In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Autobiographical Intersexts: Les mots de deux enfants rangés Dorothy Kaufmann F OR FIFTY YEARS, until Sartre’s death in 1980, Simone de Beau­ voir and Jean-Paul Sartre constructed their couple on the basis of the pact Sartre had proposed in the first months of their relation­ ship. “ Sartre did not have the vocation of monogamy,” Beauvoir writes in La Force de l’âge. Theirs was a “ necessary” love, Sartre explained, that would endure as long as they did, but they should experience “ con­ tingent” loves as well. They also agreed never to lie to one another and never to conceal anything. Although they usually saw each other every day, they would never live together, so that the relationship would not degenerate into habit and constraint. The ideal was freedom and a per­ fect transparency. Beauvoir expresses her irritation with those who judge the couple they created without taking into account the particularity that explained and justified it: “ those signs of twinship on our brows.” 1 Focusing on Mémoires d ’unejeunefille rangée2and Les Mots, 31will examine those signs of twinship and, through the same texts, trace divergent signs of gender and genre in Sartre and Beauvoir’s representa­ tions of a fantasy self. An analysis of the “ intersextualities” inscribed in their pact of necessary and contingent loves will show how the imperative of transparency functioned to (de)fuse divergencies. I will move through these autobiographical intersexts and the contradictions within them to question the pact of their couple and its place in Sartre and Beauvoir’s automythologies. In spite of a radical difference of strategy that shapes the two auto­ biographical narratives, there are continuing echoes in Les Mots of themes and specific language we first hear in the Mémoires, speaking both to a shared class and cultural experience and to a history of conver­ sation about that experience. Autobiographical convergence is particu­ larly striking in the theme of the child as performer. Sartre at the age of four, Beauvoir at the age of six were playing the role of well-behaved child to please the grown-ups whose approval they depended on for their identity. “ The adults,” Beauvoir writes, “ suggested a role that was easy to play and most becoming. I threw myself into it” (40). “ I had made a definite metamorphosis into a good child. . . ; it brought me so much VOL. XXIX, NO. 4 21 L ’E s pr it C réa te u r praise and so many great satisfactions that I finished by identifying myself with the character I’d put together: it became my only truth” (44). And Sartre: “ I was a good child: I found my role so becoming that I did not step out of it” (26). “My truth, my character and my name were in the hands of adults” (83). “ Worst of all,” he continues, “ I suspected the adults of faking. . . . I accepted the act but I required that I be the main character. But when lightning struck and left me blasted, I realized . . . that I was giving the grown-ups their cues” (85-86). And Beauvoir: “ Often I suspected the grown-ups of playacting” (20). “ I had taken myself for a star and I was only an accessory; I’d been cheated” (41). La comédiefamiliale, disguised as seriousness, goes some way in explaining Sartre and Beauvoir’s later hostility to the bourgeoisie. Although it is Beauvoir who calls the autobiography of her childhood Mémoires d ’une jeune fille rangée, it is Sartre who plays l’enfant rangé to perfection. His perfect child is never out of character while the audience is watching, never angry or refractory. In Beauvoir, particularly during her very early childhood, a subversive self occasionally asserts itself in rages and rebel­ lions that are tolerated by her family. Her sense of continued connection with an authentic self, hidden but never entirely lost in the role of dutiful daughter, allows her to express some affection for her childhood, insis­ tently denied in Sartre’s self-representation. Away from the gaze of the grown-ups, the performing child of Les Mots and the Mémoires finds refuge in the world of fiction...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 21-32
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.