cover image Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography

Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography

Deirdre Bair. Little Brown and Company, $24.45 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-60681-7

This impressively researched biography by the author of Samuel Beckett is the most detailed account to date of the life and work of de Beauvoir (1908-1986). Based on many interviews, and discussing each of Beauvoir's works within the chronology of her life, Bair's magnum opus combines literary biography, intellectual and oral history and feminist theory, yet centers on de Beauvoir's extraordinary long relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre. Bair argues persuasively that de Beauvoir was affectionate, generous and witty, but also quirky, opinionated, witheringly honest and generally humorless. Awkard and ill-kempt, a woman who drank and cried to excess, she seemed unaware of her striking physical presence; she was nearly 40, contends the author, before she experienced an orgasm. Although never bound by the traditional constraints of marriage or family, she guarded Sartre jealously. Bair adds much to our knowledge of every aspect of de Beauvoir's life--her love affairs with Nelson Algren and Claude Lanzmann, her attitudes toward Camus, Giacometti, Koestler, Merleau-Ponty and many others--but, like Bair's own description of de Beauvoir's book on Sartre, the biography is sometimes ``detailed to the point of inducing fatigue and boredom.'' (Apr.)