Simone de Beauvoir: Political Writings

Edited by Margaret A. Simons and Marybeth Timmermann. Univ. of Illinois, $42 (384p) ISBN 978-0-252-03694-1
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Rich and illuminating, this collection of essays, reportage, and prefaces by the seminal French philosopher and feminist (part of the Beauvoir series) tackles such disparate topics as the American West and the marquis de Sade, and traverses almost the entire length of de Beauvoir’s (The Second Sex) writing life. Although collected as political writings, the texts prove too varied and complex to sit comfortably within that category. The essay on de Sade, for example, provocatively melds aesthetic and moral concerns, while the final text, a revelatory transcription of an obscure documentary about old age, defies easy categorization. More straightforwardly political pieces on Salazar-era Portugal, right-wing thought, Algeria, and Israel reveal de Beauvoir’s stylistic range, from harshly polemic to tediously pedantic, and always wonderfully descriptive. Astutely edited by Simons (Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir) and translator Timmermann, each section begins with a series of incisive and clear-eyed introductions, of which William Wilkerson’s in particular stands out, while de Beauvoir’s daughter, Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir, provides the foreword. Though it may arguably hold more interest for the scholar than the general reader, the collection provides a fascinating chart of a brilliant mind struggling to bridge the divide between rarified abstract thinking and concrete social engagement. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 04/16/2012
Release date: 06/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 408 pages - 978-0-252-08594-9
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