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The Mandarins (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) Paperback – 3 May 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (3 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007203942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007203949
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘A remarkable novel.’ Iris Murdoch, Sunday Times

‘A dazzling panorama of the giants of the Left Bank.’ New Statesman

‘The characters, especially the women, are uninhibited and sometimes predatory. The dialogues are salty, frank and realistic. The characters’ amorous adventures are set down with microscopic exactitude.’ Guardian

‘There are few, a very few, novels from which one comes away with the feeling of having travelled, experienced, learned… such a book is The Mandarins.’ Bookman

From the Back Cover

In wartime Paris, a group of friends gather to celebrate the end of the German occupation and to plan their future. Henri, ex-Resistance fighter, is eager to resume his wife, to travel and to write a novel; Paula is convinced that she can revive her dying affair with Henri. Robert, a writer, is determined to enter politics whilst his psychiatrist wife, Anne, is deeply distracted by an affair with a young American; their daughter, Nadine feels only bitterness and disillusionment after the killing of her lover by the Germans.

Winner of the Prix Goncourt, 'The Mandarins' captures the dizzying sense of promise felt throughout France after liberation. Herself a central figure in the cultural life of the Left Bank, de Beauvoir punctuates the novel with wickedly accurate portraits of the intellectual giants of the time, including Sartre and Camus.

“A remarkable book, a novel on the grand scale, courageous in its exactitude and endearing because of its persistent seriousness.”
IRIS MURDOCH, 'Sunday Times'

“Simone de Beauvoir has given us a magnificent map of the mental terrain of French intellectualism. 'The Mandarins' is a window on the world through which we see and recognise not just the facts of a situation but the truth about it. Moving and engrossing.”

“An extremely important novel, 'The Mandarins' gives us a brilliant survey of the post-war French intellectual. Its sweep, its variety, its accuracy and its objectivity combine to present a dazzling panorama.”

“In 'The Mandarins' the characters, especially the women, are uninhibited and sometimes predatory, the dialogues salty, frank and realistic. Their amorous adventures are set down with microscopic exactitude.”

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A truly great piece of writng. Simone de Beauvoir's novels all too often try to be proving a philosophical point, which at the best can lead to a well-written novel with an improbable, almost silly conclusion (L'Invitee) and at the worst to a dry, depressing read ('All Men are Mortal', surely one of the most depressing books ever written). The one novel in which Beauvoir is more interested in character than theory is 'The Mandarins', which must be one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I loved the descriptions of post-war France, of the Resistance fighters trying to make a new life for themselves in a very different world, of the former 'Maquis' fighters who continued to attack collaborators, and the struggle to build a new and better society. The discussions of socialism, and of how far the French could separate themselves from either the American or the Russian superpower, though slightly drawn out, also make fascinating reading; a great bit of history without ever becoming dry. There are a whole host of extremely memorable characters, from the wise and life-enhancing Robert Dubreuillh (who, despite his wisdom ends up compromising himself by becoming too friendly with the Soviet powers, to his regret), Henri, the novelist and playright who struggles to be a good and honest man but is too easily seduced by beautiful women (one in particular) and in the end finds 'salvation' in an unexpected marriage, Anne, Dubreuillh's wife, a psychoanalyst who fears death and ageing and briefly finds youth again in an affair with an American writer, Nadine, her daughter, whose fierceness and disagreeable behaviour hide a deep vulnerability and bitter memories of World War II and the death of her lover, Paula, Henri's masochistic ex-lover - and many more.Read more ›
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I really enjoy Simone de Beauvoir's writing and for the most part, this novel was engaging. However, the novel is written with two interwoven narratives and I found Anne's (SdB's fictional counterpart, of sorts) chapters a bit dreary and self-indulgent at times. She writes about her (extra-marital, but sanctioned) lover in a cloying manner and I felt it was a bit too cringey for me. The third person chapters were fine though. Also, it's a fairly chunky book.
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Format: Paperback
This is a very good English translation of de Beauvoir's 2-volume Les Mandarins which won the Prix Goncourt in 1954. Rich, detailed and utterly absorbing it opens at Christmas 1944, the first Christmas after the liberation of Paris, and ends about three years later. Deeply political, it follows the personal and intellectual lives of a group of Parisian intellectuals - writers, journalists, editors, many of them ex- Resistance - as they struggle to find a way for France to heal itself and find a place in the world between the growing stranglehold of America and Soviet Russia.

Alongside the party politics and in-depth debates, this also explores issues of gender politics: the dreadful malaise which blankets Henri's relationship with Paula; his unsatisfactory affairs with other women; Anne's search for identity as a middle-aged woman past her prime; and the aggressive, volatile and yet vulnerable Nadine who can't forget her first love who died in a Nazi concentration camp.

De Beauvoir's prose is so crisp and clean that it translates easily into English. I was mainly reading this in French (Les Mandarins 1), using this English edition as a filler read on the tube and noticed very few blips in the translation: guérir is given as `to cure' a few times which jars in the context of a character's pathological need for love, and might have been better rendered as `to heal' but this is a minor quibble.

This is a huge book, and a deeply intelligent one - but amongst all the political squabbling, the backstabbing and the more fatal consequences of Nazi collaboration, this also gives an effortless feel for 1940s Paris: the cafés, the champagne, the dancing in darkened cellars. I love this book and wanted to slip between the covers and live inside it -highly recommended.
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as an avid fan of the existentialist movement i came to De Bouviour's work strangely late; odd, considering that i started reading existentialism with Iris Murdoch, a writer who's quote adorns most copies of this novel. i had started with Simoné's 'she came to stay' and got used to her indivdual style of veiled biography and realised that, unlike her other contemporaries (and her partner; Sartre) hers are not so much philosophical moral tales, as a portrait of those around her that lived their whole lives by their philosophy- you get the very truth of what it's like to exist as an existentialist, to be (or fail to be) what you write about. The Mandarins is her greatest expression of this unique style- an astonishingly heart-rending story of post-war life, people trying to forget, people trying to act like heroes, accusers and the bourgiouse elite. paris is beautifully represented in real colour and vibrancy and at the heart of the story is a powerful friendship between one genious and his mentor, a friendship that falls apart through politics- something i found terrible and gripping to find myself a bystander to. don't belive the other bad review, this book was one of the most all enveloping works of literature i have ever experienced. if you're even slightly interesed in the movement this should be your guide. it is truly essential.
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