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The Mandarins

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  4,579 ratings  ·  336 reviews
In her most famous novel, Simone de Beauvoir does not flinch in her look at Parisian intellectual society at the end of the Second World War. Drawing on those who surrounded her -- Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Arthur Koestler -- and her passionate love affair with Nelson Algren, Beauvoir dissects the emotional and philosophical currents of her time. At once an engrossin ...more
Paperback, 752 pages
Published May 3rd 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published October 21st 1954)
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Jan 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
There is more than one way to peel the Mandarins, this is my second attempt.

The Mandarins were a scholarly elite in Imperial China, word of them was brought, if I remember correctly, by the Jesuits to France during the reign of Louis XIV (or maybe the XVth, then abouts anyhow) and it was a notion that seemed to have taken possession of the minds of the French Philosophes by the Enlightenment - one can see the attraction to literary men (and the occasional literary women) of wise, or at least wit
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 s
Steven Godin
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I believe this to be her best work. It's long, probably too long, but that's a small niggle compared to all that's so good about it. 'The Mandarins' gives us a brilliant survey of the post-war French intellectual. It's accuracy and its objectivity combine to present a dazzling panorama of the men and women caught up in ever-changing times. As a fan of the existentialist movement this was no-brainer for me to read, it's an expression of her unique style, represented with such vibrancy, that diffe ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Les Mandarins = The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir
The Mandarins is a 1954 roman written by Simone de Beauvoir, for which she won the Prix Goncourt, awarded to the best and most imaginative prose work of the year, in 1954. The Mandarins was first published in English in 1956 (in a translation by Leonard M. Friedman).
The book follows the personal lives of a close-knit group of French intellectuals from the end of World War II to the mid-1950's. The title refers to the scholar-bureaucrats of imperia
Nov 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Roman Clodia
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Volume 1:

This is the first volume of de Beauvoir's huge and compelling depiction of the left-wing French intelligentsia in the last years of the second world war. Opening at Christmas 1944, the first Christmas after the liberation, this follows our main characters through the last year of the war and into the aftermath as they struggle to deal with the fall-out of the Occupation, the reckoning of collaboration, and the uneasy negotiations between the socialist left and the communist party.

This was my first time reading Beauvoir's fiction, and I'm rather ashamed I'd waited this long. Having proven herself in The Second Sex and The Ethics of Ambiguity to be one of the smartest, nimblest thinkers of the 20th Century as well as one who made her ideas perfectly clear all of the time, without any of the usual French obfuscation, it's only natural that her fiction should follow suit. And what I loved about The Mandarins was its take-no-prisoners approach. Not a single character was abov ...more
Steven Walle
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely amazing. It was written by one of the most brilliant minds of the twentieth century. The author was a great philosopher and phemonist of her era. I suggest all read this book and any others you can find by her.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
G.R. Reader
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now that's how to write a lightly fictionalized kiss 'n' tell memoir. ...more
Apr 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
The existentialism of de Beauvoir, does not suppose free will, for none of the characters in the story got what they wanted; they ended up being contented with whatever they received eventually. This is evident especially in the last paragraph of the last chapter of the book, in which Anne decides to commit suicide, and then changes her mind to not commit suicide as her daughter calls out to her. Even death can not be of free will.
"Since my heart continues to beat, it will have to beat for somet
Nov 26, 2009 rated it liked it
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
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this in my teens and took it away with me when I left home.
Its ideas weren't strange to me: my Dad and his friends would natter on about philosophy in smoke filled rooms, my mother dragged me to women's liberation conferences, my first boyfriend took me on a pilgrimage to Les Deux Magots.
What I thought on rereading was pretty much what I thought then, that there's a lot of pretentious chat in this book surrounding a total gem of a love story between Anne (de Beauvoir) and Lewis (Nel
Richard Harvey
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Magnificent! A novel that makes friends with you. De Beauvoir writes in a sense imperfectly, rather like real life. The novel lurches between turgid passages (particularly the anachronistic political discussions and the endless agonizing about the periodicals) and literary flight (in particular the last few passages). Sometimes confusing , at other times clear as crystal The Mandarins is justifiable considered her greatest fictional work.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Erika Westman
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favoratefiction
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. ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, feminism
It's hard to separate what I think about this novel from how fascinating I find her as a person and a thinker.

Apr 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers who like de Beauvoir and novels of ideas.
Shelves: books-from-1956
I read the #9 bestseller of 1956 while vacationing in wintertime Sedona, AZ. Long, wordy, philosophical but with a compelling story, it was just great.
Located in Paris and later in America, the story begins on Christmas Eve, 1944, at a party to celebrate the liberation of France from Germany. The gathering includes the main characters, all leftists, writers, and publishers who were involved to one degree or another in the Resistance against the Germans. They are now dreaming of the possibilities
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-read
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
Anna Maria Ballester Bohn
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-read
Yes, it's not big literature, it might not even be good literature, but it's close to my heart, I've read it in various key moments of my life and it has always given me something I needed. What author nowadays would dare to reflect so openly and unashamedly about what it means to be an intellectual? No one wants to be an intellectual nowadays, which is a pity, and stupid because what are we? For me, this is a powerful exploration of what is important in life, and no, it never gets old to think ...more
Julie Iskander
Jun 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
"The quote that most struck me, speaking Anne about his love for Lewis, is "love is always undeserved." A concept that I made mine, time ago, and that finding in a so important book surprised me." ...more
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
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
This definitely has an old fashioned style. Once you start going with the flow, it is, indeed a good and historic read. It's obvious, who's who in the Parisian literati after the war. However, I never really understood the intellectual war which was going on between the intelligencia who were battling out the future of France and the politics of the Resistance, Socialism, Democracy and Communism. These battles between individuals and their newspapers and books are told in the context of the soci ...more
Tanya Mar
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
So glad to know that Simone isn't only author of "The Second Sex". I really love this book and surprisingly for me the language of the story is so bright and alive. Of course this is still Simone with her existentional questions and deep philisophy, but this time I can see a lot of her personal feelings too. ...more
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always heard of Simone D.B. though my Philosophy podcasts, so I was very happy this was the first book of hers I could read. I feel the common narritve of the novel was easy to follow, following a group of friends in Post-War France. It really focused on two main characters, Anne and Henri, and the writing would usually be third person. The group of friends dealt with many issues we have today, politics, relationships, and figuring out who they are in life. This book was really in depth w ...more
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Reading 1001: The Mandarins - de Beauvoir 1 9 Jan 31, 2018 05:17PM  

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Simone de Beauvoir was a French author and philosopher. She wrote novels, monographs on philosophy, political 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 ...more

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