Tete-a-Tete : Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre

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They are one of the world's legendary couples. We can't think of one without thinking of the other. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre -- those passionate, freethinking existentialist philosopher-writers -- had a committed but notoriously open union that generated no end of controversy. With Tete-a-Tete, distinguished biographer Hazel Rowley offers the first dual portrait of these two colossal figures and their intense, often embattled relationship. Through original interviews and access to new primary sources, Rowley portrays them up close, in their most intimate moments. We witness Beauvoir and Sartre with their circle, holding court in Paris cafes. We learn the details of their infamous romantic entanglements with the young Olga Kosakiewicz and others; of their efforts to protest the wars in Algeria and Vietnam; and of Beauvoir's tempestuous love affair with Nelson Algren. We follow along on their many travels, involving meetings with dignitaries such as Roosevelt, Khrushchev, and Castro. We listen in on the couple's conversations about Sartre's Nausea, Being and Nothingness, and Words, and Beauvoir's The Second Sex, The Mandarins, and her memoirs. And we hear the anguished discussions that led Sartre to refuse the Nobel Prize. The impact of their writings on modern thought cannot be overestimated, but Beauvoir and Sartre are remembered just as much for the lives they led. They were brilliant, courageous, profoundly innovative individuals, and Tete-a-Tete shows the passion, energy, daring, humor, and contradictions of their remarkable, unorthodox relationship. Theirs is a great story -- and a great story is precisely what Beauvoir and Sartre most wanted their lives to be.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 432 pages
  • 160 x 226.1 x 38.1mm | 703.08g
  • HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • HarperCollins
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Illustrations, ports.
  • 0060520590
  • 9780060520595
  • 1,410,023

Review quote

"An in-depth, unflinching account . . . TETE-A-TETE provides a valuable cultural history."--Boston Globeshow more

Review Text

A neatly assembled record of people behaving badly in the name of literature, philosophy and amour. Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, existentialists par excellence, were the Heloise and Abelard of their day-as correspondents and mutual confessors, anyway, for their relationship did not result in any mutilation save the metaphysical. As biographer Rowley (Richard Wright, 2001, etc.) notes, they prided themselves on telling the truth about everything, acting as witnesses on the world's behalf in repudiation of bourgeois conventions; they would live freely, would never submit to expediency or authority. The truth of their lives, as might be expected, is much less immaculate: As Rowley dutifully records, page after page, even as they took pains, as quasi-spouses, to keep each other informed about their every emotion and thought, they were decidedly more guarded in revealing matters of the flesh. That Sartre was short and ugly in his own self-description, and lived on a diet of amphetamines, whiskey and cigarettes, did not keep him from attracting a succession of young paramours; elegant, even aristocratic, de Beauvoir had the same luck drawing partners, male and female alike. Her partial treatment of the truth (and airing of the parts that she wished) so embittered one lover, Nelson Algren, that late in life he complained savagely, "I've been in whorehouses all over the world and the woman there always closes the door. . . . But this woman flung the door open and called in the public and the press." Meanwhile, Sartre strung along his enchanted "acolytes," as he called them, including the young Algerian woman he would adopt as his daughter. His secretary once asked how he managed them all. "In some cases," Sartre answered, "you're obliged to resort to a temporary moral code." C'est la vie, or something like it; you've got to admire the philosophers' energy. A fascinating rejoinder to, and sometimes corrective for, de Beauvoir's Adieux. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

1,004 ratings
4.05 out of 5 stars
5 35% (353)
4 41% (413)
3 19% (186)
2 4% (45)
1 1% (7)
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