"After the War: Force of Circumstance Vol. 1" by Simone de Beauvoir is the shortest of the five volumes of her autobiography and picks up right where ?The Prime of Life? left off. At the end of ?Prime,? France had been liberated, but the WWII was not over, and this book outlines the end of the conflict and the emergence of the non-Communist left, which de Beauvoir later fictionalizes in ?The Mandarins.? Again, she writes compellingly of her life in Paris with her famous circle of friends including Jean Genet, Albert Camus, Richard Wright and Alberto Giacometti. She writes of interesting travels, including a trip she took to Northern Africa, and of Sartre?s work and her own writing (during the course of this book, she writes ?All Men Are Mortal,? ?The Second Sex? and she drafts ?The Mandarins?).But the central focus of this volume is her love affair with Chicago writer Nelson Algren (?The Man with the Golden Arm?). She meets Algren on a tour she makes of the United States that is funded by a group that brings her over on a reading/lecture tour. (She and Sartre are now becoming famous by the years of this book, 1944 to 1952.) She spends time with him in the United States, making a trip south through the southwest, Mexico and Guatamala with him, which she doesn?t outline completely here as she has written of it more extensively in her book ?America Day by Day.? The relationship runs its course within the pages of this book as Algren gives up on her ever being for him what he wants, remarrying his ex-wife by the last pages. Resigned to this fate, not able to leave Sartre or France (though she and Sartre seem to have an agreement to share finances, take long vacations together and work together, they never lived together and are free to see others as they wish), she is still very disappointed by the end of the affair. On the last visit to his cabin outside Chicago, she says she is glad they have come to a mutual understanding and will be friends. Algren replies to her that he can never offer her anything less than love. The French intelligentsia during this time are grappling with the knowledge of the Holocaust and the onset of the Cold War. Sartre and de Beauvoir were deeply sympathetic with the world?s communists, but Sartre never joined the party, apparently because he couldn?t countenance on a daily basis the ?thought-control? aspect of the central committee. De Beauvoir writes quite a bit about the various left and right publications in Paris at the time, the political views of their editorial boards and the personal and political attacks that were made from their various pages. Their friendship with Camus breaks up by the end of the book as he has become too anti-communist for Sartre and de Beauvoir and the other editors of their monthly publication, Les Temps Modernes.This was a much quicker read than the first two, but engaging in the same episodic way. I don?t know if it could as easily stand on its own, as she references many things from the
Insight into a woman and her time
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
Simone de Beauvoir the memoirist was one of the great literary stylists of the century. This book focuses on the end of WWII and the disappointments which followed when French intellectuals and politicians failed to unite; when France's power diminished and when Communism's inability to solve the problems of mankind became obvious. Reading Simone provides insight into how the McCarthy era evolved and how the Cold War came about. Alhough its cast includes the philosophical and literary stars of the mid-20th century, this book is more than a gossipy treat: it is a road map to the understanding of how Europe and America dealt with mending the wounds of war and how the remainder of the century was shaped.
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