Simone de Beauvoir is one of the great minds of the 20th century. A great thinker, novelist and, although she didn’t recognize it, a feminist, her struggle for women’s rights was a before and after to achieving gender equality.
His way of being and seeing human relationships was quite a scandal at the time, especially given the type of relationship he had with another great philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre.
If you want to know more about the prolific intellectual life of this author and also about his interesting personal life, keep reading to see a brief biography of Simone de Beauvoir, With which we will know his life and his work.
- Related article: “Types of feminism and its different schools of thought”
Biography of Simone de Beauvoir
Below, we’ll see Simone de Beauvoir’s most notable vital facts, including the great historical figures he was able to speak to and his relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre.
1. Early years
Her full number is Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, Born January 9, 1908 in Paris, France, into a bourgeois family in the Gallic capital. From the early years of young Simone de Beauvoir, there were two trends in her family that pushed her to rub the ends.
On the one hand, her mother was a devout Catholic, while her father was an atheist, and invited the young woman to expand her vision and knowledge of the world through reading. It is perhaps for this reason that Beauvoir’s childhood is deeply marked for an exalted faith in God, wanting to be a great nun. But, at the age of 14, he permanently abandons these beliefs, assuring that God simply does not exist.
The young woman has always been an excellent student, and in fact her father encouraged her to continue her studies. One of the phrases her father used to say to her that may have helped her grow up thinking about the differences between men and women was “Simone thinks like a man”, realizing that he saw her as intelligent. Ligante than a man, according to the sexist perspective clearly predominant at the time.
2. Academic training
Around the age of 16, Simone de Beauvoir she decides to study to become a teacher. This would not have been possible if the family had not experienced financial problems, which meant that she could not offer a good dowry to marry her daughters and chose to study whatever she wanted.
After passing the baccalaureate in mathematics in 1925, de Beauvoir enrolled at the Catholic Institute in Paris. He also combined this with studies of letters and languages at the Institut Saint-Marie. He would later study philosophy at the Sorbonne, Finishing his studies in 1928 and presenting his thesis on Leibniz.
At that time, Simone de Beauvoir was the ninth woman to obtain a diploma offered by the Sorbonne, because until very recently in France, women did not have the possibility of pursuing higher education.
Years later, she took the exams to become a teacher in France (aggregation) and decided to go as an auditor to the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. It was at this time that he had the opportunity to meet great French thinkers of the 20th century, such as Paul Nizan, René Maheu and, more particularly, Jean-Paul Sartre.
At the end of the aggregation tests, Sartre was in first place, while de Beauvoir was in second place, becoming at 21 the youngest to have passed the exam.
3. In time of war
From the moment he obtained the aggregation in 1929 until 1943, Simone de Beauvoir he devotes himself to teaching in secondary education. He has taught in high schools in several French cities, including Marseille, Rouen and Paris. It was also from 1929 that Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre formed a couple.
In 1943, she decided to quit her teaching post and devote herself to writing, publishing her first novel, L’invitée, the same year. By this time, Paris had been taken by the Nazis and de Beauvoir was dedicated to reflect on the responsibility of intellectuals in times of war, Exposed in his book The Blood of Others.
It was also during the years of German occupation that he wrote his only play, Les Boques inútils, which was performed in 1945 at the Théâtre des Carrefours in Paris.
In 1944, with other intellectuals such as Sartre, Raymond Aron, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Albert Ollivier and Jean Paulhan, he founded the magazine Les temps Modernes, with an ideology close to that of the Communist Party and a publication in which he published Existential thought.
4. End of the war and philosophical maturity
After the end of the occupation he begins to publish his first philosophical tests, Which would not go unnoticed. In 1947 he held several conferences in the United States in which he spread his philosophy. It was also this year that he published his probably best-known book: Le seconda sexe, known in Spanish as El segon sexe. The publication of this work was very controversial, even for France at the time, a country considered tolerant and very secular compared to its neighbors Spain and the United Kingdom.
Already in the fifties, he made several trips inside and outside his country of origin, including to countries under communist rule such as China and Cuba, interview with Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
5. Final years and death of Sartre
Although with a strong Marxist ideology, de Beauvoir always defended human rights against his political vision, signing a manifesto against the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Although of French nationality, he was very critical of the French administration in Africa, Defend the independence of Algeria. He saw colonialism as just another way of portraying the oppression of the strong against the weak.
Years later, de Beauvoir, with Sartre, they formally moved away from communism during the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet authorities.
During the sixties he continued his travels, visiting Japan, Egypt, Israel and the USSR, and by the following decade he showed his point of view on such controversial issues as abortion, Arab-Israeli conflict and women’s rights.
Sartre died in 1980, ending their open relationship which had lasted for about 50 years.. In his honor and in his memory, de Beauvoir published The Farewell Ceremony the following year, recounting their relationship over the past five decades.
Simone de Beauvoir died on April 14, 1986 of pneumonia at the age of 78.
Work and reflection
The thought of Simone de Beauvoir laid the foundation for the construction of feminism as it is understood today, In addition to being a song for individual freedom, both economic and sexual and reproductive.
Below we will briefly examine three texts written by the French philosopher, with a particular focus on the relationship of women to men, both in the more traditional and personal view of de Beauvoir.
1. The guest
The guest, translated into Spanish as “The Guest”, is Simone de Beauvoir’s first novel published in 1943. It describes her relationship with Sartre and two of her students when she worked in Rouen, the Kosakiewicz sisters. characters. In fiction, Sartre and de Beauvoir manage to make trios with the students.
2. The second sex
The second sex (1949) transforms the most important principle of existentialism, that is, existence precedes essence, into a feminist slogan: We are not born a woman but become a woman.
the author distinguishes between the concepts of sex and gender. On the one hand, sex is a biological thing, defined by the X and Y chromosomes, while gender is understood as the historical and social construction of what it is to be a man and a woman. De Beauvoir also argues that the oppression of women is strongly linked to the concept history of what femininity is.
The title of the book is already a declaration of intent. Simone de Beauvoir designates women as the second sex because, traditionally, they were defined according to their relationship with men.
Surprisingly, de Beauvoir never considered herself a feminist, although feminism was based on what is explained in her most remarkable work. Beauvoir’s doctrine expounded in Le seconda sexe, promoting the economic independence of women and the right to receive the same education as men, was a major contribution to the constitution of feminism.
Les mandarins, published in 1954, is the work that won France’s most important literary prize, the Prix Goncourt.
In this book, by Beauvoir explains in literary terms his relationship with philosophers close to the environment both of the author, And his life with his partner, Sartre, in addition to explaining his relationship with Nelson Algren.
Prizes and decorations
In 1954 was awarded the Goncourt Prize for his work the mandarins. In 1975 he received the Jerusalem Prize for Individual Freedom in Society and in 1978 he received the Austrian Prize for European Literature.
In 1998, an asteroid was named (11385) Beauvoir, followed by the asteroid (11384) Sartre. In 2000 a square was inaugurated in Paris in honor of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre and in 2006 a small bridge was inaugurated in this same city in honor of Beauvoir. Since 2008, she has offered the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for the Freedom of Women.
One of the best-known and most striking aspects of Simone de Beauvoir is that she has enjoyed many relationships, despite her twinning with Sartre, which continues to surprise to this day. While this should not be viewed as a negative thing, he may have partly overshadowed his prolific intellectual output.
The relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre lasted fifty years. However, they both saw other people, maintain a kind of verbal contract that they renewed every two years, in which they allowed to have an open relationship.
De Beauvoir never intended to get married, become a housewife and have children of her own. This allowed him to focus on his academic training, to devote time to his literary production and philosophy, and to be free to see whomever he wanted.
Needless to say though their bisexuality was already controversial at a time when sexual diversity was something little toleratedMost controversial was the fact that Sisyphus of Lesbos had relations with some of his students. In fact, one of her students at Lycée Molière in Paris claimed to have been sexually exploited by Simone de Beauvoir. For rumors and comments like this, de Beauvoir was suspended from duty in 1943 after also being accused, in this case, by the mother of a 17-year-old student.
Simone de Beauvoir, along with other great intellectuals of the time, signed a petition to reduce the age of sexual consent in France.
- De Beauvoir, S. (1945) The Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Modern Times, 2.363-67
- De Beauvoir, S. (1945) Moral Idealism and Political Realism, Modern Times, 2. 248-68.
- De Beauvoir, S. (1946) Literature and Metaphysics, Modern Times, 7. 1153–63.