ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

by Simone de Beauvoir

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ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby Liz » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:18 pm

As you will remember, when Simone arrives in the US the summer of 1950, Algren announces that he no longer loves her. If you have not already read them, refer to the Letters to Sartre in my prebits for more detail on what happened that summer.









I’ve included my tour of Chicago and the cottage on Forest as a preface to this question. The question will follow the tour.



Algren’s Chicago Digs

This is info posted by Mary on the Ghosts of Chicago Blogspot:

It’s unclear when Algren lived here (probably before Wabansia) at 1958 West Evergreen Street.

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Rainbo Club that Algren used to frequent (some say with Simone de Beauvoir)

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I was unable to find a picture of the Wabansia Avenue Nest. However, there is a picture on Art Shay’s website of Algren at his typewriter. And according to nebraska, there is one of him at his kitchen table in the Art Shay book.




6228 Forest Ave. Cottage

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On pg. 507, October 5, 1954 (exactly a year and a day before I was born) Simone reminisces of Patterson Island and Marquette Park:

It is Indian summer just now on the lake? I see in my heart a the beautiful red and golden leaves, the birds, the water, the night sky above the bridge and the lagoon, I see everything so well. Three years went away since we said farewell. I’ll never see the lagoon again, but I’ll see you, you promised. I know it will happen. I wait for it. Good bye, honey. I kiss you tenderly.

Your Simone


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Satellite map of the 6228 Forest Ave. Cottage (be sure to switch it to Satellite view):



Although the address is Gary, Indiana, the town is really Miller. As you can see from the map, Algren’s house was not directly on Lake Michigan. The bridge that Simone was talking about (actually 2 bridges) led to the island and Marquette Pavilion and then to the beach.

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Until approximately 1900, the parcel of sandy land that is now Marquette Park was an anonymous section of dunes waterfront at the southernmost tip of Lake Michigan, best known as the site of key hang gliding experiments carried out in 1896-1897 by a team led by the pioneering aeronaut Octave Chanute.

Much of the land that now makes up the city of Gary was acquired at this time by a new industrial giant, the United States Steel Corporation, for integrated steelmaking purposes. In 1922 U.S. Steel, having built its mill complex and found it had some beachfront left over, donated this beachfront land to the city of Gary.

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During the prosperous 1920s, Gary invested a significant sum in landscaping the park. The Marquette Park Pavilion was built adjacent to the beachfront, and most of a wetland area behind the beach, formerly part of the Grand Calumet River, was excavated to form the Marquette Lagoon. Two Japanese-inspired bridges span the lagoon today.

The Marquette Pavilion (used for weddings and such now) looking towards the house on Forest and away from Lake Michigan. You can see the 2 bridges clearly:

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The dunes waterfront at Marquette then:

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Now (click on thumbnail):

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Out on the beach is the Gary Aquatorium. The Aquatorium is the former Gary Bathhouse that was opened in 1922 and closed in 1971. Twenty years later it reopened as the Gary Bathing Beach Aquatorium.

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A postcard from 1949


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More Gossip:

There’s lots of interesting stuff here, BUT he’s got the address wrong—not only the number, but the spelling. So take it for whatever it’s worth.




Comment on the weirdness of the summer of 1950 when Simone spends 3 months with Algren.
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:45 pm

Just a note about the Art Shay books. I have two of them and both of them have similar photos, you can see quite a few of them in the link to this gallery. Unfortunately, the one in the Wabansia kitchen is not among them, and it is too bad, because that photo really gives a flavor of the "nest." I will keep searching.

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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:58 pm

When I open my book to where 1950's correspondence begins, page 320, I have written in the margin of my book "she needs to come visit at a time convenient for Sartre - I don't understand." And then, in a letter to Satre she writes "Three months strikes me as being very long and unbearable, but at the same time necessary for that ‘work’ we were talking about – which I was rejecting but must indeed do." What the heck does that mean?
In the next 1950 part of the book, on page 369 describing the visit, the book says "Although well aware of the tone of Algren's letters over the last months, despite their brevity and infrequency, she was nevertheless completely shocked by his greeting: a brutal announcement that he no longer loved her."
I wonder why she came. Was it at Sartre's bidding? Did she find it impossible that a man would not desire her no matter what his letters indicated? And, here again, we don't have Algren's letters to see what she should have known from his correspondence with her.
I suppose in those days travel, especially overseas flight, was a big deal and you didn't just change your plans lightly. But you also didn't travel such distance on a whim. I am left with more questions than answers about why she came in the first place and why she stayed after she had effectively been dumped.

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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby fansmom » Wed Oct 27, 2010 6:01 pm

Oh yeah, it's weird. The only thing I can think of is that she hoped proximity would make him love her again, although most people out of adolescence know that that just doesn't work. Did she hope to use her (umm, phrase this delicately) favors as a weapon to force him to love her? Was it a manipulative power scheme?

(An aside: I remember stench of the mills in Gary in the 1960's when we used to drive through it on the way to Chicago to visit my grandparents. As kids, we wondered how anyone could live there, but I guess the nose can get used to anything. See the belching smokestacks in the distance in that one beach photo Liz posted?)

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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby gemini » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:00 pm

Very good of you to link to the tidbits Liz, as it can get confusing which trip coincides with which letters.

I found it strange that both of them went on with the vacation. Simone seemed to be thinking, well if the love part is over we can be friends, sort of like her relationship with Sartre. Algren was the one that surprised me. He obviously still cares for her and goes through all the motions for their vacation, but with the physical aspect failing it was almost like he was trying to give her a bit of her own medicine. As in, see I can play this game too. You will be the friend and I will marry Amanda again.

Nathalie Sorokine (now Moffet but divorcing him- called Lise in Force of Circumstance), also added to the awkwardness with her visit because Algren didn’t want a strange women there and found her an apartment nearby, then threatened to go off to Chicago. Simone and Nathalie ended up going to Chicago until Nathalie met her two gay boyfriends and left.

Nebraska said
When I open my book to where 1950's correspondence begins, page 320, I have written in the margin of my book "she needs to come visit at a time convenient for Sartre - I don't understand." Sartre was still, at this time, dallying around with Dolores.
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby nebraska » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:37 pm

gemini wrote: Nebraska said
When I open my book to where 1950's correspondence begins, page 320, I have written in the margin of my book "she needs to come visit at a time convenient for Sartre - I don't understand." Sartre was still, at this time, dallying around with Dolores.

I suppose that makes sense in some way, but for her and Sartre to be timing everything for their relationships with other people while they continue their own...... :hypnotic:

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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby Liz » Wed Oct 27, 2010 9:50 pm

nebraska wrote:
gemini wrote: Nebraska said
When I open my book to where 1950's correspondence begins, page 320, I have written in the margin of my book "she needs to come visit at a time convenient for Sartre - I don't understand." Sartre was still, at this time, dallying around with Dolores.

I suppose that makes sense in some way, but for her and Sartre to be timing everything for their relationships with other people while they continue their own...... :hypnotic:

I know. It boggles the mind.

I do wonder what was in those letters from Algren. I can only think that it may have been more about her women's intuition sensing it, but not wanting to believe it. And as far as him not telling her until she arrived, I think he may have felt better about telling her in person. On the other hand, we all know that he still really loved her. So I think all that time he was struggling with her being there. I can only surmise that he was good at "being a man" and holding back his emotions.
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby fireflydances » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:13 pm

Yes, weirdness. But always, questions. I have gone back and taken out some key phrases from each letter with a tight focus on her changing relationship with Algren.

1st Letter
So she arrives and Algren tells her his straight up tale about indifference (I’ll come, I’ll go away) but what did she tell him? I mean, it’s pretty obvious she had a hard time leaving Satre. Did they talk about this?

She says “I’ve nothing at all to reproach him with and continue to feel good with him. I think it’s better to allow these three months to do their work.” Seems obvious that she and Satre were both of the opinion that some time with other partners would be valuable. Why?

31 July Letter
“I can hardly say to him “Since you are no longer in love with me, I’m leaving.”

Why wouldn’t someone say that or consider it seriously? Is there disciplinary value in remaining with a former love object? If you circulate widely in your intimate relationships, is it considered ‘poor taste’ to respond on a gut level – i.e. is it more socially appropriate to maintain a gracious façade of conviviality?

4 August Letter
“I think I am going to be spending two almost agreeable months here.”

I am willing to give her this one, change of mood, getting used to the new environment, each other again.

8 August Letter
“Because what bothers me is the fact that I don’t exactly understand why I’m here…and I don’t know to what extent my presence has any meaning for Algren…… attached here by old desires.”

If I read this from one perspective, Simone is wondering why she is there and realizing it might be old desires. At the same time she is also preoccupied with considering what ‘she’ means to Algren, as though she is standing back from the two of them and watching. Simone the eternal observer.

10 August Letter
“…..as for me my life here is working out better and better. Was it my own sadness that made him gloomy that first month. Or did he in a sense hold it against me that he hadn’t re-discovered his love for me?......he was stiff and distant….but he isn’t any longer in the least…..most obvious change we no longer sleep together.”

Two days later. Really? I guess what throws me the most is the last bit “but he isn’t any longer in the least….most obvious change we no longer sleep together.” It has to have been some weeks that they didn’t sleep together, no one would remark this way about an event of the past two days. Nor the change in his mood. I don’t know how to put 8 Aug and 10 Aug up against each other and make sense of her comments.

Also notable “did he hold it against me that he hadn’t re-discovered his love for me?” Another one of those gnarly Simone thoughts. Is she saying: he was distant because he forgot his feelings? Is she saying: when you no longer love someone, you can resent them because you no longer love them? Why? She makes herself into this OBJECT all the time, you know?

(And after all this I simply must include here: “I don’t think too much at all actually.” Does she mean that she could be obsessing at a much higher level than this correspondence reflects? Funny thing though, I bet she could. I bet her brain could spin circles around the dynamics of relationships, the ‘self and the Other” etc. )

10 September
“He has been so nice that my resentment has more or less dissipated. But I’m still in a strange state. I long passionately to be in Paris.”

Well she has been longing that since she arrived right? It is a strange state, Simone. You passionately love one man, cast yourself off on another, resent that he seems indifferent, examine with great care the possible reasons for the ebb and flow of his feelings, and then you no longer resent him. So, you were resenting him then? Are you sure you didn’t hold it against him that he wasn’t Satre? Or perhaps, did you actually resent Satre and project that resentment onto Algren who in turn resented you because you didn’t resent him?

Sorry. I had to.

Also, Simone seems to report on her life more than actually inhabiting her life. We get the distilled sentiments, observations, analyzed reflections etc. This doesn’t happen in all areas of her letters – many times she is right there with an alive sentence, particularly when describing what is going on around her AND when she puts in her standard “I love you passionate remarks” that clutter her letters.

We are not in each other’s heads. We don’t think in the same order perhaps, with the same intensity or focus or clarity. That said, Simone: you are unique.
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby Buster » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:41 pm

So which side do you end up on?

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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby fireflydances » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:46 pm

Buster said:
So which side do you end up on?


Side? I am on the side of weirdness? :-O

What side are you on? :ohyes:
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby gemini » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:31 pm

fireflydances said It has to have been some weeks that they didn’t sleep together, no one would remark this way about an event of the past two days. Nor the change in his mood. She goes back one more time after this for 2 weeks Oct 1951( and sleeps in her own room) just before Algren remarrys Amanda. They both seemed to have settled for being only friends at this point. One thought here, I think Algren is old fashioned, in our last question we discussed his affair while engaged to Amanda and that kept him from asking the young woman to marry him. In this day and age that would be finding out in time to do something about it before marrying the wrong one, not too late. Unless he was just making up this great love to annoy Simone. He waited to 1952 to remarry so he had plenty of time to change his mind.
She makes herself into this OBJECT all the time, you know? You noticed that remark too. Yeah ladies, Count me in on the side of weirdness too.
Here is a review written in 1998 for ATLA that I thought was good. She talks a lot like we do. I don’t think you will find out anything that has not been mentioned so far but it's an interesting read. Called "Hot and Epistolary". By Mim Udovitch.
It contains quite a bit about what we are discussing here but its long.

Last edited by gemini on Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby fireflydances » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:54 pm

Gemini:

THAT was good. Thank you very much. Interesting comment about the French and love too. We always think we know what people mean when they talk about loving another person, but this is so different in each culture.
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby Liz » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:57 pm

There’s so much to respond to here, firefly, I have to take each piece and respond in my red color:

Yes, weirdness. But always, questions. I have gone back and taken out some key phrases from each letter with a tight focus on her changing relationship with Algren.

1st Letter
So she arrives and Algren tells her his straight up tale about indifference (I’ll come, I’ll go away) but what did she tell him? I mean, it’s pretty obvious she had a hard time leaving Satre. Did they talk about this?


This was one of my big questions. How could they not talk about it? But they probably did. It could be she didn’t share that with Sartre.

She says “I’ve nothing at all to reproach him with and continue to feel good with him. I think it’s better to allow these three months to do their work.” Seems obvious that she and Satre were both of the opinion that some time with other partners would be valuable. Why?

I’m still wondering what “do their work” means.

31 July Letter
“I can hardly say to him “Since you are no longer in love with me, I’m leaving.”

Why wouldn’t someone say that or consider it seriously? Is there disciplinary value in remaining with a former love object? If you circulate widely in your intimate relationships, is it considered ‘poor taste’ to respond on a gut level – i.e. is it more socially appropriate to maintain a gracious façade of conviviality?


My biggest question was why the heck not? I’d leave. Could it be that she stayed out of guilt?

4 August Letter
“I think I am going to be spending two almost agreeable months here.”

I am willing to give her this one, change of mood, getting used to the new environment, each other again.


I thought that might have been the weirdest. How could it possibly be agreeable? But then I have a hard time relating to Simone’s response (at least on the surface) to most things.

8 August Letter
“Because what bothers me is the fact that I don’t exactly understand why I’m here…and I don’t know to what extent my presence has any meaning for Algren…… attached here by old desires.”

If I read this from one perspective, Simone is wondering why she is there and realizing it might be old desires. At the same time she is also preoccupied with considering what ‘she’ means to Algren, as though she is standing back from the two of them and watching. Simone the eternal observer.


I wonder if she is holding on to some hope because he is allowing her to stay there. And why would he want her there?

10 August Letter
“…..as for me my life here is working out better and better. Was it my own sadness that made him gloomy that first month. Or did he in a sense hold it against me that he hadn’t re-discovered his love for me?......he was stiff and distant….but he isn’t any longer in the least…..most obvious change we no longer sleep together.”

Two days later. Really? I guess what throws me the most is the last bit “but he isn’t any longer in the least….most obvious change we no longer sleep together.” It has to have been some weeks that they didn’t sleep together, no one would remark this way about an event of the past two days. Nor the change in his mood. I don’t know how to put 8 Aug and 10 Aug up against each other and make sense of her comments.


I assumed that she was just covering the whole summer as them not sleeping together, not the last 2 days.

Also notable “did he hold it against me that he hadn’t re-discovered his love for me?” Another one of those gnarly Simone thoughts. Is she saying: he was distant because he forgot his feelings? Is she saying: when you no longer love someone, you can resent them because you no longer love them? Why? She makes herself into this OBJECT all the time, you know?

(And after all this I simply must include here: “I don’t think too much at all actually.” Does she mean that she could be obsessing at a much higher level than this correspondence reflects? Funny thing though, I bet she could. I bet her brain could spin circles around the dynamics of relationships, the ‘self and the Other” etc. )


I bet she could. One needs to keep in mind that she is writing to Sartre here. After all I have read, I’ve come to the opinion that what she writes to Sartre is a tad contrived.

10 September
“He has been so nice that my resentment has more or less dissipated. But I’m still in a strange state. I long passionately to be in Paris.”

Well she has been longing that since she arrived right? It is a strange state, Simone. You passionately love one man, cast yourself off on another, resent that he seems indifferent, examine with great care the possible reasons for the ebb and flow of his feelings, and then you no longer resent him. So, you were resenting him then?


It’s always about Simone.

Are you sure you didn’t hold it against him that he wasn’t Satre? Or perhaps, did you actually resent Satre and project that resentment onto Algren who in turn resented you because you didn’t resent him?

Sorry. I had to.


That’s an interesting idea. Remember to bring this up again when we talk about their relationship

Also, Simone seems to report on her life more than actually inhabiting her life. We get the distilled sentiments, observations, analyzed reflections etc. This doesn’t happen in all areas of her letters – many times she is right there with an alive sentence, particularly when describing what is going on around her AND when she puts in her standard “I love you passionate remarks” that clutter her letters.

We are not in each other’s heads. We don’t think in the same order perhaps, with the same intensity or focus or clarity. That said, Simone: you are unique.


I’m always so tempted to get into the nature of her letters, in general. But we will be discussing them on Nov. 1.
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:00 am

fireflydances wrote:Buster said:
So which side do you end up on?


Side? I am on the side of weirdness? :-O

What side are you on? :ohyes:

Deppinately, weirdness! :perplexed:
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Re: ATLA Question #17 - The Summer of 1950

Unread postby Liz » Thu Oct 28, 2010 12:27 am

fireflydances wrote:Gemini:

THAT was good. Thank you very much. Interesting comment about the French and love too. We always think we know what people mean when they talk about loving another person, but this is so different in each culture.

Yes, and I want to comment on it, but I need to bite my tongue and wait for another question. So I'll be referring to it again.
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