Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (Perennial Classics)
Simone de Beauvoir
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A superb autobiography by one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century, Simone de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter offers an intimate picture of growing up in a bourgeois French family, rebelling as an adolescent against the conventional expectations of her class, and striking out on her own with an intellectual and existential ambition exceedingly rare in a young woman in the 1920s.
She vividly evokes her friendships, love interests, mentors, and the early days of the most important relationship of her life, with fellow student Jean-Paul Sartre, against the backdrop of a turbulent political time.
he aroused hatred, not indignation: you can’t feel just indignant about the Devil in person. Traitors, spies, and unpatriotic Frenchmen and women sent deliciously scandalized shivers through our virtuous breasts. I stared with studied horror at the woman who was known from then on as the ‘Frau’. In her I beheld at last Evil incarnate. I embraced with passionate devotion the cause of the righteous. My father, who had been discharged from the Reserve because of heart trouble not long before, found
that the slightest allusion to fleshly things causes me this indescribable distress? I think of Alain Fournier’s Colombe, who drowned herself in a lake before she would sully her purity. But perhaps that is pride?’ Obviously I did not hold that one should languish in perpetual virginity. But I was sure that the wedding-night should be a white mass: true love sublimates the physical embrace, and in the arms of her chosen one the pure young girl is briskly changed into a radiant young woman. I
walking with my sister; scratching our legs on gorse and our arms on brambles, we would explore for miles around the chestnut groves, the fields, the moors. We made great discoveries: ponds; a waterfall; at the centre of a lonely heath, blocks of grey granite which we climbed to get a glimpse of the blue line of the Monédières. As we rambled along, we would sample the hazelnuts and brambleberries in the hedges, arbutus berries, cornel berries, and the acid berries of the berberis; we had bites
frothy grey scum, grandpa used to dance me dutifully up and down on his foot, but his voice was so gruff one never knew whether he was speaking in fun or in anger. I lunched with them every Thursday: rissoles, blanquette, ‘shape’ – known in our family as ‘floating island’ – grandmama always had a treat for me. After the meal grandpapa would doze in a tapestry armchair, and I, underneath the table, played the sort of games that make no noise. Then he would go out, and grandmama would bring out of
in passing by these strange lives, I felt once more the intimate, obscure happiness that I had known as a child on the balcony of our flat in the boulevard Raspail. Only I didn’t dare speak to anyone, and nobody spoke to me. Grandpapa died at the end of the autumn, after lingering on interminably; my mother shrouded herself in black crêpe and had all my clothes dyed black. This funereal get-up did not improve my appearance; it set me apart, and I felt it condemned me to an austere way of life