I’ve been thinking about Simone. Simone, to me, can mean Simone deBeauvoir or Simone Weil, or both, but Simone deBeauvoir has certainly figured much larger in my life and in my heart, than Simone Weil, whom I discovered much later in my life.
I was about 19 when I found and read, “All Men are Mortal”. I remember how impressed I felt with the philosophical premise of the novel. The main character couldn’t grow old or die, and lived through era after era, carried along through all the social upheavals and evolution. After only a few generations, he realized that immortality isn’t after all, anything one would wish for…. “ennui” was a favorite word in French existentialism, and this character suffered from disabling and perpetual “ennui” (like depression, or stultifying boredom).
I was also enamored of Simone dB’s passionate and exacting intellect which seemed to have both female and French qualities. When I found out that she and Jean Paul Sartre were best friends, lovers and inseparable lifelong intellectual colleagues, it only intensified and solidified my admiration. Later, when I discovered that Simone and Nelson Algren, a Chicago writer, fell madly in love when she was in her forties, and loved to visit the Chicago underworld together, she rose even further in my esteem. Here was one woman who lived life on her own terms, who reached for and expressed cutting edge philosophical thought, who lived side by side, but not together with, Sartre, who for maximum freedom, didn’t marry or have children or settle for exclusive, possessive relationships. Most of all, I loved her mind. All of her work exposed a sharp, incisive, but extremely passionate, willing and open intellect. Throughout her writing, one perceives the attitude and inclination of French existentialism: a disdain for God and all things Christian, a radical sense of personal freedom and always the shadow and presence and contrast that death casts on life.