Thursday, August 27, 2009

Starred Review in Booklist for A DANGEROUS LIAISON: A Revelatory Biography of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre

Booklist gives top ratings for Carole Seymour-Jones' new biography of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre, A Dangerous Liaison, coming next month: "While they were young students at the Sorbonne, Sartre proposed marriage to Beauvoir, in contradiction to his philosophy of freedom from society’s conventions. She refused but acquiesced to a bond, an “essential love” that lasted 50 years through the tumult of career ambitions, family frictions, wars, and various and sundry affairs as they changed the literary, philosophical, and cultural scene in Europe and around the world. Seymour-Jones draws on interviews with lovers and colleagues of Sartre and Beauvoir as well as previously unpublished papers to deliver a tour-de-force account of their famously creative relationship. They had a kind of twinship that made them prolific in their work, feeding off each other’s intellectual hunger and personal frailties. Their lives, centered in Paris but lived across continents, were full of contradictions: preaching free love but fighting jealousies as some lovers (her affair with Nelson Algren, his with an American journalist and later a Russian interpreter) threatened their bond; his eventual close association with the Resistance when self-absorption and accommodations with the Nazis kept him on the sidelines a long time; their deliberate blindness that made them complicit with Russian communism; her eventual iconic status as a feminist despite having spent much of her life procuring young women lovers for Sartre, seducing them herself first. Extremely detailed, well researched, and completely absorbing."

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