ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

by Simone de Beauvoir

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ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby Liz » Sun Oct 31, 2010 12:38 pm

Pg. 169 (Tuesday, Feb. 17):

Once you told me you did not like to think I could “spiritually belong” to somebody; that is not a “belonging.” But much of what I am now, he helped me to be. And sure I helped him to be what he is too.

What do you think Algren means here by "spiritually belong?"

What do you think of Simone’s relationship with Sartre?

How do you reconcile her relationship with Sartre in context with Nelson?

Comment on Simone’s statement that her best accomplishment in life was her relationship with Sartre.

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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Oct 31, 2010 2:27 pm

I think Simone did belong to Sartre - she seemed to always put his wishes ahead of everyone else's, including her own at times. Sartre seemed to be the center around which the rest of her life revolved - his affairs, his work, all of it. Whether she claimed to love someone else with all or heart or not, Sartre would always come first with her. She told Nelson that in so many words when she said she would never be able to give herself to him fully. The fact that her relationship with Sartre essentially lasted a lifetime was quite an achievement for Simone who seemed to have less permanent relationships, and more tumultuous relationships, with everyone else in her life, including her mother and sister.

I am really eager to read what the rest of you have to say because, quite honestly, I don't get the whole thing! Sartre must have had a wonderful mind and a whole boatload of charisma to generate that kind of loyalty in a woman like Simone! In spite of the whole opposites attracting thing she had with Nelson, maybe in the end Simone and Sartre were enough alike that they were two parts of one flawed inseparable person.

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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby Liz » Sun Oct 31, 2010 3:54 pm

nebraska wrote: maybe in the end Simone and Sartre were enough alike that they were two parts of one flawed inseparable person.

I like that! :ok:
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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby fansmom » Sun Oct 31, 2010 4:07 pm

I have only read ATLA and the tidbits and discussion questions, and believe me, the answers to those questions is not in anything I've read. :perplexed:

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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:02 pm

fansmom wrote:I have only read ATLA and the tidbits and discussion questions, and believe me, the answers to those questions is not in anything I've read. :perplexed:


fansmom, I haven't really done any outside reading either. A lot of my opinion is derived from what others have said about them here during the discussion.

I have not read Letters to Sartre or any of her other works but from I have learned during this discussion it was a weird relationship to say the least. I read somewhere that Algren was her romantic equal while Sartre was her intellectual equal.


What do you think Algren means here by "spiritually belong?"


I think he is referring to her relationship with Sartre in the sense that she was bound to him so tightly that she had lost some her sense of self and ability to control her own "spirit". I also think he may have been goading her a bit.

What do you think of Simone’s relationship with Sartre?


In a word sick and twisted...oh, wait that's two words. They were drawn together closely by so many intellectual commonalities which I can understand. What I cannot understand is the way they used people for their own amusement and intellectual study. Having an open relationship is one thing, and I know it is much more common in France, but it was the way they treated people that I couldn't handle. They come off as very egotistical, competitive and with a sense of entitlement and superiority.

How do you reconcile her relationship with Sartre in context with Nelson?


Well, she seemed to be able to do it with no problem! At first I really thought Nelson was some sort of fling or experiment, or competition with Sartre (which it may have started out to be) but as we discussed in yesterday's question, there was a degree of honest love there. In a live for the moment existence, nothing is forever so why not? She wasn't going to drive Sartre away with her affairs and she wasn't going to commit to Algren so the two could coexist for her.

Comment on Simone’s statement that her best accomplishment in life was her relationship with Sartre.


Given the length of time it endured, the prolific writing that came out of it and the intellectual fame and influence that it brought her I can see why she would say it. He gave her the freedom to live her life and challenge to do so.
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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby gemini » Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:42 pm

As you all know I have done a bit of outside reading and have been straining at the leash to mention some of what I’ve read. Brace yourselves ladies. :giddy:
I think Algren's remark about spiritually “belonging to someone” must be how Simone described her relationship with Sartre to him. She obviously told him the sex had ended but had to explain why she would not leave him. Funny I went back to read this paragraph and was just as fascinated by the following one where she talks of Bost but not very honestly to Algren.

Simone said “There has been one undoubted success in my life: my relationship with Sartre.”
Their relationship lasted 51 years and started in 1929. In one book she says the physical aspect ended in the first decade, another I read 6 or 7 years. She tells Tito Gerassi in his interviews for Sartre's book; it ended for good in 1947. Here’s a quote from Sartre’s letter to Simone in “ Quiet Moments in a War. He has just returned from leave where he spent time with both Simone and Wanda. Feb 24, 1940. He writes Simone: I’ve been vaguely feeling that for some time because, in our physical relationship in Paris, during my leave, you were able to see that I’d changed. Perhaps the power of our physical relationship is fading slightly but I find it is becoming tidier.
On March 15 he writes. He hasn’t heard from Wanda in 8 days. “ Can you fill me in? You know today I had an imaginary but strong fear she might be pregnant. As you can see this is in 1940 and he is already more involved physically with his other women but still confides it all to Simone.

In spite of their lack of physical relationship, After reading her bios it becomes clear that this in no way changed her feelings for him. She was just as upset about his lovers cutting into her time with him as before. She got really upset several times when he wanted to marry. Part of their pact was no jealousy but they both seem to have had trouble in this respect.

They made a 2-yr. pact to have essential love, tell each other everything, and they would be allowed contingent affairs and always come back to each other. They later made the pact for life. They would never marry nor have children. Some researches are now saying that Sartre may not have been the instigator of this because Simone’s first affair (with Rene Maheu a married man) was before she met Sartre and carried on after the pact. Her first affair is something she fibs about in her bios but Sartre spills the beans in an interview late in life with John Gerassi. Sartre twice asked her to marry him and she refused once before the pact and once after.

They became somewhat like an old married couple. They shared political opinions, and she even handled his money at times, pooling hers with his. She sent his lovers their support money. Sartre, who was a financial success before Simone, was very generous with his money and supported Simone from the time she was fired at her teaching job at the University until she was 35 and her first book was published. She says she always had Sartre’s money even later and never had to worry before she was wealthy in her own right (about the time Second Sex was published in 1949). Sartre’s first book Nausea was published in 1938. Sartre was financially set after his trip to America in 1945 but didn’t consider himself rich until 1946.

They each pre-read and made suggestions on everything the other published. Most of their life they lived separately but met each day at cafes or each other’s apartments. They took trips together and separately with other lovers. They usually spent the summer together in Rome. Sometimes they traveled in couples.

Part of Sartres philosophy was to never be jealous. He was better at it than Simone but not always. She slept with his friend Pierre Gille (Pagniez, in their books) while Sartre was in the service. In 1930 and 1931 she slept with Sartre, Gille, and Mahue, until Rene Mahue gave her an ultimatum to choose a vacation with him over Gille and she choose Gille. The first affair we hear about for Sartre was later when he went to school in Berlin; he began an affair with a married German woman, Marie Ville (he called her the lunar women). He had a previous affair with Simone Jollivet (Toulouse) but it was before he met Simone.

Simone also had affairs with women that she told Sartre about but she says of Gille, she did not have to tell him because he knew. Sartre tells Gerassi that the only reason he started an affair with Wanda was because Simone had started one with Bost and he was jealous. We see in later life Simone’s affairs end and Sartre’s get more numerous. One of the reasons she may have had a problem with age.

When you get an idea what Algren was up against. The poor fellow didn’t stand a chance.

How do you reconcile her relationship with Sartre in context with Nelson. I know her sexual relationship with Sartre was long over and their love as Sartre calls it was “intellectual intercourse”. Still it was Sartre she always choose to stay with over all her lovers even Bost who she once told Sartre, was not contingent but essential.” This also lends to her love for Algren because she stopped seeing Bost,( her longest affair and the only other one she called essential), after she met Algren (or at least she says that in her bio). I did take notice that in Sartre’s interview with Gerassi, he says that Algren was not a contingent love for Simone. That means she had 3 “essential” affairs, Sartre, Bost and Algren. These interviews were done between 1970 and 1974 and Sartre died in 1975 so I think the Bost affair in her youth was out of his mind by then and he recalled Algren's as more of a love affair.
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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby gemini » Sun Oct 31, 2010 6:06 pm

I just reread everyones comments and Nebraska has said something very astute. maybe in the end Simone and Sartre were enough alike that they were two parts of one flawed inseparable person. With the exception of the flawed part this is exactly how Simone describes her and Sartre. Two halves of the same person.

Fansmom said
I have only read ATLA and the tidbits and discussion questions, and believe me, the answers to those questions is not in anything I've read.
Yes, that’s why I call it a teaser.

DITHOT said
She wasn't going to drive Sartre away with her affairs and she wasn't going to commit to Algren so the two could coexist for her.
I am with you on half of this. She would not commit enough to keep Algren, but as we have seen having affairs, even serious ones, would not have changed things with Sartre, he was busy with his own and she was his work and intellectual partner by this time, not his lover.
Just my opinion again, I think Simone thought of herself as Sartre’s wife. She even says that it was natural for men to wander in marriage, so she accepted Sartre as her “common law type husband” , as long as he did not marry anyone else. (and she saw to it that didn’t happen).
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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Oct 31, 2010 8:21 pm

To begin, thank you Gemini for the excellent presentation on Satre and Simone. Well done and extremely helpful to the discussion.

As most of us have indicated, I suffer from our common weakness: insufficient source reading, but like us all, I’ve developed ‘opinions.’ I’m going to start with the second question and go right into the third, and then the second for last.

What do you think of Simone’s relationship with Satre?
I see it as a profound relationship, almost symbiotic in the tangle of connections so that as Nebraska says ‘they are one.” I am going to play devil’s advocate however, and say that the lack of a conventional monogamous relationship, the presence of a variety of shared and exclusive lovers that extend over time doesn’t diminish the pair in my eyes. Our society is organized in a certain way, but there are polygamous and polyandrous societies. My one reservation might be that any intimate organization needs to protect all parties --honor them – and I think there is a great deal of evidence that such was not always the case here. Given the long-standing nature of the pair’s relationship, established routine of living, financial support, etc. I consider theirs a common law marriage. It lasted a lifetime.

Simone called it her best accomplishment. I find this an oddly old-fashioned perspective on the place of a woman vis-à-vis a lover. She did indeed subsume herself to this man, make him the center of her life, stuck with him for better or worse. Interesting when one considers her book The Second Sex. It has been years since I read the book however so I can’t sit in judgment as to what extent her life choices stand in opposition to the tenets of her treatise, indeed, given her analytic nature she must have considered and considered the life she lead with Satre and what it meant.

Algren and Simone within the context of Satre and Simone
Intellectual intercourse Gemini calls what Satre and Simone practiced. As the mind is a powerful sex organ and for the two of them also it was always words and words and words -- perhaps they were more compatible mentally than physically? I imagine Simone might have wished her relationship with Algren to be the mirror opposite: greatly sensual and romantic, but equally as important.
I would hazard the guess that she was unable to make more than one man the center of her life. Perhaps this is a truism and no one is capable of two centers, two people of equal standing. It is interesting to think about what might have happened if Algren had come to live full time in Europe although my gut says basically the woman’s bones belonged to Satre.
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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby nebraska » Sun Oct 31, 2010 8:50 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
What do you think of Simone’s relationship with Sartre?


In a word sick and twisted...oh, wait that's two words. They were drawn together closely by so many intellectual commonalities which I can understand. What I cannot understand is the way they used people for their own amusement and intellectual study. Having an open relationship is one thing, and I know it is much more common in France, but it was the way they treated people that I couldn't handle. They come off as very egotistical, competitive and with a sense of entitlement and superiority.



DITHOT, this bothered me a lot as well. Perhaps there is something in the theory of existentialism that tosses out most of the moral codes we take for granted. I am not sure how all that works. But they did seem to treat quite a few people rather badly, and I stand by my description of them as "flawed." It is one thing if everyone is playing on a level field by the same agreed-upon rules, but when a couple of the players change all the rules without letting the rest know, someone needs to say "foul."

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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby gemini » Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:03 pm

nebraska wrote:
DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:
What do you think of Simone’s relationship with Sartre?


In a word sick and twisted...oh, wait that's two words. They were drawn together closely by so many intellectual commonalities which I can understand. What I cannot understand is the way they used people for their own amusement and intellectual study. Having an open relationship is one thing, and I know it is much more common in France, but it was the way they treated people that I couldn't handle. They come off as very egotistical, competitive and with a sense of entitlement and superiority.



DITHOT, this bothered me a lot as well. Perhaps there is something in the theory of existentialism that tosses out most of the moral codes we take for granted. I am not sure how all that works. But they did seem to treat quite a few people rather badly, and I stand by my description of them as "flawed." It is one thing if everyone is playing on a level field by the same agreed-upon rules, but when a couple of the players change all the rules without letting the rest know, someone needs to say "foul."


I have sort of developed my own opinions of the two of them (Simone and Sartre) and I do admit they have changed along the way as I read different books. I read Simone’s bios first and I thought Sartre was a heel. I read Simone's 'letters to Sartre' and thought they both were. Since then I have read a couple books written by other authors and lately I have been into Sartre. I hear comments from Simone like Sartre always gives in to his woman and lets them have their way. (Vacations, time spent together etc.) Sartre himself tells Gerassi that he likes women better then men, especially to talk to because they talk of feelings not ideas. Wonder how he categories Simone?

With one or two exceptions I’ll get to in a minute, Sartre tends to stay long or lifetime friends with his lovers. One exception was Bianca Bienenfeld, who he broke off with at Simone's insistence. The other and Sartre even calls himself an sob was for how he treated Colette Gilbert alias (Martine Bourdin) in their 1938 affair. Wanda hears of it when he is serious with her and Sartre is disgusted with himself and tries to get Simone to help him get out of the sad state of affairs through letters. . He is also mad at Marc Zourro for telling Wanda. I admit he looks bad in these two occasions but other then those (and possibly some we never hear about) he stays friends with all his women.

Now I still can’t justify him talking about them to Simone behind their backs but I personally think he treated his lovers better than Simone did her female lovers. This brings to me another point; Simone treats the women terrible and the men like they are on a pedestal. I have went the long way around to make my point which is that I think Sartre is not as guilty of being an ass as Simone. I guess as Nebraska says many will still call him flawed because of their polygamous relationships but most of his women were aware or became aware if they stuck around. Maybe they liked being supported for life. Who knows?
Oddly enough some of the ones Sartre loved the most like Dolores Vanetti and Lena Zinona left because they wanted him alone and not along with Simone.
Last edited by gemini on Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby gemini » Sun Oct 31, 2010 11:16 pm

fireflydances wrote: She did indeed subsume herself to this man, make him the center of her life, stuck with him for better or worse. Interesting when one considers her book The Second Sex.

There are many reviews out there with those same questions.
fireflydances wrote:
I would hazard the guess that she was unable to make more than one man the center of her life. Perhaps this is a truism and no one is capable of two centers, two people of equal standing. It is interesting to think about what might have happened if Algren had come to live full time in Europe although my gut says basically the woman’s bones belonged to Satre.

It sort of makes you agree with Liz's comment in the last post that Simone was happy with both her affair with Algren and returning to France. She actually had a complete relationship, it just took two people to get both halves.
Not that I agree, I think Algren could have done it on his own if she had not been so involved with Sartre.
You mentioned what would have happened if Algren came to France. He did in the 60s for a few months and they all got along fine. He loved her friends, especially Michelle and Olga. Bost and Sartre met him and they all got along. I still do wonder if she was ever truthful with Algren about Bost. Since Olga was always around she might have kept it on the QT. He seems to be the one she hides the most in all her writings.
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Re: ATLA Question #21 - The Question You've All Been Waiting For

Unread postby Liz » Mon Nov 01, 2010 1:12 am

Wow! I am awed at everyone’s responses. Gemini, thanks for the extra insight. You have read much more than I have. And it’s helpful to get the rest of the story.

I think “intellectual intercourse” covers how I view it perfectly. But for Simone, the heart was involved too. I think Sartre was her soul mate (or as nebraska put it so perfectly, that they were two parts of one flawed inseparable person). And the latter fits how I view her, as very narcissistic. I don’t want to fault her for that, though, because I think that it is totally natural. I think it is quite rare to find such a thing, though. And maybe that’s why it was sooooo important for Simone to hold onto it.

Gemini, I do think it is possible to love two people, although not for everyone. So your description of the two halves she needed being covered by Sartre and Algren make sense. However, like firefly pointed out, it is not as likely that they would be on equal standing. And it is obvious to me that Algren was not. Sartre was given top priority.

DITHOT, what bothers me about Simone the most is what you point out—the way she treated others, like guinea pigs, objects and inferior human beings. Her air of superiority really bugged me. And I think that they used their definition of existentialism (although they didn’t like to call it that) as an excuse to behave whatever way suited them.

And on her relationship with Sartre being her greatest accomplishment? Well, first of all, it’s a slap in the face to Algren. And second, it is the exact opposite of what she seemed to work for all her life……to be independent and free to be a woman of accomplishment without the need for a man (at least careerwise). She was a woman of accomplishment in so many ways. She didn’t really need a man to accomplish things. But she apparently needed a man to value herself in other ways.
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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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