ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

by Simone de Beauvoir

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ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:48 am

From pg. 479: In 1953 Nelson and Amanda planned a trip to France but he was denied a passport because of his perceived links to the Communist Party which was a bitter disappointment. Also, "In March he remarried Amanda. this triggered a long period of depression. The preceding October, two days after his engagement to Amanda, he had fallen passionately in love with a you woman; she wanted to marry him, but it was too late, as he had just gotten engaged. They continued to write each other, until she announced she was marrying a wealthy Arizonan. Algren insisted that he could not live without her. In May and June, trying to get over his depression, he wrote long letters to de Beauvoir: had he been right to sacrifice everything for his writing? He tortured himself with memories of the lost magic of Wabansia, of rue de la Bucherie, of their not-so-distant past, assuring her that his feelings for her were still unique and everlasting."

From a letter dated: May 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9.12,11,12,13,14,15,16...1953

"Dearest Nelson,

I am glad the sky is back in place after all. Since I am your pang collector, I have thought much about this affair of yours, and I am really convinced you did not lose. Well, the best thing indeed would have been to live the story unto its natural end, I mean the end of your own feelings, because I feel sure they would have came to an end within a year, maybe, or two, since the girl was not exactly who you thought she was. It would have been the best thing if you had been allowed to say good bye when love was over. But what if you have been tied with wife, children, duties? And probably without the friendship and esteem you have for Amanda. Seeing things from far away, it seems clear you made the good choice. The pangs and feeling of loss don't mean so much; they only mean you had to cut in unnatural way the feelings because they were not dead inside yourself. And now it will be difficult for them to die, since they will stay a thing of the past, a thing that has not been lived to the end. I guess you'll keep the idea of a loss, and a longing for the past for a long time--maybe a longer time than love would have stayed in your heart if it had accomplished itself. Try to think it in that view, too; it is true though maybe no kind. Proust whom you don't like said wonderful things about this dependence on somebody who is not here, when you are not longer dependent when she is here. So instead of saying 'I did not know that I had become dependant upon her until she was not there,' maybe you should say 'I should never have become dependent upon her if she had stayed there.' Things don't seem that senseless in this view. anyhow, darling you, I am sure you'll not going to have colorless, loveless life, you'll have 'things that come for a moment and go,' you'll have them, it is in you to get them. Don't believe everything is over; it cannot be so."


Do you agree or disagree with Simone's philosophy?


(Sorry to have been awol for a bit here - real life interferes again!)
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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Oct 25, 2010 11:50 am

Speaking for myself, I write mental scripts for alternate endings in my life. "If I had done such and so, or if I had just said thus and such, this is what would have happened......." and of course, my imagined ending is always better than what happened in reality. I think Simone is cautioning Algren against doing that, assuming that life would have been perfect if only he had been able to marry the other girl.....when the reality might have been bitter and horrible. But not knowing what really would have happened, he can cling to a perfect vision of what might have been. Then he turns back and dreams as well of how perfect the days with Simone had been when in fact time was softening the hard edges of that reality as well.

In short, I agree with what she is saying here.

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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby fansmom » Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:18 pm

I thought of this letter a couple of days ago when the discussion was of Zaza (but of course I couldn't find it). It's easy to idealize "what might have been," and I think Simone did that with Zaza.

Is there a contradiction in the last two phrases: "you'll have 'things that come for a moment and go,' you'll have them, it is in you to get them. Don't believe everything is over; it cannot be so"? The beginning of the phrase implies impermanence to me, but the rest implies permanence. Or is she saying that somethings (or some people) may come and go, but that doesn't mean everything (the rest of his life) is over? And I don't have the book with me: why is that "things that come for a moment and go" in quotes?

Nebraska, perhaps your alternate endings are existing in a Parallel World. :biggrin:

DITHOT, I hope things are well in your real life.

I must go. Keith Richards is being interviewed on Fresh Air on the radio. :capnjack:

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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby gemini » Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:29 pm

Ok. I had to get the 1953 time frame in my head to be sure where she was coming from here. I started to say she was telling how she wanted the intimate part of their relationship to end but then not only is he re married to Amanda by then but in 1952 she had already started her affair with Lanzmann. So at this point they were friends (more than friends, confidants). Algren seems to fall wholeheartedly every time he loves and he doesn’t get over it. I always find myself in his corner in this book. He still had missed his chance for a family as things were not going well with Amanda and Simone would not leave France. He felt his writing was all he had and would not give it up even for a relationship. He was more like Simone than he thought. At any rate the advice she is giving him on that romance applies to theirs as well.

I do agree with Nebraska, It is something everyone does to always think back on what might have been, had I done this or that.

Edit to add, I didn’t see fansmom’s post until after I posted but I was thinking that "what might have been” is what influences people to like science fiction but you said what I was thinking much better.
Last edited by gemini on Mon Oct 25, 2010 11:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby gemini » Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:53 pm

I forgot to answer the question.
Do you agree or disagree with Simone's philosophy?

Proust whom you don't like said wonderful things about this dependence on somebody who is not here, when you are not longer dependent when she is here. So instead of saying 'I did not know that I had become dependant upon her until she was not there,' maybe you should say 'I should never have become dependent upon her if she had stayed there.'

I am not sure Simone, even as independent as she was,could follow her own advice. She still had her one person she always depended on even though she loved others. I guess I don’t agree with her because Algren seems desperate to find someone he can depend on and I think that is OK.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby fireflydances » Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:03 pm

From Simone's letter
....they only mean you had to cut in unnatural way the feelings because they were not dead inside yourself. And now it will be difficult for them to die, since they will stay a thing of the past, a thing that has not been lived to the end. I guess you'll keep the idea of a loss, and a longing for the past for a long time--maybe a longer time than love would have stayed in your heart if it had accomplished itself.


I agree with Simone's advice and I really like this part of what she says, the idea that things unfinished in the past remain with you longer than they really should.

I like too that Nelson is this man who isn't cold about things he's walked away from, that he continues to feel the regrets, the uncertainties alive and sore inside his heart. I like a man who is aware of his emotions and not afraid to feel them.
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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby Liz » Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:16 pm

fireflydances wrote:I like too that Nelson is this man who isn't cold about things he's walked away from, that he continues to feel the regrets, the uncertainties alive and sore inside his heart. I like a man who is aware of his emotions and not afraid to feel them.

Me too, firefly.

I find Simone’s words here very confusing. I think she is just using platitudes (and ones that contradict each other, no less, as fansmom pointed out). He never did find anyone to grow old with. He never had that happy ending. :sad:

So thank goodness of his writing. He was smart to stick with it. It was his life.
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The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby Liz » Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:22 pm

nebraska wrote:Speaking for myself, I write mental scripts for alternate endings in my life. "If I had done such and so, or if I had just said thus and such, this is what would have happened......." and of course, my imagined ending is always better than what happened in reality. I think Simone is cautioning Algren against doing that, assuming that life would have been perfect if only he had been able to marry the other girl.....when the reality might have been bitter and horrible. But not knowing what really would have happened, he can cling to a perfect vision of what might have been. Then he turns back and dreams as well of how perfect the days with Simone had been when in fact time was softening the hard edges of that reality as well.

In short, I agree with what she is saying here.

In that sense, I guess I agree with her. We should try to have no regrets. I have regretted things I've done in my life, wished I had taken certain paths, but not often and have not spent a lot of time dwelling on my past mistakes. I tend to look towards the future. I have "mental scripts" I make up in that regard. I tend to be a dreamer, though, and I tend to be disappointed when reality doesn't meet my expectations and hopes.
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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:27 pm

nebraska, I agree that not knowing where a different reality (or parallel reality as fansmom suggested :hypnotic: ) might have led had we taken another path allows us to make up our own movies in our head. It is definitely a form of escape some times from our current realities especially if real life is not living up to what we expected. The what ifs can make you nuts. I think we have mentioned this movie before but this part of the discussion reminds me of Sliding Doors.

fansmom wrote:


Is there a contradiction in the last two phrases: "you'll have 'things that come for a moment and go,' you'll have them, it is in you to get them. Don't believe everything is over; it cannot be so"? The beginning of the phrase implies impermanence to me, but the rest implies permanence. Or is she saying that somethings (or some people) may come and go, but that doesn't mean everything (the rest of his life) is over? And I don't have the book with me: why is that "things that come for a moment and go" in quotes?


I think she means that some things will come and go and aren't meant to be permanent which is why they are fleeting. Somewhere, sometime in your life there will be something of permanence so don't give up. My guess on the quotes is that is something Algren wrote to her?


gemini, I find myself in Algren's corner a lot as well. Part of me wonders if I would feel the same if I read his letters to her and knew his thoughts as well as we know hers. :lol:

It is always easier if we know how a story ends, after all the most important part of the story is the ending... :grin:
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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby fansmom » Tue Oct 26, 2010 1:52 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:My guess on the quotes is that is something Algren wrote to her?
I tried Googling the phrase and the only link it gave me was here!

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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:43 pm

We've been googled! :yikes:
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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:03 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:We've been googled! :yikes:

It is not unusual when I am trying to research something to be directed here! ONBC is famous!

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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby Buster » Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:18 pm

It would have been the best thing if you had been allowed to say good bye when love was over. But what if you have been tied with wife, children, duties? And probably without the friendship and esteem you have for Amanda.


I'm interested in deBeauvoir's distinction between love and tied[quote]. I think it colours a great deal of her interactions. And how, exactly, are "friendship and esteem" separated?

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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby Liz » Tue Oct 26, 2010 8:54 pm

Buster, I think she is trying to say that it’s best that he realized he wasn’t in love with her and left her before it was complicated by children. Then he would feel the obligation of that and maybe made to be unhappy his entire life by feeling like he had to stay with Amanda because of the children.

I’m not quite sure what she is saying about friendship and esteem. Is she saying that he kept it (the friendship and esteem) because he ended it early or that he would lose it if he felt tied down to her out of obligation? I also think that, although she has a good command of the English language, her sentence structure needs work, and thus, she could be misunderstood at times. I’ve noticed that her letters to Sartre are much more articulate. And that is because it is an English translation of French (which was her native language, and of course she is going to write more eloquently in her own language).
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Re: ATLA Question #15 ~ Some of Simone's Advice to Nelson

Unread postby Buster » Tue Oct 26, 2010 9:10 pm

I think she is trying to say that it’s best that he realized he wasn’t in love with her and left her before it was complicated by children.

I think she was saying, instead, that he was in love with her, but that he would be better off "tied" elsewhere.
My interpretation is that in her evaluation, friendship and esteem have greater sustaining power than "love". Am I way off? Does it say anything about her relationship with Sartre?


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