Been to Saint-Germain-des-Pres? Not only does it not exist, but it hardly even briefly existed. Just enough time to forge a media and historiographic myth called for sustainable profitability. This is the thesis supported by the historian Eric Dussault in The invention of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (247 pages, 22 euros, Vendémiaire), probable synthesis of a large-scale university work if we judge by the importance of the sources. He explains the phenomenon by the indifference of cultural historians and by the subordination of history to memory. Because if until 1960 the narration of the epic was well done by journalists, afterwards it concentrated exclusively in the mouth and under the nostalgic pen of actors and witnesses of the time who were authoritative by dint of being taken over. in loop for sixty years without the slightest critical perspective. They are Léo Larguier for his picturesque Saint-Germain-des-Prés, mon village , the Fargue of the unequaled Pedestrian of Paris , Simone de Beauvoir memorialist ( La Force des choses) and Boris Vian, indispensable master of the premises and author of the Manuel de Saint-Germain-des-Prés guide (written in 1950 but published in 1974). Continue reading “There is no more after… in Saint-Germain-des-Prés… (and no more before either!)”
Find out why TIME chose Simone de Beauvoir as one of the 100 women who defined the last century
Simone de Beauvoir was born in 1908 into an upper-class Catholic family. While studying for the competitive agrégation exam in philosophy, which she passed in 1929, she met Jean-Paul Sartre, the great love of her life. In 1949, she published The Second Sex and revolutionized feminist thought. She won France’s highest literary prize in 1954 for her novel The Mandarins and, in 1971, wrote the text of the Manifesto of the 343, a French petition to legalize abortion.
At 16, I stumbled upon an image of de Beauvoir sitting in Café de Flore in Paris with a stack of books. “She’s a famous author,” my mother told me. I went to the library and borrowed The Second Sex, expecting an erotic book that would answer my burning questions. The first few pages were a disappointment. This wasn’t a book about love or sex, nor a treatise on pleasure. But I kept going.
It was a revelation. De Beauvoir exposed a long-hidden truth: that there is no female nature. She consulted biology, history, mythology, literature, ethnology, medicine and psychoanalysis to question the roles assigned to women. The book told me that I control my destiny. If there is no fixed female essence, then we too are only what we do.
The Second Sex provided me with weapons to understand, to defend, to respond and to persuade. It gave me the desire to write, an exercise in reclaiming the self. De Beauvoir knew: “Freedom is an inexhaustible source of discovery, and every time we give it a chance to develop, we enrich the world.” —Leïla Slimani, translated from French by Gretchen Schmid
Slimani is the author of The Perfect Nanny and Adèle
This article is part of 100 Women of the Year, TIME’s list of the most influential women of the past century. Read more about the project, explore the 100 covers and sign up for our Inside TIME newsletter for more.
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Simone de Beauvoir was a French philosopher and writer whose work exploring what it is to be a woman shaped feminist thinking today. A pioneering intellectual, she used her existential ideas around freedom and responsibility to shape her life, literature and politics.
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“One is not born, but rather, becomes a woman,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir in her seminal book The Second Sex. At the time, the book was considered so radical that the Vatican put it on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (index of prohibited books). Beauvoir died at the age of 78 on this day 32 years ago, leaving behind a legacy of revolutionary thinking, activism, and having spurred the beginning of the ‘second wave’ of feminism.
As an existentialist, Beauvoir believed that human beings create their own values through their consciousness, and not simply by some inborn “essence”. She drew upon this philosophy to describe the sex-gender distinction, in which she explains that there is a difference between biological sex assigned to a child at birth, and the social and historical construction of gender and the stereotypes that become associated with them. Her argument is that all children are born the same way, but become conditioned by the society around them to think that men must behave a certain way and women in certain others. She calls women the ‘second sex’ because historically, women have always been defined in relation to men, as though the male was the ideal — that women could only aspire to be, but can never really become [ . . . ]