There will be many who will find it significant that Anne Whitmarsh, beginning a careful and detailed study of Simone de Beauvoir with a section called 'Biographical Notes', should make the first entry read, '1905 21 June: Jean-Paul Sartre born in Paris', and the last: '1980: Death of Sartre'. There are those for whom Simone de Beauvoir is important only because of her association with Sartre. Her four volumes of autobiography are sometimes seen merely as useful source material for the life of Sartre. A film about her, shot in 1978, was said to show that, even in old age, she remained Sartre's disciple as well as his companion, since in his presence she continued to behave like a good pupil, looking for approval, not allowing herself to smile at the jokes and replying to questions diligently and awkwardly. She has herself repeatedly emphasised that it was Sartre who was creative and original, who took the initiatives and who dominated the relationship. 'I must talk about him,' she once wrote, 'in order to be able to talk about us.' There are so many references to Sartre in this book that he does not even figure in the index.
LRB 15 October 1981 | PDF Download