ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

by Simone de Beauvoir

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Re: ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:56 am

Liz and DITHOT posted while I was composing, so now I've revised somewhat to add to their thoughts too...

Long work day, but finally getting back to this question. I also agree she must have had a very strong desire to surround herself with, and have affairs with adoring fans - men, women, students. What I can't figure out is if this desire came from a genuine need (such as to overcome an insecurity) or she simply delighted in being the center of attention. She comes off as so incredibly pompous - I felt as though she really believed that she was better than (almost) everyone else. It's hard for me to accept that she was insecure under it all. I can't even give her that.

But why did she stick with The Ugly Woman, her Jewish Friend and Olga? Why not just drop them when newer, younger adoration arrived? Guilt perhaps? All three had health and emotional issues. Perhaps she felt some sense of responsibility?

A few passages:
p. 169, 2/17/1948: For my Jewish friend, she is a little better; not so crazy, not so sad as before; she begins to work again. But even when she is healthy, there is something so dry and dull and glooy in her that it does not make much difference.
p. 170, 2/20/1948: And the ugly woman, the Jewish girl, send always heavy letters to me. They want me to give a meaning to their life, and I cannot. The little Russian sick girl asks nothing, but that is yet sadder.
p. 177, 2/28/1948: The Jewish girl told me every week after seeing me, she is unable to work or sleep for days, so it is better not to see each other for a while. I am very pleased with it. But then, you remember when she had seen me the ugly woman used to vomit.


Unable to work? Unable to sleep? For days after each visit... Vomit? :-O This does not seem to me to be an entirely normal reaction to unrequited love. Perhaps short term, but not on-going. Did they have these sorts of issues before being introduced to Simone & Sartre? And why did these women continue their relationships with Simone if it was so unhealthy for them?
I'd been mulling over all day how far I wanted to go with this thought. But since DITHOT and Liz dropped the gloves, so will I. I think all these ladies were seriously messed with. I had the exact same thought as DITHOT about them being lab rats in some grand experiment. The way she writes about them in those passages - Cold. So very, cold. There was also one time in Simone's letters to Sartre where she talked about "our work here", when she was in Chicago. It was creepily vague, and it made me wonder if Algren was a lab rat too!

I put Nathalie in a different boat than the other three.
p. 130-131 12/24/1947: I am sure you would be fond of the old lady. With my Californian friend, she is the only woman I care for; she is the only one I respect (I do not respect many people).
p. 172 2/20/1948: I'll speak to you about this nice California girl, you'll see why I care about her. She is nearly a daughter for me, and I have a faithful heart.

I think the key word here is respect. Nathalie must have had qualities that Simone respected, so I do think that friendship was more genuine. Now Nathalie may have been messed with too, but she appeared to rebound. Maybe that in itself is what earned Simone's respect...

By the way, gemini, I think you were being pretty nice. :lol:

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Re: ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 21, 2010 2:15 am

RR, you have given me a lot of food for thought. I am especially curious about Bianca Bienenfeld now. It just so happens that I picked up her book from the library day before yesterday—the only one I haven’t dabbled in yet in this regard. But now I want to see if I can figure her out. Maybe it was the fact that she was so young and impressionable when she had her affair with Simone. Could also be the number society can do on someone when they are gay. I can only infer that she was, in fact, gay because of how she felt about Simone and the fact that she was so unhappy in her marriage.* That, in itself, especially back in those times, could easily mess up someone. And then there was the Holocaust. So it was probably more than just Simone contributing to her state of mind.

*I need to make a correction to what I have said above. I just now read the foreword to Bianca Lamblin's (her married name) book, A Disgraceful Affair. And in that foreword it is said that she did, in fact, love her husband. I am not sure where I got the idea that she did not. It was either from Simone's letters to Algren or the book Tête-à-Tête. Maybe someone else can shed light on this.
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Re: ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Thu Oct 21, 2010 3:07 am

Liz wrote:RR, you have given me a lot of food for thought. I am especially curious about Bianca Bienenfeld now. It just so happens that I picked up her book from the library day before yesterday—the only one I haven’t dabbled in yet in this regard. But now I want to see if I can figure her out.

I hope you'll share what you learn...

Liz wrote: Maybe it was the fact that she was so young and impressionable when she had her affair with Simone. Could also be the number society can do on someone when they are gay. I can only infer that she was, in fact, gay because of how she felt about Simone and the fact that she was so unhappy in her marriage. That, in itself, especially back in those times, could easily mess up someone. And then there was the Holocaust. So it was probably more than just Simone contributing to her state of mind.

Really good points, Liz. Simone was probably one of the few - or maybe even the only - person she could talk to about her lesbian feelings. And of course the Holocaust... yes, she certainly had a tremendous amount to deal with at a very tender age.

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Re: ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 21, 2010 3:07 am

I need to make a correction to what I have said above (which I will also edit above). I just now read the foreword to Bianca Lamblin's (her married name) book, A Disgraceful Affair. And in that foreword it is said that she did, in fact, love her husband. I am not sure where I got the idea that she did not. It was either from Simone's letters to Algren or the book Tête-à-Tête. Maybe someone else can shed light on this.
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Re: ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

Unread postby gemini » Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:22 am

RamblinRebel said
But why did she stick with The Ugly Woman, her Jewish Friend and Olga? Why not just drop them when newer, younger adoration arrived? Guilt perhaps? All three had health and emotional issues. Perhaps she felt some sense of responsibility?
Olga and Bienenfeld were both her students and much younger than Simone. Just my opinion but Olga was the only female lover she had that never let Sartre seduce her (even though he was in love with her for years). For this she became Simone's friend after their affair was over. Also you mentioned guilt. Simone had a 10-year affair with Jacques Laurant Bost who was first Olga's boyfriend and then husband. Simone, and Sartre who knew, never told Olga. Simone for years was very jealous of Olga when she felt Bost preferred her, and tried to tell herself he only married Olga because she became ill and he wanted to support her. This was untrue since Sartre had supported Olga for years. :-)

Bianca, the one you call her Jewish friend, Simone formed another trio affair, with her and Sartre. Bianca asked to share Sartre's time equally with Simone and as you might expect this set Simone off and she turned on her and talked Sartre into dumping her though a letter as he was off in the war. Sartre did as he was told and wrote the letter which was very cruel and Simone felt guilty afterwards and told Sartre they had caused Bianca great harm. She then saw Bianca on and off the rest of her life but Bianca was married with a family so it was only occasionally on a friendly basis. Bianca thought Simone was feeling bad because Sartre treated her badly but she later found the break was Simone’s idea and wrote her book.
I put Nathalie in a different boat than the other three.
Funny she was the one who threw all the jealous tantrums but she also slept with Sartre and had other boyfriends before she married. Since she was the most jealous, Simone seemed to prefer her and later called her an adopted daugher. She tried to pattern her life after Simone and share everyone. Her marriage failed and she lost her child to her husband. Afterwards she became sort of a wacko who ran around chasing a gay guy she liked and lived with him and his boyfriend. Bianca is the only one who turned out normal with a faithful husband and family.

Liz, I read what you did but I think they were just some of Simone's spiteful remarks again. Not sure which book it was in either.

Bianca's husband was not Jewish and would have had no problem during the war except he married her and spent the war hiding with her under alias names to keep her safe. He even fought in the battle of Vercors (where the town was lost to the Germans). She tells of their escape when the Germans over ran them. She seemed to be the only one of the Simone Sartre survivors who recovered to have a normal life and conventional marriage. Her husband died in 1978 and she was so upset because his thesis he had worked on for years was not finished that she spent years putting it together for publishing in 1987. I really thought her book was good, better than most of Simone's but she did have help writing her story because she was not a writer.

If you read her book, there is no doubt she loves him and he goes through a lot getting her over her depression from Simone and Sartre. She told him the truth and he married her anyway.
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Re: ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

Unread postby fansmom » Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:48 pm

gemini wrote:Simone, and Sartre who knew, never told Olga.
Well, isn't that interesting!

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Re: ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

Unread postby RamblinRebel » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:13 pm

fansmom wrote:
gemini wrote:Simone, and Sartre who knew, never told Olga.
Well, isn't that interesting!


Yeah, that was a real shocker for me as well. I had assumed that Olga knew all about it. Seems unfathomable to me that she didn't, having been so close with all three of them.

Gemini, thanks again for filling in all these details! It's so helpful in understanding the reality of the situation.

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Re: ATLA Question #10 - Simone's Friends

Unread postby gemini » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:40 pm

Ramblin Rebel said
Yeah, that was a real shocker for me as well. I had assumed that Olga knew all about it. Seems unfathomable to me that she didn't, having been so close with all three of them.
Just a few extra things I read that show Olga was not aware. ( At least that’s what the others thought. :biggrin: ) Simone had her letters from Sartre and Bost sent to her University address during the war to make sure neither Wanda nor Olga accidently saw them. When she visited both Sartre and Bost on the front she told the other women she was visiting (I think she said her sister.) Bost later was to have many other affairs after Simone which were most likely known to Olga from some of what I’ve read. One of Bost affairs was with Dolores Vanetti after she broke with Sartre.
Bost seems to have truly bought into Simone and Sartres life style as he and Sartre were friends for years sharing Simone.
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