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by Ursula Tidd

Following its publication in 1949, The Second Sex quickly became one of the fundamental works of feminist thought. In it, Simone de Beauvoir (1908–86) offered up a statement that has informed nearly all feminist and gender scholarship that has followed, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” And it is the woman Beauvoir became who continues to fascinate, fostering a legend of coffee-drinking Parisian intellectuals debating existentialism in smoky cafes along the Left Bank.

            Beauvoir lived through some of the most dramatic and significant events of the twentieth century, and a time of enormous change for women across the world. Her personal and intellectual companions were one and the same—and as a result, her intimate relationships with Jean-Paul Sartre and Nelson Algren provide a captivating context to the development of her ideas. In this concise and up-to-date critical appraisal of both the life and words of Beauvoir, Ursula Tidd illuminates the many facets of the feminist icon’s complex personality, including her relentless autobiographical drive, which led her to envision her life as a continuously unfolding narrative, her active involvement in twentieth-century political struggles, and how Beauvoir the woman has over the decades become Beauvoir the myth.

            2008 marked the centenary of Beauvoir’s birth, yet her ideas continue to reverberate throughout contemporary scholarship. This critical biography will benefit any reader seeking insight into one of the most prominent and intriguing intellectuals of the twentieth century.

Download Simone de Beauvoir (Critical Lives) epub
ISBN: 1861894341
ISBN13: 978-1861894342
Category: Literature
Subcategory: History & Criticism
Author: Ursula Tidd
Language: English
Publisher: Reaktion Books; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
Pages: 187 pages
ePUB size: 1322 kb
FB2 size: 1239 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 916
Other Formats: rtf txt rtf azw

Routledge is a respectable publisher, so I assume the problems in the Kindle version are absent in the print version. But the Kindle version has serious problems. Having read roughly the first third of the text, I ran across two points at which sections of the book ended mid-sentence and mid-paragraph, with the rest of the section nowhere to be seen.
I absolutely loved this study of one of the twentieth century's most brilliant and famous women writers and activists. It is the single most trenchant and insightful of the intellectual biographical studies of de Beauvoir.

Nothing of value in de Beauvoir's life is overlooked. Context and circumstances are fully considered and the widest range of resources and key relationships are thought through, including the influence of her parents, sister, lovers, besides brief but always thoughtful commentary on her reading of writers and philosophers such as Levis-Strauss, Hegel, Heidegger, Aquinas, Marx, Husserl, Leibniz and Kant.

Tidd also sheds light on some of the influences on her growing sense of intersectional feminism and the lesser known yet critical influences for her magnum opus on women, The Second Sex, by reference, for example, to her strong interest in Gunnar Myrdal's classic 1944 study American Dilemma, on race in America.

She doesn't shy away from the complex and often troubling relationship Beauvoir had with Sartre: namely the ways in which it was supportive of each other, while often exploiting the affection of other lovers and writing about them and betraying their lovers' confidences to each other.

Importantly, she quotes well from all Beauvoir's work, so you get to appreciate her strengths as a memoirist, diarist, philosopher, essayist and polemicist, novelist, travel and letter writer, feminist and political activist.

I've read the full-length biographies by Deirdre Blair and Toril Moi, and this short study says everything of value while missing nothing of significance.

The highest praise I can think of for a biography of a writer is to say that it excites and compels you to want to go and read or reread the writer's work. This brilliant study merits that accolade.