“So much the better—this was death. It was nothing; it was to cease to breathe. It was happiness, it was perfect happiness. They had now what they had always wanted to have, the union which had been impossible while they lived. Unconscious whether he thought the words or spoke them aloud, he said, “No two people have ever been so happy as we have been. No one has ever loved as we have loved.” It seemed to him that their complete union and happiness filled the room with rings eddying more and more widely. He had no wish in the world left unfulfilled. They possessed what could never be taken from them.”
There is something about these two people, something so strong that draws me towards them even when I don’t agree to everything they believe in, or even when I do not religiously follow them, at least not yet. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, the world knows them, two head-strong thinkers, two lovers, two existentialists who lived such full lives, such free lives that despite everything a jealous thread flows towards me and irks me like never before. What was this book! What was their life all about? How can this ever end? Did this really end? Did I really turn the last page of this tete-a-tete and do I really have nothing more about them?
Thankfully, I do! I have unending material by these two people, such large volumes that are surely intimidating, but what are a few hundred thousand pages in exchange of, the kind of lives they have led? Glamorous? A life of infidelity and fornication? A life of brutality? Drinks and drugs? Honesty? Freedom
I am undoubtedly leaving every kind of TBR and picking up some book by them, next, at least one of them has to be near me so that I don’t feel distant from them. Reading this, I almost thought of myself as one of Beauvoir’s students, soon to be made friends, passed on to Sartre. What would become of me then? Would my life be as important to them as that of their friends?
Sartre and Beauvoir met when they were nobody and over the years they grew what they are now, together. They never married, they were only lovers throughout, in fact, they even had simultaneous relationships, and for Sartre, they went as far as having six women at one time. Yes, I counted. But nothing was ever hidden from Beauvoir. In return, she never hid anything too. This was the pact, be honest, and tell each other everything, everything! Can one imagine, what intellectual, what romantic, and full of travel tales, the lives that these two people led. I have already written so much, but this does not begin to define my fascination with them. The magnanimity. the brilliance, it never ends. Absolutely the most unconventional love story I might have ever read, and for once I wouldn’t have rejected the idea of being involved infamously. What a dream!
This couple changed the century, they changed how we think, they changed the romantics, existentialists, they define freedom to me now. The passion that Sartre had for his work, and isn’t Beauvoir almost simultaneous to feminism. I am awed. My only problem with Rowley was the way the deaths of both these people were dealt with. Actually, my problem might be with the people who lived then. While both were in huge standing positions then why was only Sartre glamourized so much, more so during his death- so many people came that there was no place to stand, someone fell down along with the coffin when Sartre was put down, flowers had to be passed above heads because no one could walk. While Beauvoir had 5000 people attend her ceremony and the entire episode almost ends abruptly. What I am trying to say is both so brilliant, but only one of them had the luxury to be prided for what they did, the other was looked down upon by so many. Why? Because of the way she chose to live. Have the times changed? Ask yourself while I sit back, miss these love episodes, and laugh at the question.
Also, while almost every letter and book by Beauvoir has been published, some by herself, and some after her death by her adopted daughter Sylvie Le Bon-de Beauvoir, what happens now to those works that remain unpublished which went under the custody of Arlette Elkaim-Sartre, Sartre’s adopted daughter. I ask this because, when this book was published in 2005 Arlette refused them to be published and denied access to a lot of unpublished material to Hazel Rowley. But now that she passed away would they ever come out? Did Sartre ever regret making her his heir? I don’t have questions, not now, for Beauvoir, she had been crystal clear to me, but Sartre itches me a little still. His passion pertains among women, still? God, I cannot stop writing.
5 thoughts on “Tête-à-tête: The Tumultuous Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre by Hazel Rowley”
Undoubtedly it is a story of love and mutual intellectual collaboration, which would extend for half a century. It was one of the stories that gave a lot to talk about and was one of the most famous and least conventional of the 20th century.
A fascinating story that, to this day, captures the attention. Greetings and thanks for sharing.
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A wonderful write up. Thank you for sharing this, and welcome back!
A great story and a beautiful post, Moushmi. Lovely.
How did I miss this! Thank you for writing this piece. Have been always intrigued.
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Such an intriguing read. Thanks for sharing this.