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Book Reviews S im o n e d e B e a u v o ir : W it n e s s t o a C e n t u r y . Ed. Hélène Vivienne Wenzel. Spec. no. of Yale French Studies 72 (1987). Pp. xiv + 219. $12.95. Hélène Vivienne Wenzel begins by making a point of it: she conceived of this special issue of Yale French Studies devoted to Simone de Beauvoir in 1982, four years before Beauvoir died in April 1986. The issue was to be a “ living tribute” but exists now and inevitably as a “ memorial issue.” I am reminded of Paul de M an’s chilling formulation of the problem presented to readers by the fact that Shelley died before he had finished The Triumph o f Life. “ The final test of reading,” de Man wrote in The Rhetoric o f Roman­ ticism, “ depends on how one reads the textuality of this event, how one disposes of Shelley’s body.” De Man wished to avoid monumentalization of the author at any cost, and the cold cost to him was the refusal to admit the possibility of mourning into his way of reading. De M an’s method allowed him only to read texts, not to write a life. By contrast, in their brief personal reminiscences gathered together “ In Memoriam” Margaret A. Simons, Yolanda A. Patterson, and Deirdre Bair choose to stay close to Beauvoir, and I am grateful for it. Grief is expressed in their words. They do not dispose of the body but write to hold (onto) Beauvoir. Yolanda Patterson: “ When Hélène [Beauvoir’s sister] called that Wednesday morning and said that the funeral would not be until Saturday, April 19, I suddenly knew that I had to be there, had to share my sense of loss with others who knew who Simone de Beauvoir was and what an enormous influence she had had on twentieth-century thought. For the first and undoubtedly the last time in my life, I flew to Paris for the weekend.” Deirdre Bair: “ On Saturday, a small group of people were permitted to file by her bier in the amphitheatre of the Cochin Hospital, where she lay in a scarlet turban and matching bathrobe.” Margaret Simons: “ It makes me cry to think of her again; I wish she could have lived forever.” The collection, which stands as a tribute to Beauvoir, also contains a 1984 interview with Beauvoir by Wenzel (Beauvoir is as abruptly matter-of-fact as ever) and ten essays on various scholarly and critical subjects. They range from Beauvoir’s theorization of sex and gender (Judith Butler) and her place in the context of recent French feminisms (Dorothy Kaufmann) to a consideration of Les Bouches inutiles, Beauvoir’s only play (Virginia M. Fichera) and her demystification of motherhood (Patterson). Before returning to the explicit focus of this issue of L ’Esprit Créateur I want to mention two other valuable essays. M artha A. Evans gives us an eloquent, strong, and almost shocking reading of L ’Invitée, Beauvoir's first novel. Evans concludes that in it we see acted out "authorial conflicts of the most fundamental sorts: conflicts not between male and female, but about the possibility of being female at all, ” conflicts which ultimately represent the simultaneous “ debut” and the “ suicide” o f Beauvoir as a woman writer. And in her reading of the mother-daughter relationship through M emoirs o f a D utiful Daughter Catherine Portuges fruitfully stretches the interpretive possibilities of the psychoanalytic paradigm of preOedipal separation and individuation by speculatively transposing it from the realm of the maternal to that of sisterhood. Portuges thus effectively draws attention to the fact that psychoanalysis is a discourse of hierarchical generational relations dominated by struggles for power. The relationships of siblings—and by extension lateral relationships—have received scant analysis. Sisterhood is an area which has been strikingly and regrettably absent from feminist theorizing. 104 W in t e r 1989 B o ok R ev iew s Three essays in particular make significant contributions to writing the lives of Beauvoir and Sartre as they write themselves...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 104-106
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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