email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecoming AnnaBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEarly ExposuresEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Franz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Am I Am I AmI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNo One Cares About Crazy PeopleNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Amazing Things HappenSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Art of MisdiagnosisThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Bright HourThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Infidel and the ProfessorThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Mother of Black HollywoodThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThis Close to HappyThomas S. SzaszTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Going to Need More WineWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I Left, Why I StayedWhy I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
This investigative-fictionalized biography of Jean Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir with hundreds of citations from the interviews, books and letters, as well as original lists of verifiable sources, from both Sartre and De Beauvoir themselves, is interesting. Jones' attempt at fictional reconstruction about real life events in movie-script like fashion with juicy details and generous space devoted to rumors and gossip should make the book blockbuster Hollywood stuff. The rewriting of the story has its foundation in secret letters accidentally discovered in 1986, by De Beauvoir's former lover Jacques Laurent Bost. The letters are published without cuts as Jones considers them the paradigm of her research thesis. By reconstructing the events, she believes to have found evidence of sexual manipulation of dependents and students, collaboration with Nazis and being lured by the KGB in the form of Lena Zonina (KGB agent and Sartre interpreter in Russia). The philosophical love marriage continued for more than half a century. Sexual partners were switched and tolerated without compromising the "essential mutual love", consequently, for Jones emotionally harming unsuspecting intimates due to the couple's duplicity and secret mutual liaison.
The book divides the couple's life into five periods, accordingly in five chapters, the period of 1905-38 covers their childhoods, adolescences, romances and career defining education and early jobs. During the second World War 1939-44 (second part) Sartre is described as a reluctant soldier, as a POW and as a quasi-collaborator with Nazis during the last years of German withdrawal from France. 1945-56 is the period when careers as writers and journalists are established. There is also global fame as leftwing political agitators fighting the bourgeois. The fourth period (1956-68) covers the events of couple's infatuation with communist Russia, existence as celebrity writers of global reach and wealth. The last fifth period of 1969-86 describes events from family intrigue, ill-health, celebrity battles and subsequent demise of Sartre and De Beauvoir in Paris.
In the beginning we find Sartre as a child in the company of old women, sitting on his heels to wee like little girls, a speck in his right eye; when his long curly hair is cut the Pretty Poulon (called by his mother) is called a toad. As a Youngman he will seduce women not by looks but by his clever conversation like Capote. Sartre meets De Beauvoir in the summer of 1929; he is known for shouting "Thus Pissed Zarthustra" from a college rooftop but is absolutely brilliant. She taps on his door, and ends up sleeping with his roommate Llama. Sartre's profligacy impresses De Beauvior due to her penniless childhood. She (citation from page 79) experiments with her body at the age of 13 in the Chestnut forest. His encounter with her later transforms Sartre's self-concept from an ugly toad to a man of destiny. She continues to have relationship with Maheu and Llama, and finds a part time teaching job at Lyce Victor-Duruy. Sartre offers her to have a lease of two years of intimacy in Paris (citation from page 89) the start of famous morganatic marriage. In 1929 he writes to De Beauvoir "Life is a game already lost; so it never makes me feel serious but free". As lecturer in Marseilles, LeHarve instead of his desired destination of the same job in Japan; students remember him as a short man, wearing an open neck black shirt and sports jacket, hands in pocket, smoking a pipe. He allows students to smoke in the class and treats them as his equals, an impressive radical teacher-student relationship, rare even in today's academic circles of the western world.
In February 1935, Sartre experiences altered consciousness with psychedelic drug Mescaline, voluntarily administered by psychiatrist Daniel Lagache. The world metamorphoses into strange surreal existences where an umbrella is a vulture and shoes changes into human skeletons. His masterpiece philosophic novel "Nausea" written in Virginia Wolf and James Joyce style of "Internal Monologues" has been refused by publisher "Edition d' Europe" as vague script which Sartre himself admits to be of no use. However, it is later accepted for publication in April 1937 at Gillimard Editorial Conference (citation from page 179 detail of meeting with Paulhan Publishers are given). With this major event his personal nausea comes to an end; life becomes youthful and beautiful again. Sartre book "The Wall" according to critics borders on obscenity, and his mother, Anne-Marie, is critical of that too. "Family is such a shit", Sartre wrote to De Beauvoir in a letter. De Beauvoir writes in her journal "I preferred the truth; the question was how to find it. Usually Sartre will propose a theory and I will offer a critique". In 1920 Edmund Husserl wrote "if the world disappears, pure consciousness will remain". Sartre thrilled by this idea, rises against his master in "Transcendence of the Ego" arguing "ego is not materiality and not formally in consciousness, it is being of the world out there like the ego of another".
We find Olega, Wanda, Bianca, Bost sexually attached to the couple during various stages of their lives. In epic times when Sartre is bubbling with ideas, De Beauvoir refuses to attach herself to literature, for the fear that it may become too serious like life or love. Femininity is neither natural nor innate, it is only social programming, she writes in the "The Other Sex". The look from another consciousness, wherein being for other is revealed, self becomes an object of indifference, love and hate as a being in the world. According to Jones during this part of their careers, Sartre and De Beauvoir are declared by education authorities unfit to teach after a complaint by a student Nathalie's mother for corrupting the youth. De Beauvoir is alleged to have been in lesbian relations with Nathalie; the former is subsequently handed over to Sartre and Bost in an unethical deceitful manner. Sartre is indicted on account of his short stories in "The wall" and not on original charges according to Jones.
As a POW between 21 June 1940 to the end of March 1941, a kick from a German soldier awakens in Sartre the neo-consciousness and the meaning of collective existence, political life as a being in itself, obeying orders in prison even when one is disgusted by submission, the depth of thought in his writings about sadomasochism, slave-master relationship can be traced to these events. In prison he is reported to have been indifferent to personal hygiene but when a student from Ecole Normale recognizes him, he starts cleaning up regularly. On return home he organizes resistance of fifty Philosophy students named as a Socialist-Liberationist group in Paris. In 1949 he creates a political party RDR with personal investment of 300000 Francs against Charles De Gaulle party of RPF, who he compares with Hitler. However, the newly created CIA is diverting funds from the European Marshal Plan towards espionage on anti-Communist activities in France. As a result RDR soon splits into two groups as Sartre quits the party due to internal rift.
Meanwhile, De Beauvoir's literary thought matures in "She Came to Stay", including vivid description of her feminist Philosophy and sexuality (citation page from 374-3). Sartre in 1952 initiates the famous influential magazine "Les Temps Moderns". At a later stage the infatuation of the couple with communist Russia continues to new heights; during a visit to Tashkent according to Simone De Beauvoir Sartre experiences a minor stroke. After his return to Paris he sleeps more and is slow in his speech. While on tour of Brazil, a rightwing French organization, OAS (Organization Arme Secrete) launches extremist propaganda against the couple at home. Five thousand protesters shout death to Sartre on the Algerian issue; the couple has no choice but to escape to Cuba for a while. Returning home is a media event; they immediately go into hiding under police protection. In 1963 their neighborhood and subsequently, apartment is bombed by rightwing extremists as grim reminder of how unpleasant home can become for honest intellectuals in critical times. According to Jones International Union of Writers during the cold war was a KGB front in the western world (90% penetrated by KGB, citation from page 410, we are not told how the figure was calculated). Lena Zonina, Sartre interpreter of Russian language is a bait from KGB to control the great man. Jones goes a little overboard when she narrates that Sartre masturbates in Moscow while waiting for Lena Zonina (citation page from 424). We don't know how the author arrived at this specific conclusion from her impressive list of sources. The reason probably is author's attempt to present the book as a movie script like the Oscar-winning movie on the life of Capote "In Cold Blood". The trick is perfectly justified if acknowledged in the right spirit and with the right intention by the author. I would have respected the great man differently though.
In 1964 Sartre refuses the Nobel Prize which costs him 26 million Francs. He biographer has once again mildly slipped into English-French bias and quoted the obvious wrong explanation for this: the desire for Zonina, the desire for media attention, and a secret KGB liaison as alleged causes; overlooking the great man's magnanimity and authenticity as other probable even genuine causes. In Sartre's interview, after the polite refusal to accept Nobel Prize, says that it was not meritorious and doesn't include authors from across the Iron Curtain. His consistency and credentials as a leftwing writer can hardly be questioned on the basis of well publicized works as president of Russell's "War Crimes Tribunal" over the Vietnam War and exchanges of hostile letters with French President Chares De Gaulle, championing of workers' rights and incredulity towards the bourgeois is beyond dispute. In 1968 Sartre legally adopts 28 years old Arlette, according to Seymour Jones, the cobra (Sartre) incestuous fantasies have found fulfillment as there are rumors of Arlette's pregnancy.
The last years of Sartre ill-health are characterized as a struggle for Simone De Beauvoir to make him cut down on his drinking. On 17 March 1980, when she comes over to awake him, his condition is not good. He is immediately taken to intensive care of Broussais Hospital where his condition is diagnosed as Pulmonary Edema. Sartre on his deathbed asks for whisky from Jean Poulline and worries about who will pay for his funeral cost. On 14 April 1980 at 9:00 PM he is declared to have passed away. Two journalists break into the hospital room invading the family privacy; they are immediately caught and removed. Sartre's death like his life becomes a controversial media event. De Beauvoir later writes "You will be put in box wherefrom you will never come out, we will never communicate again, even if I am buried beside you or our ashes mingle". He is buried in the place about which he said "In the cemetery, old grave effaces the tragedy of long forgotten death". Under French laws, after Sartre's death his apartment is sealed for tax deduction purposes, his only remains are stick furniture, papers and a huge debt; a perfect end to the life of a true proletarian.
Five years later on the same day 14 April 1985 Simone De Beauvoir dies of the same, lungs condition pulmonary edema, and is buried next to Sartre. A huge gathering of about 5000 friends and admirers follows the coffin to the grave. The gossip will be forgotten in few years but the legends and great ideas will live longer. French Philosophy and Literature starved after Voltaire till the 20th century, but due to the contribution from the queen and king of French Existentialism, the waiter in the café, the chestnut tree will live in the imaginations of millions of readers for ever.
© 2012 Samin Khan
Samin Khan works as Assistant Director of Higher Education in Government of KPK Pakistan and Lectures on Philosophy