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A Dangerous Liaison Paperback – 5 Mar 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (5 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099481693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099481690
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 552,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"indefatigably detailed and even-handed. [Seymour-Jones] has mastered a great deal of French political life over many decades" (Literary Review)

"excellent ... Seymour-Jones's narrative crackles and pops with engrossing anecdotes ... a tautly written, riveting book ... formidable" (The Observer)

"As a portrait of marriage - or more accurately of a refusal to marry - this joint biography is filled with delicious detail, with nefarious intrigues, trysts, betrayals, and outrageously libertine behaviour; and for all its scrupulous research and historical understanding ... it rattles along with the drama of a soap opera ...Massive, lavishly researched and eminently readable, Seymour-Jones's book is as page-turning as its is scholarly. The end result is quite dazzling." (Guardian)

"[an] excellent biography" (Independent on Sunday)

"This absorbing account traces the trajectory of these twin rockets with energy and objectivity" (Independent)

Book Description

A revelatory new biography of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre

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By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 April 2008
Format: Hardcover
This very readable book is about the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and although the author is of course knowledgeable about their philosophies, her main interest is in the psychology of the pair, which is brought out with great perceptiveness.

From their adolescence onwards they had both rejected belief in God. This had two consequences in particular: the first and earliest was that `if God is dead, everything is permitted', and they certainly allowed themselves behaviour which, even by permissive standards, was often indefensible. On the other hand, they sought to fashion a morality which, in theory, was as demanding as any laid down by the churches: absolute honesty towards themselves and each other, a ruthless exposure and condemnation of mauvaise foi, the necessity to fashion a moral code for themselves and then an insistence on total commitment to it. These have made them the heroes of their followers and of many thoughtful people who have themselves wrestled with the moral problems raised by the absence of religious belief.

But they fell very far short of what they preached: they lied (what De Beauvoir wrote in her Memoirs is often belied by her diary; and Sartre lied about his behaviour during the Occupation); they seduced minors and casually wrecked other people's lives.

A typical situation: De Beauvoir, aged 24, had a lesbian relationship with her 17 year old pupil Olga Kosackiewicz; suffers torments when Sartre makes a play for her which Olga encourages.
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Format: Paperback
Sartre and de Beauvoir have never been taken as seriously in the English-speaking world as they were in Europe and Latin America. Perhaps the traditional British and American disdain for "intellectuals" and abstract thought explains this. Unfortunately this joint biography does little to explain just why Sartre and de Beauvoir became such influential figures on the world stage and role models for several generations. Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature (and turned it down) and de Beauvoir was hailed as a precursor of feminism.

Instead it concentrates on their unconventional (if not downright bizarre) personal relationship which lasted over 50 years and allowed them both to go their own ways while remaining pledged to each other. This unusual situation, which led to moral and ethical contradictions at a personal level which Sartre would have dismissed as "petty bourgeois", was matched by muddled thinking on political and social issues which led them both to become apologists for the Soviet and Chinese Communist regimes during the Cold War.

Sartre is portrayed as a hypocrite and a liar who inflated his own role in the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation. Not only he did betray his country by collaborating but he also treated many of his lovers and friends badly, according to the author.

de Beauvoir is treated more sympathetically although she is portrayed as a bisexual who specialized in seducing her young female pupils before sharing them with Sartre. She comes over as a more approachable person than Sartre. Her affair with the American writer, Nelson Algren, which lasted a number of years,is one of the most interesting parts of the book and could make an excellent film with the right treatment.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a fascinating book, a brilliantly written , never boring, insight into the lives of Sartre and de Beauvoir. Nowdays they wouldn't be allowed to get away with half the stuff they did, but it makes for a great read, and portrays the intellectual life of Paris before WW2 through the occupation, the recriminations afterwards, and Satre's blinkered view on Communism, set in the background of their, to say the least, unusual personal lives. Sadly, the author Carole S-J recently died. I can't wait to read her other books.
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Format: Paperback
Though the book started off a bit slow for me, once the lives of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre became intertwined at the time of their introduction in 1929 (when both were students at the École Normale Supérieure), I could hardly tear myself away. I set myself to reading 2 chapters a day.

I was surprised to discover how apolitical the 2 were during the 1930s. Both were then firmly set on establishing careers for themselves and having sexual relationships with impressionable young women. Many of these women like the Kosackiewicz sisters, Natalie Sorokine, and Bianca Lamblin (nee Bienenfeld - a Jew whom both de Beauvoir and Sartre abandoned as the Germans tightened their grip on France in the late spring of 1940). De Beauvoir later felt guilty for how shabbily she and Sartre had treated Lamblin and after the war, she and Lamblin would take annual trips together. (Lamblin, Seymour-Jones reveals, wrote her own memoirs in which she spoke fully of her betrayal and the nervous breakdown she suffered after having fought with the Maquis in the Vecours against the Germans.)

Sartre (and de Beauvoir to some extent) greatly understated his Resistance activity during the Second World War. In truth, both felt that the German occupation was likely to last 20 years and, like most French, largely accomodated themselves to Hitler's New Order in France. In contrast to Albert Camus, a mutual friend, Sartre and de Beauvoir played almost no part in the Resistance.

Sartre shortly before the war had begun to make a name for himself as a writer and existentialist thinker through his first successful book, 'La Nausee'. For de Beauvoir, the war helped her to find her voice as a writer and thinker.
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