A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren

Simone de Beauvoir, Author, Ellen Gordon Reeves, Translator, Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir, Preface by New Press $27.5 (559p) ISBN 978-1-56584-422-3
This engrossing collection is the first publication in America of the 300-plus letters that de Beauvoir wrote to her lover, Algren (The Man with the Golden Arm), between February 1947 and November 1964. At a time when transatlantic phone calls were rare, de Beauvoir used letter-writing to charm her ""beloved Chicago man,"" to outline her progress on what would become The Second Sex and The Mandarins, and to describe the postwar Parisian intelligentsia surrounding her, Sartre and their monthly, Les Temps Modernes. There is more gossip here than philosophical or political debate: for example, fistfights between Arthur Koestler and Albert Camus, daily death threats to Sartre, ""this ridiculous thing which is Truman Capote,"" ""Jean Genet, the pederast-burglar"" and the ""cave"" hopping of the literati--the less well known of whom are helpfully footnoted. But her detached descriptions of places, events and parties are ultimately more interesting than her often condescending opinions of people and her need to reiterate to Algren how many women are attracted to her. Written in often awkward yet energetically chatty English (""It is not scotch; it is the moving boat which makes my handwriting so shaking.""), de Beauvoir's letters are both guarded and vulnerable. One frustration here is the lack of Algren's voice, although there are some brief summaries of letters or pertinent meetings. If those expecting steamy love letters will be disappointed, this one-sided correspondence provides invaluable primary material for scholars of the Paris intelligentsia and while doing so, reveals a woman alternately feisty, catty, proud and unsure. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-1-56584-560-2
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