Books by Kate Fullbrook

Released: Jan. 26, 1994

A provocative dual biography that sets out to recast Simone de Beauvoir as the ``true philosopher'' in her legendary relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre; by the Fullbrooks (she: Literary Studies/Univ. of the West of England; he: a freelance writer). This dry, clear, jargon-free analysis—based on the numerous earlier biographies—arrives after the stir caused by the publication of Beauvoir's Letters to Sartre (1992), which revealed her passionate relationships with women (as well as with men)- -relationships deliberately kept from public view. Beauvoir was Sartre's equal in her keeping of ``contingent'' relationships as the couple worked out what the Fullbrooks call ``a highly ambiguous desire for joint sexual imperialism.'' According to the authors, the terms of Beauvoir and Sartre's ``oath''—which allowed each to enjoy multiple liaisons—weren't what she settled for but, rather, ``the best he could get.'' But the Fullbrooks' more important point concerns Sartre's ``intellectual indebtedness'' to Beauvoir: They contend that the philosophical principles that he presented as his own in Being and Nothingness—the ``theory of appearances'' and other central ideas—were lifted from Beauvoir's novel She Came to Stay, a claim deriving from close textual analysis that convincingly extracts Sartre's thinking from the Beauvoir novel. The Fullbrooks cite Beauvoir's letters and The War Diaries of Jean- Paul Sartre (1985) to prove that Sartre had read the manuscript of She Came to Stay during his army leave in February 1940—earlier than he claimed. Throughout, the authors' attempt to ``shift'' the Beauvoir/Sartre ``balance'' delves only slightly into Sartre's work, although the couple's final three decades are summarized in an epilogue. Giving Beauvoir primary place in her relationship with Sartre is another step toward the ``correction'' of the legend of these existentialists—but far from the last word. (Meanwhile, a fully wrought vision of the complex and contradictory feminist can be found in Deirdre Bair's Simone de Beauvoir, 1990.) Read full book review >