ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

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ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby Liz » Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:55 pm

What do you think Nelson saw in Simone, and vice versa?
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby Liz » Sat Oct 30, 2010 1:51 pm

fireflydances wrote:But.........the question is was it exactly this 'different kind' of love that drew Algren to her?

I've been thinking about this question. And I was going to answer it on yesterday's thread, but I think that it can be expanded on in terms of today's question.

I suppose it is possible that's what drew him to her. But through this entire experience of studying Simone & Algren (yeah, I call it an experience because I feel like's it's taken over my life), I felt that he was unhappy with that kind of love. He wanted more than she could give. I believe that she, on the other hand, was happy with the set up. I think she might have been happy going on this way forever, seeing him once or twice a year. She liked it that way because she had her cake and ate it too. She had the best of both worlds--her life in Paris with her "friends", her work and Sartre, and she'd take vacations with Algren, her sensual & romantic lover. I think the only time she really had a hard time with it was when she'd say goodbye. It would seem that she would go through a period of depression for a week or so, and then get over it. But to her, that was love. She also remained "physically" faithful to him, which I think she liked to brag about. I'm not quite sure what to make of Simone's apparent selfless encouragement of Algren to satisfy his needs. Was it genuine, guilt, a way for her to release herself from guilt? But at the same time, we know she'd get jealous.

Algren was not so happy with the arrangement. He wanted to marry her. And he expressed that he wanted a real relationship with someone in real time. He finally decided to do something about that, but it failed. It was not something he really wanted to do because he still loved Simone, but he had to do it for himself, for his pride, for his sanity. Unfortunately, I don't think he ever got over her. This goes back to the question about whether he stayed with her too long. Moving on might have been the "smart" thing to do, but his heart didn't follow.

I think that there was something about Simone that no other woman held for him. Unfortunately for him, I think he fell head over heels for her before he knew that she was unavailable. And then it was too late.

I sure wish we could hear his side of the story (before he got angry).
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Oct 30, 2010 2:22 pm

It may have been as simple as pheromones. :rolleyes: Sometimes it is really hard to tell what people see in each other, but they can't resist. The physical part apparently was amazing for a while.

The attraction in the beginning might have been the old "opposites attract" theory. And maybe that "opposite attraction" thing was what kept the relationship going as long as it did.

Simone was highly educated, part of the intellectual elite, used to attending performances in theater and music. She was European and a bit exotic. In the Shay books, he talks about Algren calling her "Frenchy." That conjures up some sort of fun and sexy image for me.

Nelson, on the other hand, was earthy in a downtrodden guttural kind of way. He knew where the druggies and the thieves hung out, how to get into the police station to watch a dingy line up, how to cheat on meal tickets in the diner (Shay says Simone loved to learn how to "steal" a meal like that). He didn't have the trappings of upper class society and he lived a very basic lifestyle.

I think their differences were pronounced enough that they entertained each other.

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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Oct 30, 2010 2:26 pm

Liz wrote: She also remained "physically" faithful to him, which I think she liked to brag about.

I have not read as many outside sources as some of you, but this just really seems unrealistic to me. The little I have seen of her flowery letters to Sartre, the amount of alcohol she consumed, and the amount of time she spent among friends who had been lovers at one time or another, it seems unlikely that Simone would be faithful for months and months between her visits with Algren. I suppose anything is possible, but I sure wouldn't rely on her word alone!

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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby gemini » Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:01 pm

What do you think Algren saw in Simone and vice versa? I think Simone was a very nice looking woman and knew how to keep men interested. He must have liked her very affectionate way of writing and speaking to him. Algren liked that aspect and they had love of writing in common. I think her knowledge of world politics and people made her able to talk to him on his level. They both were against capitalism and leaned to the left towards socialism and even communism at times. Algren’s lack of elite living conditions didn’t repel Simone as she was used to scrimping during the war, even though by this time she was well off. They both had similar pastimes. They like to travel, eat out, drink in corner taverns and bars and meet people and strike up conversations. Algren seemed drawn a little more to the drug addicts and prostitutes, where at times Simone felt left out but she admired his quest for writing about these people. They seemed to be able to spend time together occupied by their writing, he even sit up his typewriter in Simone’s office to work while he visited her in France.
For her,she mentions he is tall and blond, which seemed to appeal to her. (Sartre was blond) She likes that she handles his moody often sulky personality while others balk, because she understands him. As Nebraska said Simone liked to drink and so did Algren. On the not so positive aspects of Simone, she wanted an affair with an American to keep up with Sartre. This is just my opinion but the French men seemed to accept affairs as casual and Algren was anything but casual.
I do like that theory about pheromones. :grin:
Last edited by gemini on Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby gemini » Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:08 pm

Liz wrote: I felt that he was unhappy with that kind of love. He wanted more than she could give. I believe that she, on the other hand, was happy with the set up. I think she might have been happy going on this way forever, seeing him once or twice a year. She liked it that way because she had her cake and ate it too. She had the best of both worlds--her life in Paris with her "friends", her work and Sartre, and she'd take vacations with Algren, her sensual & romantic lover. I think the only time she really had a hard time with it was when she'd say goodbye. It would seem that she would go through a period of depression for a week or so, and then get over it. But to her, that was love. She also remained "physically" faithful to him, which I think she liked to brag about. I'm not quite sure what to make of Simone's apparent selfless encouragement of Algren to satisfy his needs. Was it genuine, guilt, a way for her to release herself from guilt? But at the same time, we know she'd get jealous.

Unfortunately, I don't think he ever got over her.
I think that there was something about Simone that no other woman held for him. Unfortunately for him, I think he fell head over heels for her before he knew that she was unavailable. And then it was too late.
[/liz]

I have to say you truly hit it on the head with these comments. I agree with them all. :cool:
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby gemini » Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:26 pm

nebraska wrote:
Liz wrote: She also remained "physically" faithful to him, which I think she liked to brag about.

I have not read as many outside sources as some of you, but this just really seems unrealistic to me. The little I have seen of her flowery letters to Sartre, the amount of alcohol she consumed, and the amount of time she spent among friends who had been lovers at one time or another, it seems unlikely that Simone would be faithful for months and months between her visits with Algren. I suppose anything is possible, but I sure wouldn't rely on her word alone!


As a rule from what I have read I would tend to agree with you here. The only reason I don’t is Sartre and others have commented on her more than just a casual affair with Algren. Simone does tell of ending her affair with Bost which coincides with meeting Algren. I have wondered, as she took several trips alone with Bost for years afterwards and her, Bost, and Sartre together.
In her bios she does not come out and say I slept with so and so. She says I invited them on a skiing trip or we stayed out all night drinking etc. These people are however mentioned as affairs in other books so I suspect she is being proper in her writing so as to not outrage her fans. She only openly admits to her long term affairs like Sartre, Algren and Lanzmann. Her casual short or one night affairs are mentioned as friends sort of how she wrote about Nathalie, Olga, and Bianca with the exception of her one night stand with Koester which she describes in detail in the Mandarins.
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby Liz » Sat Oct 30, 2010 4:38 pm

So much to comment on here.


nebraska wrote:
Simone was highly educated, part of the intellectual elite, used to attending performances in theater and music. She was European and a bit exotic. In the Shay books, he talks about Algren calling her "Frenchy." That conjures up some sort of fun and sexy image for me.

Nelson, on the other hand, was earthy in a downtrodden guttural kind of way. He knew where the druggies and the thieves hung out, how to get into the police station to watch a dingy line up, how to cheat on meal tickets in the diner (Shay says Simone loved to learn how to "steal" a meal like that). He didn't have the trappings of upper class society and he lived a very basic lifestyle.

I think their differences were pronounced enough that they entertained each other.

I agree, nebraska. I think they were both exotic to each other. I find the idea of "Frenchy" as being very exotic and attractive. I imagine it could be the same for French people to find the idea of Americans as being exotic and sexy.

I believe it was her intelligence that attracted him too, and her politics (which they had in common), as gemini suggested. I think too that they were like minded in their apparent disinterest in owning "things."

I think he was attracted to the fact that she was sexy and intelligent at the same time, and that she was independent but could come off as vulnerable too. She was an enigma.
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby Liz » Sat Oct 30, 2010 4:44 pm

gemini wrote:
nebraska wrote:
Liz wrote: She also remained "physically" faithful to him, which I think she liked to brag about.

I have not read as many outside sources as some of you, but this just really seems unrealistic to me. The little I have seen of her flowery letters to Sartre, the amount of alcohol she consumed, and the amount of time she spent among friends who had been lovers at one time or another, it seems unlikely that Simone would be faithful for months and months between her visits with Algren. I suppose anything is possible, but I sure wouldn't rely on her word alone!


As a rule from what I have read I would tend to agree with you here. The only reason I don’t is Sartre and others have commented on her more than just a casual affair with Algren. Simone does tell of ending her affair with Bost which coincides with meeting Algren. I have wondered, as she took several trips alone with Bost for years afterwards and her, Bost, and Sartre together.
In her bios she does not come out and say I slept with so and so. She says I invited them on a skiing trip or we stayed out all night drinking etc. These people are however mentioned as affairs in other books so I suspect she is being proper in her writing so as to not outrage her fans. She only openly admits to her long term affairs like Sartre, Algren and Lanzmann. Her casual short or one night affairs are mentioned as friends sort of how she wrote about Nathalie, Olga, and Bianca with the exception of her one night stand with Koester which she describes in detail in the Mandarins.

I have believed her about this because she seems so convincing in her letters and because, if it were me, I could easily be faithful; so it seems realistic to me. On the other hand, we know that she kept her affair with Bost from Olga and has lied about other things too.
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Oct 30, 2010 5:34 pm

Liz wrote:
gemini wrote:
nebraska wrote:I have not read as many outside sources as some of you, but this just really seems unrealistic to me. The little I have seen of her flowery letters to Sartre, the amount of alcohol she consumed, and the amount of time she spent among friends who had been lovers at one time or another, it seems unlikely that Simone would be faithful for months and months between her visits with Algren. I suppose anything is possible, but I sure wouldn't rely on her word alone!


As a rule from what I have read I would tend to agree with you here. The only reason I don’t is Sartre and others have commented on her more than just a casual affair with Algren. Simone does tell of ending her affair with Bost which coincides with meeting Algren. I have wondered, as she took several trips alone with Bost for years afterwards and her, Bost, and Sartre together.
In her bios she does not come out and say I slept with so and so. She says I invited them on a skiing trip or we stayed out all night drinking etc. These people are however mentioned as affairs in other books so I suspect she is being proper in her writing so as to not outrage her fans. She only openly admits to her long term affairs like Sartre, Algren and Lanzmann. Her casual short or one night affairs are mentioned as friends sort of how she wrote about Nathalie, Olga, and Bianca with the exception of her one night stand with Koester which she describes in detail in the Mandarins.

I have believed her about this because she seems so convincing in her letters and because, if it were me, I could easily be faithful; so it seems realistic to me. On the other hand, we know that she kept her affair with Bost from Olga and has lied about other things too.

And maybe, in Simone's mind, a brief fling or a one-night stand, wasn't being unfaithful at all.

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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby fireflydances » Sat Oct 30, 2010 6:36 pm

What do you think Nelson saw in Simone, and vice versa?


Why her?
I really feel I am struggling in a depth of ignorance to even begin to answer this question. I know so very little about Nelson Algren, what I've read online, the letters to him and a little bit of The Man with The Golden Arm. Nibbles.

So what I am proposing must be taken with a grain of salt -- it's gut reaction, nothing more.

I think she represents as much exoticism to him as he did to her -- this amazing woman who lands at his feet unexpectedly from France, incredibly intelligent, and compared to the local talent (sorry, rough metaphor but I think it fits), she is utter sophistication, sex on heels, capable of more than holding her own in terms of discussing literature, writers, world issues etc.

I wonder how much he is entranced by her words? He's a writer and loves words --you don't write unless you are under the sway of words, the power of a turn of phrase, the artful description that catches your eye --and words are oh so significant to the art of love. While we may find her letters over the top, I would imagine they were echoes of what she said to him face to face. Yes, add her lack of exposure to the sensuous side of love and listen to her then, what she might say, and how it might make you (Algren that is) feel about yourself. I think I've created the picture and better stop here.

This is what I meant when I used the phrase "different kind of love" --- he had little to no exposure to anyone like her in looks, sound, feel, touch -- Frenchy, yes -- I think that says it very well.

Will tackle my impressions on Simone separately, and I also need to read everyone else's comments carefully.
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby nebraska » Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:37 pm

I have said it before, and I think it bears repeating. I think Simone was a very charismatic person. I have known charismatic persons who were extremely attractive physically-- my Native drummer friend, for instance, who is beautiful physically, but also has a quiet, calm, gentle passion about him, he literally takes my breath and makes me tremble to be in the same space he occupies -- but I think charisma, that personality, spiritual magnetism magic can also transform an unattractive person into someone irresistible. I'm sorry, but I have looked at a lot of photos of Simone and I do not find her to be attractive in the least - I will bite my tongue and not say how I would describe her - but in person she must have been something special to be near. Maybe Nelson had that same sort of aura.

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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby fansmom » Sat Oct 30, 2010 9:05 pm

I think all of you are right!

I agree that she must have been charismatic. Although she was reasonably attractive, she certainly didn't appear compellingly lovely or stylish in the photos I've seen of her, so there has to have been something else. Her Frenchness may have been a large part of it to Algren; we English-speakers have always thought of the French as racy. (French kissing, French letters, French postcards . . .)

I don't think Simone's idea of love or faithfulness necessarily meant she didn't have sex with anyone else. She may or may not have; I'd guess that she did but rationalized that it wasn't the same as what she and Algren had.

I think that the fact that they never lived together for more than a few months at a time contributed to the romance of their relationship. Somewhere (a purring cat's in my lap, can't go get the book) Simone refers to their times together as their "love holidays" and I think that kept them in a perpetual honeymoon state.

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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby Liz » Sat Oct 30, 2010 10:53 pm

I thought of it as a perpetual honeymoon state, too, fansmom. It’s hard to really say whether their relationship could have endured if they had been in the same city, living in the same house.

Nebraska, I think there is a lot to the charismatic aspect of her. She was obviously charismatic to many, me included. I do think that she was attractive in 1947, but not overly so. I think it was the entire package. Algren was also not what I’d call an Adonis.

And firefly, yes, I think her words could be a big factor in keeping it going…..from one writer to another. Words are everything. And she had a pretty good command of the English language. In fact, her way of speaking was quite endearing because she didn’t totally have it down. I can see a man falling for that. Heck, I fell for that. And I’m going by gut here, too, firefly.


And I just want to say.....

Go Rangers and Giants!
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Re: ATLA Question #20 - What was the attraction?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:12 am

I'm late again and you all have said everything I was thinking. They were exotic peas in a pod, as it were. With their limited ability to actually be in each other's presence they were able to keep much of the mystery going and skip over the everyday mundane tasks of life.

Well done as usual, Noodlemantras!
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