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Prime of Life Simone de Beauvoir

Prime of Life

Simone de Beauvoir

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 About the Book 

If volume one of her memoirs made me fall completely in love with Simone de Beauvoir, then volume two is what always comes afterward, where those endearing quirks are seen for the faults they are, which doesnt make one love her any less, perhaps more even.If youre looking for the dirt, this autobiography is hardly forthcoming, but she does offer some explanation of her emotions and motives, if you read between the lines, though she never mentions any juicy personal details, which might make you want to run out a grab a biography with ALL the gossip, but if the author has firmly got her hooks in you by now, you probably won’t because it would seem sleazy. Yeah, I’m talking about the preternatural relationship with young girls, etc. It seems even at this age she was already preoccupied with the irreparable loss of youth and I think chasing that lost youth underlies her weirdness with the youngsters. But hey, no one is perfect!And yes, she’s sort of narcissistic (but I sort of think maybe it’s a required trait to make any way in this world, see that’s why I’m a failure, I’m just not self-centered enough.) She spent her youth and much of her young life believing that the world could only be understood through her senses and her superior mind alone. That others experience the exact same thing was nothing less than a revelation to her. Yet, I think this point of view is so very human and she is far more honest than most people for admitting this. It’s even humorous when, after young street urchins in a Greek slum throw stones at them, she explains it away simply as they were throwing stones at tourists and of course the kids anger was not really directed at ‘us’. She so easily excludes herself from the social group to which she firmly belongs, but she also recognizes this error and that’s what makes her writing so interesting. The reader may cringe at how she justifies everything relating to her relationship with Sartre. While her examination of sexual attitudes that were taken for granted is interesting, I must wonder at the self denial/dishonesty this takes. Her internal conflict of body vs. mind and upbringing vs. philosophy are obviously reoccurring theme.This is one of those books you have to decide how much time you really want to devote to looking up references, to literature, philosophy, film, theater and politics, which this book absolutely overflows with. Of course there is the historical significance and the famous people she knew. I found young Sartres prediction that talkies would never really take off funny, as well as his strange interests, like graphology, yet these were all within the trends of their times, like the Yo-yo craze which Sartre practiced morning to night at one point. I laughed at his experiment with LSD, which possibly led to his reoccurring delusions about a giant lobster stalking him (I feel for you Sartre, the single instance I took an hallucinogenic I also had had horrible time of it, no lobster though.)I love how travel was so important to her, no matter how broke she was she managed through sheer thrift to see a large portion of Western Europe. I love how she would just take off alone for days or weeks, hiking through the Alps or across the French countryside with just some bread, sausage and canteen of wine (so French!) and no idea of her destination. I love reading about her and Sartre’s trips to Spain and Italy and Morocco, where they could only afford the cheapest deck crossing on ships and often slept in parks, or barns, or in ruins they where there to sightseeing. Later she takes up cycling and rides off a cliff face, twice, the second time losing a tooth and swelling her whole face so that only after two weeks when her facial swelling goes down does she realize her tooth is embedded in her face (which apparently is a thing that happens, my nephew cut his foot open in a lake this summer, it took a while to heal and after a month it was still itching, so he was picking at it and a shell popped out! He had been walking around with a part of zebra mussel shell in his foot for almost a month! In his defense, he’s only 7.)This volume illuminates the birth of her political awareness. Up until the start of WW II she pays little notice to current events and politics, passing by strikes on her way to see tourist attraction without a thought. It is fascinating to watch as she gradually becomes more aware, for instance how she cries inconsolably during a visit to cousin’s factory at the working conditions. I thought the switching to her actual diary entries at start of the war and the fall of France was interesting, the frenzied tone embodies the uncertainly and excitement of the time. I like how the diary fades out as she becomes accustomed to war, as people do become accustomed to anything. Even her lust for travel is not stopped by the Nazi occupation though she decries the chic refuges that she only distinguish herself from by being broke, even as she remains the firmly part middle class as much as she hates to admit it. And her joy of experiencing the liberation of Paris is infectious. Even if you have no interest her life, philosophy and the exciting times she lived, this stands alone as a beautifully written narrative. I thought about giving this 5 stars but went with four, if only to separate it from the more superior first volume. I suppose Ill have to read the next one as well.