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She Had to Take a Powder

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  • trop_de_simones
    Simone was struggling to finish her first book, She Came to Stay, when Jean-Paul wrote something that would enabled her to write her own fiction that was
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4, 2005
      Simone was struggling to finish her first book, She Came to Stay,
      when Jean-Paul wrote something that would enabled her to write her
      own fiction that was "informed by an idea, a philosophy":

      "I have thought of a nice little theory about freedom and
      nothingness," Sartre mentioned casually in a letter of December 7,
      1939, with the declaration "I must begin to set my ideas about
      morality in order." The first question he asked was toward what end
      human reality should be directed. He had only one answer: "to its own
      end," arguing that human reality always has only one real
      aim, "itself," concluding that, to use his phrase "human reality"
      need answer only to itself. "Its freedom," he posits, "is that it is
      never anything without motivating itself to be it. Nothing can ever
      happened to it *from outside*. This comes from the fact that human
      reality is first of all consciousness; in other words, it's nothing
      that isn't consciousness of being . . . It only discovers* the
      world . . . on the occasion of its own reactions."

      During his April 1940 leave from his military unit, "he had developed
      his *little theory* to the point where he was steadily writing what
      would become Being and Nothingness. She listened attentively to
      everything he said, pointing out inconsistencies and rebutting some
      of his views, but generally finding his theory worth pondering at
      great length after he returned to his unit."

      "Without telling him, she decided to put her novel aside and go each
      day to the Biblioteque Nationale to read Heidegger and
      Hegel, "because I wanted to understand their theories for my own
      satisfaction, but most of all because I needed to become expert in
      order to help Sartre with his new [philosophical] system." She did
      so "without the slightest pang" at putting aside her own novel,
      because "his theory was worth so much more than any novel I could
      have written then. Who knew what would happened with the war? It was
      important that Sartre's writing be encouraged first so that he could
      finish. I had an obligation to help him."

      Philosophy was much on Simone de Beauvoir's mind during the time she
      worked happily on her play. (Useless Mouths) It became an
      increasingly important category of thought as she continued her
      accustomed role of "favored critic" for Sartre while they both pored
      over his manuscript of Being and Nothingness.

      "I accepted his formulations as soon as I heard them, 'Beauvoir
      recalled. "His ideas about the nature of human freedom and the
      obligations carried by the concept of choice made as much sense to me
      as his earlier theory of contingency. It was only natural that I
      sought to express these ideas within literature; I am still not sure
      why I thought I should express them philosophically." To the end of
      her life, she insisted that she was "not a philosopher. Neither
      intelligent enough nor creative enough, nor possessing the sheer
      creative brilliance it takes to propound a thesis or construct a
      system." She explained further: "In philosophical terms, he was
      creative and I am not . . . I always recognized his superiority in
      that area. So where Sartre's philosophy is concerned, it is fair to
      say that I took my cue from him because I also embraced
      existentialism myself."

      primarily excerpted from:
      Simone de Beauvoir, A Biography
      by Deirdre Bair
      Simon & Schuster, New York 1990
      posted by trop_de_simones
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