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SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR (1908-1986)

Simone de Beauvoir, b. Paris, Jan. 9, 1908, d. Apr. 14, 1986, was a French writer and feminist. A disciple and consort of Jean Paul Sartre, she played a leading part in the existentialist movement. After receiving a degree in philosophy from the Sorbonne in 1929, Beauvoir was a teacher before she turned to fiction with She Came to Stay (1943; Eng. trans., 1949), a novel illustrating the existentialist idea of freedom through an autonomous act.

She further elaborated on this philosophy in The Blood of Others (1945; Eng. trans., 1948), All Men Are Mortal (1946; Eng. trans., 1955), and The Mandarins (1954; Eng. trans., 1956), a fictionalized account of Jean Paul Sartre and his existentialist circle, for which she won the Prix Goncourt. Her most important nonfictional work is The Second Sex (1949; Eng. trans., 1953), a comprehensive study of the secondary role of women in society.

The book is widely credited with inspiring the women's liberation movements--both in Europe and the United States--that began in the late 1960s. Beauvoir later published a distinguished series of autobiographical volumes--Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958; Eng. trans., 1959), The Prime of Life (1960; Eng. trans., 1962), The Force of Circumstance (1963; Eng. trans., 1965)--which describe her own life and that of her contemporaries from her early twenties on.

She continued in a similar vein in A Very Easy Death (1964; Eng. trans., 1966), about her mother's last days; The Coming of Age (1970; Eng. trans., 1972), in which she comes to grips with approaching old age; and All Said and Done (1972; Eng. trans., 1974). In their entirety, Simone de Beauvoir's works form an inestimable intellectual history of contemporary France.

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The Son of the last of a long line of thinkers.
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