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Editor’s Introduction Susan Rubin Suleiman T HE ESSAYS collected here (with the exception of Huston’s essay and Lawrence Kritzman’s review essay) were originally delivered as papers at the conference, “ Writing Lives: Sartre, Beauvoir, and the Question of (Auto)Biography,” held at Harvard University on Feb­ ruary 27-28, 1987.1The idea for the conference, which was organized by myself and Stanley Hoffmann under the joint auspices of the Center for European Studies and the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies, orig­ inated shortly after Simone de Beauvoir’s death in May 1986. What bet­ ter homage could we make, we thought, to this perhaps most famous couple of twentieth-century intellectual life than to invite a number of scholars to reflect on a question that had been central to both of their lives/works: the question of the relationship between the self and the world, through the mediation of writing. For Beauvoir as for Sartre, self and world were always, in a sense, “ triangulated” by writing; no matter how deep and passionate was their attachment to the history and politics of their times, it was nevertheless primarily as writers that they both defined themselves—and the way they saw their own lives, as well as the lives of others, expressed itself most profoundly in the mode of writing. Whence the richly ambiguous title, “ Writing Lives,” suggesting as it does both one’s own life and the lives of others, both the activity of writ­ ing those lives (in biography and autobiography) and the state of being in a kind of life (a “ writing life” ) that defines itself through that activity. Although obviously it would be possible to find many other themes around which to organize a conference on Beauvoir and Sartre, this one seemed to us most apt, especially in the context of a commemoration which was also (as we realized) a kind of mourning. Which did not mean, of course, that the “ Writing Lives” conference was intended as a hagiography. Far from it, as all of the essays that follow will demonstrate. It was as an occasion for critical as well as “ respectful” reflection that we conceived of the conference. And we were not disappointed. The first subject for reflection, not surprisingly, was autobiography. And here, the choice of questions and texts adopted by the speakers and writers strikes me as very interesting. The most insistent autobiographVOL . XXIX, NO. 4 5 L ’E s pr it C r éa teu r ical question turned out to be the one concerning the relationship of the couple: it is treated by Dorothy Kaufmann and Nancy Huston, who base themselves on Beauvoir’s texts (significantly, Sartre published almost nothing about their relationship, whereas it dominates Beauvoir’s auto­ biography), and again by Gerald Prince, who looks at it from the per­ spective of Sartre’s posthumously published letters to “ le Castor.” My own essay treats a rather different autobiographical question: that of Beauvoir’s conception of herself as a writer. Rather than relying only on her autobiographical writings, however, I juxtapose them with her crit­ ical statements about women’s writing in Le Deuxième Sexe and with the fictional version of the “ writing self” in her novel, Les Mandarins. A similar crisscrossing of her fictional and autobiographical or philo­ sophical texts occurs in the essays by Huston and Kaufmann as well. If Beauvoir was undoubtedly the more prolific autobiographical writer of the two, Sartre was clearly the biographer. As Annie CohenSolal points out in her essay, during all of his life Sartre was obsessed by the lives of “ great men” —who happened, incidentally, to be also great writers: Baudelaire, Genet, Flaubert, Mallarmé, Freud. The works on the last two have become available only after Sartre’s death. Hazel Barnes, who has devoted a detailed study to Sartre on Flaubert, here takes a look at Sartre on Freud—and shows very interestingly that, just as in the case of his other subjects, Sartre found in Freud both a kind of alter ego and an “ other” he rejected. Beauvoir and Sartre, like other writers, were not always only writing; they were also, and probably more so than most, “ written.” Written...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 5-7
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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