The Mandarins
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The Mandarins

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  2,001 ratings  ·  138 reviews
In her most famous novel, The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir takes an unflinching look at Parisian intellectual society at the end of World War II. In fictionally relating the stories of those around her — Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Arthur Koestler, Nelson Algren — de Beauvoir dissects the emotional and philosophical currents of her time. At once an engrossing drama an...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published July 17th 1999 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1954)
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Manny
A lot of people appear to dislike Les Mandarins, which I think is a pretty excellent novel, so let me try and explain what I think is good about it. To me, it's basically about what happens to people (particularly to women) when they realize that they are no longer young. This has several consequences. To start off with, not being young means that you're no longer as physically attractive as you were. Of course, you can go into denial, and say that as long as you eat healthily, exercise, and thi...more
Aubrey
It’s a horrible thing, a woman who labors to lead a man’s hands to her body by appealing to his mind.
The irony of the author of The Second Sex having published this five years after the previous kills me, it really does. What's worse is her having won the Prix Goncourt for it, a weighty stamp of approved literature prowess that says nothing less than, yes, this is how you discuss philosophical theories in the midst of love and warfare: trot the men out trigger happy and reduce the women to self...more
Maria Fuentes
As I went through the pages of "The Mandarins" by the feminist existentialist icon, Simone de Beauvoir, I found myself navigating in a sea of thoughts of multifarious dimensions. What flourished in me so vividly, as I continued reading, were lost memories from different stages of my womanhood or my way in becoming a woman, like the author might say in her other brilliant masterpiece "The Second Sex" with her own application of "existence precedes essence".

Simone de Beauvoir has that ability, to...more
Squidy
I learned that Simone de Beauvoir was one smart cookie. I learned about existentialism for the first time and absuridty and the French resistance and Paris bars. I took this book to Paris and read it there. I went to the bars and cafes and read it there. I was on a late and horrible honeymoon and still have the book but the husband.....non
Lada
Un roman interessant. Une intellectuelle parlant librement de sa vie, a savoir de sa vie amoureuse, avec son mari, la relation avec sa fille, son escapade aux Etats-Unis, une derniere flingue ou il s'agit de vivre et de battre son plein avec une possibilite amoureuse. Une femme, c'est une femme. Parisienne et intellectuelle. Elle va jusqu-au bout Sans regret. Le roman recommande. Faut se connaitre, et en jouir. Un roman qui m-a appris a lire en francais
Tim
I might be alone in really loving this book. I'm not sure if I understand what is not to love. This book is a bright light in a period of self-important post-war literature-- our 1984s and Wastelands-- in that it carefully avoids the moral preachiness and overabundant heavy-handed symbolism by which the supposed major works of this period are so weighed down.

The Mandarins is a treatise on life in suspended animation: when the war ends how does life continue? One way to look at it is the book is...more
Kalilah
The story meanders across the last half of a lifetime and is at times absolutely brilliant. The second chapter in and of itself is a masterpiece. I frequently read this portion on it's owns a random times in the year and it is able to bringing me to tears almost everytime.
G.R. Reader
Now that's how to write a lightly fictionalized kiss 'n' tell memoir.
Bryant
This book reads like a French version of an Ayn Rand novel (and this is not compliment). "The Mandarins" is full of flat characters whose voices are scarcely distinguishable, awkward dialogue, insipidly clunky internal monologue, and a surprising lack of atmosphere (how can de Beauvoir make Paris so boring?). The book has pretensions to being philosophical and rich, but it is unfortunately dated and vapid. If this novel represents French intellectual life immediately following WWII, then its mos...more
Cdrueallen
My reactions to Simone's massive novel about life with J.P. Sartre, Albert Camus, and Nelson Algren are violently mixed. It's fascinating to read about an era where prize-winning novelists were resistance fighters and political organizers, and though they're continually bemoaning their powerlessness, I'm amazed by how much what they do and say matters in their vanished world. On the other hand, it's discouraging the way Simone turns Sartre into a plaster saint, and Camus into a heroic godlike cr...more
Ann
The Mandarins, sadly, is the only thing I have read by Simone de Beauvoir. And it is great. A fictional account of her relationship with Sartre and the friendship between Sartre and Camus, The Mandarins is a novel that deeply explores interpersonal relationships and gives the reader insight into what may have been between these three famous French intellectuals. The extent to which what Beauvoir writes is historically accurate, I am not sure. However, I think one of the valuable things about thi...more
Mara
for all of my bitching and moaning, this was one of those books that answered on one of those Rilkean crying out nights, and it did such a lovely job of telling at least three different stories, and yes, six hundred pages was sometimes a slog, and yes existentialism sometimes makes me reach for a sweater, but I still loved this book and it will be living in my head for a long time.
Rick
Jesus Christ, this book was emotionally exhausting.
Laura
I totally enjoyed this book. Like some other reviewers here, I found the first few pages to be challenging to go through: so many characters are introduced and the narrative seems sparse. By the second/third chapters though, I was captured by the book and could barely put it aside.
I don't think I have so far come across any better illustration of the classical idea of "intellectual" in the pure French tradition, that which was started with Zola's public stance during the Dreyfus Affair. de Beauv...more
Erika
This book is an amazing achievement. Ambitious, intelligent, engaging. It's the first of her fiction that I've read, and I was delighted to find that Simone de Beauvoir's characters were so varied and three-dimensional. But they are not just well-drawn fictional characters; they are interesting people, the intellectuals of post-war France. A couple of well-known (fictional) writers who were heavily engaged in the resistance during war years, continue to grapple with rebuilding a free France in t...more
Daniel Morrison
The book looks at the lives of left bank french intellectuals immediately after the liberation of Paris in 1944,
famous for including thinly veiled versions of the author, Albert Camus and Jean Paul Satre along with other members of their social circle. The large cast of characters is a little bewildering at first but it's to de Beauvoir's credit that all of them are developed well enough that none of them seem two dimensional or forgotten about. That said I preferred she came to stay generally b...more
Jordan
A really excellent novel from a literary and philosophical standpoints from an author who I didn't even know wrote fiction until relatively recently; I really only knew her political and philosophical writing. The characters are human and dynamic and she has a knack for dialogue. One of the better books I've read in the past year. The larger ideas at work (like the relationship between literature/art and politics) are as relevant as ever.
Julie Iskander
I enjoyed every page, reading it to me was an enriching journey. The post-war intellectuals struggle to survive and make a difference, was enlightening. I couldn't avoid comparing that to the state of the Egyptian resistance and the euphoria we lived in February 2011 and all the helplessness we fell in afterwards. I know a lot of differences lie in between. However the slight similarities touched my heart.
Marina
Una novela sobresaliente. Todo empieza en Nochebuena tras el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Un grupo de amigos se reúne para celebrar y prepararse para una nueva vida. Sin embargo, las esperanzas y la felicidad recuperadas no durarán mucho tiempo. Es una novela descarnadamente realista, con personajes reales y situaciones inevitables, hermosas y terribles.
Nos centramos en dos puntos de vista: Enrique Perron, antiguo miembro de la resistencia francesa y director del periódico de izquierdas, L'...more
Okla Elliott
This is hands-down one of the best novels to come out of France in the twentieth century. It also serves as an excellent historical document for life in immediate post-war French society. Should be required reading for all serious readers, especially those with interest in twentieth-century feminism, existentialism, and the aftermath of WWII.
Bernie Whelan
After finishing this novel I really miss the characters,living in Paris after the war among the intellectuals, hanging out in the jazz bars with them, discussing the political dilemmas of the day and travelling round America with de Beauvoir's alter ego to fall in and out of love. It's much easier to encounter existential philosophers this way.
Hala
رواية رائعة بكل المقاييس و كعادة سيمون لغة بسيطة و معاني و تحليلات عميقة تتناول حياة الطبقة المثقفة بعد الحرب في فرنسا و تنتاول شخصيات جان بول سارتر و البير كامو محبي الفلسفة الوجودية سيفتتنوا بهذه الرواية ..

Eli
A glimpse through de Beauvoir's own eyes at post WWII Paris and the most important literary figures of the time, including Sartre and Camus.
Radost
This was my most expected to-read book. I was searching for it for four years now and when I finally found it I was overwhelmed by its simplicity along with the remarkable ambiguousness of the characters. Many of the people here criticise Simone de Beauvoir for the lack of feminism in the book, claiming that she degrades the female characters, but for me this is her most female novel of all. In the Second Sex she is too determined to examine every aspect of the female development more as an obse...more
Beck
I had this book sitting on my shelf for quite some time before I finally read it. I was hesitant, thinking it might be one of those boring-but-ultimately-worth-it books. When I finally read it, however, I found The Mandarins to be completely engrossing. This book is famously a roman a clef about de Beauvoir's pals (Sartre, Camus, etc) in the immediate aftermath of WWII. However, I think that does de Beauvoir an injustice, since whether or not the characters are based on her contemporaries (and h...more
John Meddick
What to say about The Mandarins. Well, it's brilliant, isn't it? As an insight into the lives of some of the greatest French philosophers and politicos of the Twentieth century, it has no rivals (that I know of). And some lives they led. As a real and in-depth examination of the internal struggles each of us has to deal with on a day to day basis - those concerning love, sex, work, war, apathy and friendship - it is comprehensive and relatable.

With that said, it was only on the second attempt t...more
Asa
This is the story of a group of French left-wing intellectuals, starting when Paris is liberated in 1944, and told through two people: Henri, a writer and owner of an independent newspaper, and Anne, a psychoanalyst who is married to a friend of Henri's. I liked the parts of this book that dealt with the shifting friendships and politics of the group, a lot of whom were with the French Resistance, and how hard it is to go from the certainties of war to all the compromises and grey areas of a soc...more
Marleene
Regretfully, this was a tedious read as a novel and it was compounded by my lack of interest in philosophy and politics. I have never read du Beauvoir previously and thought that The Mandarins would be an excellent start.
The premise of the plot should have been engaging - how does one recreate purpose after the physical and moral devastation that was wreaked on France by the events of WWII - but I found the characters tedious and mundane and got lost in the political intricacies of post war Pa...more
Lorri Steinbacher
This was a tough one. The political aspect was dense and a little repetitive. I found it interesting that Anne thought herself so different from Paula and yet they ended up exactly the same way. In the end, I ended up respecting only Nadine, who seemed to be the one with the most legitimate reasons for acting as hardhearted and capricious as she did, as the war intruded upon her still-forming youthful personality.

I always find myself agitated when smart women subjugate their own desires and drea...more
Paul
I first came across this book in a 3rd year history course on post-war Europe. From a historical and political point of view the book brings out an interesting discussion on the collaboration and resistance in France during WW2 and the ramifications of each. From a philosophical point of view, much of the book seems to be influenced by Simone de Beauvoir's time spent with Jean Paul Sartre. As a student I could appreciate the book from both these academic stand points. I found it provided some in...more
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  • Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography
  • Alberta and Jacob
  • Mademoiselle de Maupin
  • Under Satan's Sun
  • The Vagabond
  • The Ogre
  • The Reprieve
  • The Holy Terrors
  • Tête-à-Tête: The Tumultuous Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Man's Fate
  • Les caves du Vatican
  • A Legacy
  • Conversations with Professor Y
  • The Death of Virgil
  • The Tree Of Man
  • Our Lady of the Flowers
  • Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep
  • The Chateau
5548
"Simone de Beauvoir was a French author and philosopher. She wrote novels, monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues, essays, biographies, and an autobiography. She is now best known for her metaphysical novels, including She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, and for her 1949 treatise The Second Sex, a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary femin...more
More about Simone de Beauvoir...
The Second Sex Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter The Ethics of Ambiguity The Woman Destroyed All Men are Mortal

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“She was ready to deny the existence of space and time rather than admit that love might not be eternal.” 1863 likes
“She would never change, but one day at the touch of a fingertip she would fall to dust.” 101 likes
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