Review: Hazel Rowley’s “Tête-á-Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir & Jean-Paul Sartre”

by writereaderly

hazel rowley tete a teteRowley, a highly acclaimed biographer, takes on the romantic lives of the two famous philosophers: it could only entertain. Alas, it could also make one writhe with distaste. Rowley’s writing and research were clearly good, no qualms there – although there is comparatively little on Sartre’s inside perspective (perhaps his journals weren’t available?). The distaste is entirely caused by her subjects: Sartre, the nasty little man who uses charm and language to entice beautiful, gormless young women into his permanent fan club; and Beauvoir, his intellectual peer, bastion and head-wife to his harem, among those who procures/introduces/passes on said gamines to be his mistresses and protégées. And, of course, the bevy of simultaneous mistresses and acolytes to both, who are generally lied to and often slept with by both of the great couple, who often don’t know of each other’s existence or status, who are financially supported by Sartre for life to be formless, aimless and “contingent”. (And, to share the blame, who don’t choose financial or structural independence from SdB and JPS). Such was the Sartrean “family” (their term). Eww. Gross. My polyamorous friends would be horrified at the deceit Sartre and Beauvoir practised to maintain their supposedly model open marriage, and clearly so was I. No contesting the intellectual stature or impact of either Sartre or Beauvoir, but by lawdy, best to stay far from their circle of duplicitous dalliances. Good book, though.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Armchair and evening reading, often with a moue of disgust
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Great people do not necessarily – or often – lead great lives – OR – good lives are often too boring to read or write about
Who I’d recommend it to:
MOD & readers after a bit of socio-literary melodrama
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley