Saturday, September 24, 2016


I need to take a break from Simone de Beauvoir, because she simply writes too much. In her memoirs she is like a pre-Flaubert French novelist such as Victor Hugo who churns out page after page with little of substance to add compared to a postmodernist, whose meaning, if any, may be obscure, but who at least is concise. For my taste she is relying too much on a journalistic style, spending an inordinate amount of time on events and too little on analysis. I suspect that she is just transcribing her diaries and cleaning them up for public consumption, since both she and Sartre were famous by 1960. Her writing isn't as fluid or as evocative as Proust's, but, like him, she, in effect, withholds crucial information – such as that so-and-so is gay – for thousands of pages. Although there is precision to her writing, she, as a writer, seems to intentionally stop at a pre-defined level of depth as a matter of stylistic choice, when I would prefer it if she had dug further into the psyches of the people discussed. She spends far too much time describing her vacations in the manner of travel writing when I want to know what she really thinks about Sartre, Bost, Olga, etc. Her style makes her writing seem as if you are seeing everything through a filter that removes what is most intriguing in order to provide a predefined narrative flow that has been calculated to meet the needs of a hypothetical reader. In other words, unlike this blog, where I make a reasonable effort to tell you exactly what I think about something, de Beauvoir seems to consciously self-edit for reasons that she doesn't explain. For example, while she has firmly established that Sartre is a crucial element in her life, she has said nothing specifically about the strengths and weaknesses of their relationship, what she might have preferred, etc. She is holding back for some reason – Sartre was going to read it and she doesn't want to upset him, it might affect Sartre's public reputation, or, less likely, she didn't really understand Sartre. Similarly, as she describes the Sartre-Olga affair one might surmise that she and Olga were ultimately hurt, but it seems that Sartre has no accountability for his behavior. The impression I have is that she uses writing as a form of sublimation that whitewashes undesirable behavior among her intimates, which is a disservice to her readers. She may also be laboring under the "great man" delusion that is so popular in France. In my writing I try to be as clear as possible about people other than the ones whom I know are reading my blog. That way you get an unfiltered statement of my views, and in those instances where I think privacy is important you get almost no information, and I don't waste your time by dancing around facts or covering up with selected omissions.

In other news, it is starting to get cold here, and there may be a frost tonight. I am planning a very brief trip to Bar Harbor, Maine next month. As you can tell from the comments above, I am a little bogged down with The Prime of Life, but I will continue reading it and keep you posted. There are two more books in this memoir series plus three additional memoir-like books by de Beauvoir, but I'm not in a hurry to read them. I will eventually read the next two volumes, but definitely not in succession.

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