,000 copies in its first week, the book earned its author both notoriety and admiration.

Since then, The Second Sex has been translated into forty languages and has become a landmark in the history of feminism. Required reading for anyone who believes in the equality of the sexes, the central messages of The Second Sex are as important today as they were for the housewives of the forties.

Of all the writing that emerged from the existentialist movement, Simone de Beauvoir's groundbreaking study of women will probably have the most extensive and enduring impact. It is at once a work of anthropology and sociology, of biology and psychoanalysis, from the pen of a writer and novelist of penetrating imaginative power.

The Second Sex stands, four decades after its first appearance, as the first landmark in the modern feminist upsurge that has transformed perceptions of the social relationship of man and womankind in our time.

The essential masterwork that has provoked and inspired generations of men and women. “From Eve’s apple to Virginia Woolf’s room of her own, Beauvoir’s treatise remains an essential rallying point, urging self-sufficiency and offering the fruit of knowledge.” - Vogue



The Second Sex is a hymn to human freedom and a classic of the existentialist movement. It also has claims to be the most important single book in the history of feminism. In the forty years since its publication De Beauvoir's then revolutionary thesis that the subordination of women is not a fact of nature but the product of social conditioning has become part of our everyday thinking.

Simone de Beauvoir famously wrote, 'One is not born, but rather becomes, woman'. In this groundbreaking work of feminism she examines the limits of female freedom and explodes our deeply ingrained beliefs about femininity. Liberation, she argues, entails challenging traditional perceptions of the social relationship between the sexes and, crucially, in achieving economic independence.

Drawing on sociology, anthropology and biology, The Second Sex is as important and relevant today as when it was first published in 1949.


Simone de Beauvoir quotes

"One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation, and compassion."
"I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself."
"I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth and truth rewarded me."
"To catch a husband is an art; to hold him is a job."
"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."
"Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth."
"I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed, I get mad with anger."

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