cover image Inseparable


Simone de Beauvoir, trans. from the French by Sandra Smith. Ecco, $26.99 (176p) ISBN 978-0-06-307504-7

This bildungsroman from philosopher de Beauvoir (1908–1986), written in 1956 and only recently published in France, runs on verve, wit, and pathos mediated through the lens of an enigmatic friendship. The story follows militant Catholic Andrée Gallard and her freethinking best friend, Sylvie Lepage, who first meet at nine. Their school is evacuated during WWI, temporarily interrupting the friendship. (Of Andrée’s absence, Sylvie laments, “living without her was no longer living.”) The two are reunited after the war, though their teachers view Sylvie’s free spirit as a liability to the quiet and disciplined Andrée. Later, Andrée’s transformation is stark as she trades her independence for filial duties and fulfilling the expectations of French womanhood. When Sylvie visits Andrée’s summer home, she’s startled by the enormous pressure put on Andrée to take care of a slew of domestic duties and by her frail, exhausted state. Andrée struggles to assert herself, constantly questioning whether her actions would defy God, go against her mother, or even support Satan. A freakish accident and ensuing controversy fills Andrée with doubt and leads her down a crushing path. The trailblazing feminist writes bracingly of the complexity of female friendships. Beauvoir’s mastery of fiction further demonstrates her bravura. (Sept.)