Archive for french writers

Iconic and Controversial

Posted in Writers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2009 by Mj Rains

simone-de-beauvoirOne of the most controversial women of the century, essayist, novelist, and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir has changed millions of women’s lives, awakening us all to the mystique of being a woman by authoring her most famous work The Second Sex.  Though Simone, herself, was uninterested in being a mother, she had become known as “the mother to us all.”

She “was the vanguard of French intellectual life for nearly forty years,” and became notoriously “the most public sinner in all of France.”  Her life-long unmarried relationship with existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was the source of this.  “After we had decided what our relationship was to be, we were both embarrassed that we had even briefly considered the most bourgeois of institutions, marriage, to be the answer,” Beauvoir recalled.  Ah, yet another marriage without papers.

Beauvoir and Sartre were known as “the writing couple” who were together nearly every day, at work at separate desks or cafe tables…

Beauvoir and Sartre

Together they participated in rallies, visited heads of state on almost every continent, exchanging ideas with the greatest artists and writers of their era. 

Simone has become the ultimate feminist icon, always “deeply committed to her work yet always ready to put Sartre’s first.”  She had other love affairs on the side, both male and female, to which much criticism has been raised, and one longer ill-fated relationship with American writer Nelson Algren, to whom she wrote many love letters.  She always insisted that their relationship would go no further, for her committment to Sartre and his intellect was undeniable, even though her affair with Algren was physically satisfying. 

I had always thought of Simone de Beauvoir as this great, scary woman, independent of men, though not a hater of men (as some feminists have become), but one who sincerely did not need a man.  Yet, in reading her biography, I find that most of her financial “freedom” came out of Sartre’s open pocketbook.  Curious…isn’t it.   For a most admired feminist icon, she was surrounded by many men, the key to which, I feel, was their respect for her as an equal of intellect, and a contemporary in philosophic thought with all life matters.






Femme de Lettres

Posted in Cats in Art, Writers with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by Mj Rains

Colette with cats

She was the original femme de lettres qui a mal tourne–the woman of letters who turned out badly.

In The Vagabond she describes missing writing so much when she had to earn her living on the stage:

To write!  To be able to write!  It means the rapt hypnotized gaze, caught by the reflected window of the silver inkstand.  It means the burning of the divine fever on cheek and brow while a delightful death chills the hand that traces words upon the paper.   It means also oblivion of time, the idle nestling in a corner of the couch while yielding free rein to a very riot of invention.  It means emerging from the debauch tired and stupefied but already richly rewarded and the bearer of great wealth to be poured out upon the virgin page in the circlet of light sheltering under the lamp…

Oh, to write!  That joy and torment of the idle!  To write!  Time and again I feel the need come upon me, urgent as thirst in summertime, to take notes, to depict.  And I seize my pen again and begin the dangerous, deceptive game anew, seeking to capture with my flexible, double-pointed nib the sparkling, fugitive, passionate words!   It is merely a brief crisis,  the itching of a scar.

Ah, Colette!  One of my favorite cat worshipers.  What a great description of the urge to write.  The Wit here is finally “itching her scar” with regularity this week, and finding some time to blog as well.  Here’s to hoping for the ever-lasting “oblivion of time” to get it down on all my virgin white paper, and to emerge tired and stupefied.  Feeling very “femme de lettres.”


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