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Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  324 ratings  ·  18 reviews
This definitive biography is based on five years of interviews with de Beauvoir, and is written with her full cooperation. Bair penetrates the mystique of this brilliant and often paradoxical woman, who has been called one of the great minds of the 20th century, and surely, one of the most famously unconventional figures of her generation. "As a reference work . . . Simone ...more
Paperback, 720 pages
Published August 15th 1991 by Touchstone (first published January 1st 1990)
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Xandri Fiori
An expansive read, but well worth the time. To touch on the author, Bair’s, actual construction--it read in journalistic style but was sectioned into chapters that left you with whole ideas and themes within Beauvoir’s life. I appreciated that, as some biographies I've read often resigned to bait-and-switch, and though that approach may propel you throughout fiction, in biography you lose some of the sense of growth, change and large periods of time building upon each other to create a complete ...more
Kayla
This biography was written with the full cooperation of the subject, which I suspect perhaps unconsciously softens some of the hard edges. For instance, Ms. Beauvoir was not comfortable, for a variety of reasons, with discussing her passion for women in sexual terms but had a variety of women in love with her and sleeping with Jean Paul Sartre because of their connection to her, originally. She pimped out her young philosophy students and then justified her actions with existentialism (my interp ...more
Suz Moses
What a whirlwind! Not my usual genre but fascinating look at an unusual woman--brilliant, radical, unfettered and yet bound, open and yet closed emotionally and intellectually. Great portrayal of a complex personality.
Mike Horan
It is no easy task, to write such an accomplished biography on a philosopher and novelist, who in their own lifetime wrote so extensively of themselves, and with such candid and unflinching self-appraisal. Deirdre Bair's portrait of Simone de Beauvoir is highly informative and provides a great deal of insight in to the wider socio-political context from which she was both enthroned and vilified at several turning points in her distinguished career. I enjoyed the revealing way Bair weaves the per ...more
Laura
This was really more of a 2.5 than a 3, but I'm feeling a bit generous.

I'd been interested in reading this because I've read a number of her works, all while I was much younger, in college (and she was alive). Learning more about the woman who'd informed some of my philosophy and women's studies classes was interesting - the problem is, Simone de Beauvoir just seems like a not nice person. Her life, at least the way it's presented here, was a series of squabbles and justifications for her though
...more
Miranda
Whew! It took months but finally finishing Deirdre Bair's biography of the inimitable Simone de Beauvoir gave me a great feeling of satisfaction. I enjoy biography as a very focused and constructed means to gaining knowledge of a wide scope of culture and history; now I'm a great deal more familiar with early 20th-century France as well as the life of Jean Paul Sartre and even Nelson Algren. Biggest revelation: Simone de Beauvoir had no fashion sense. Her iconic turban came about because she did ...more
Marmite
Just like most of de Beauvoir's work a bit too lengthy, but worthwhile.
Personally, I was disappointed to get to learn the woman behind the influential (feminist) philosopher. Especially her relationship with Sartre put me off, since she was so much not in control.
But that's the risk of reading biographies I guess.
It does give you a beautiful picture of Paris back in the days, full of art and philosophy, and it also leaves you with a clearer understanding of de beauvoir's work.
K. M.
Informative. Sheds much light on the Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir circle.
pippi
i've read this book a few times but it's really big. it's a really great look into a life that's so cast in the shadows of jean paul sartre. the book gets real about her relationship with sartre (like how sartre never gave her an orgasm). it starts from the beginning.... and by beginning i mean her grandparents and ends with her death.
Donna Kusuda
Have been reading this over the past few months between other things. Probably the best biography I have ever read about an awesome woman leader, a mass of contradictions but in spite of that is considered "the mother of us all". What a life.
Jarome
An absolutely amazing, sad and at times tiring read. I have a number of French friends and simply wanted to know more about this particular individual. Well written, it kept my interest even when there weren't interesting things going on.
Lex
I don't remember the month that I read this. It was cold and I must have been bored. This book is huge and exhausting. But it REALLY helps you understand Simone de Beauvoir and modernity better. Do we really need to? I dunno.
Wendyjune
it was a big chewy book, that often repeated itself. I ploughed through it though, and maybe while not deeply entertaining it had great value.
Allison
A fascinating read about this dynamic women. Though dry at times, Simone's life more than makes up for the slow sections.
Rachel
She's an amazing woman. Inspiring, intellectually and emotionally. I'm determined to read everything she's ever written now.
Elizabeth Schurman
I loved this, and I will miss it. Being an existentialist is all fun and games until your liver gets bad. Ah, well.
miso miso
awesome background material on sartre's drug habits. got my copy at the strand. boy was sartre a wanker. slash hot.
Carla
Nov 23, 2009 Carla is currently reading it
very interesting woman. i just love the french culture and reading about their customs etc.
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Deirdre Bair won the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett: A Biography. Her biographies of Simone de Beauvoir and Carl Jung were finalists for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Bairs biographies of Anais Nin and Simone de Beauvoir were chosen by The New York Times as "Best Books of the Year," and her biography of Jung won the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psy ...more
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