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Definition: Beauvoir from The Macquarie Dictionary

Simone de 1908—86, French existentialist novelist, essayist and feminist.


Summary Article: Beauvoir, Simone de
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French socialist, feminist, and writer. She played a large role in French intellectual life from the 1940s to the 1980s. Her book Le Deuxième Sexe/The Second Sex (1949), one of the first major feminist texts, is an encyclopedic study of the role of women in society, drawing on literature, myth, and history. In this work she argues that the subservient position of women is the result of their systematic repression by a male-dominated society that denies their independence, identity, and sexuality.

She also published novels, including Les Mandarins/The Mandarins (1954; winner of the Prix Goncourt), and many autobiographical volumes. She taught philosophy at the University of Paris 1931–43 and was a lifelong companion of the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre; La Cérémonie des Adieux/Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre (1981) gives an intimate insight into their relationship.

Simone de Beauvoir claimed that women must take responsibility for their own lives. The themes of choice and identity are explored in novels such as L'Invitée/She Came to Stay (1943), and also appear in her extended autobiography. This gives a frank and vivid account not only of one woman's life from birth to old age, but also of intellectual life in the 20th century. The sequence includes Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée/Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), La Force de l'âge/The Prime of Life (1960), La Force des choses/The Force of Circumstance (1963), and Tout compte fait/All Said and Done (1972). Une Mort très douce/A Very Easy Death (1964) is a moving account of her mother's death and La Vieillesse/Old Age (1970) attacks society's indifference to the old.

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Beauvoir, Simone de

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