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Reviewed by: Simone de Beauvoir Susan Bainbrigge Simone de Beauvoir. By Ursula Tidd. (Critical Lives). London: Reaktion Books, 2009. 188 pp., ill. Pb Â10.95. This book is part of the 'Critical Lives' series, which features biographies of influential thinkers such as Sartre, Foucault, Bataille, and Cocteau, among others. It is the first biography in the series to focus on a woman: Simone de Beauvoir, a French existentialist philosopher, writer, social theorist, and feminist activist. Ursula Tidd draws on some of her previous research on Beauvoir's conception of self and other, and presents a comprehensive overview of the author's life and works. She also incorporates recent posthumous publications by Beauvoir, such as the Cahiers de jeunesse. She pays special attention to Beauvoir's often overlooked essay on old age, La Vieillesse. The biography is organized into chapters that correspond to key stages in Beauvoir's life. The book covers a wide range of topics and aspects of Beauvoir's career, from her childhood and education in Paris, to her long-term relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre and her affairs with Nelson Algren and Claude Lanzmann, to her political involvement and philosophical development. Tidd also discusses Beauvoir's novels, essays, biographies, autobiographies, and monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues. She analyzes Beauvoir's best-known work, The Second Sex (1949), a groundbreaking analysis of women's oppression and a foundational text of contemporary feminism. The book is concise but informative, with less than two hundred pages and several illustrations. It is a useful and reliable resource for basic facts about Beauvoir's life and works. However, it also offers more than that. It provides a detailed portrait of the 'jeune fille rangÃe' who became one of France's most prominent intellectuals of the twentieth century. Tidd connects some of the early episodes in Beauvoir's life to broader themes that would reappear in her later writings. She also addresses some of the controversial issues that have been raised by recent publications about Beauvoir. These include, for example, the nature of the Sartre-Beauvoir 'pact'; her involvement with young women, and the circumstances surrounding her dismissal from teaching in 1943; her activities during the Occupation, such as working for Radio Nationale; or even the fact that there seem to be few positive portraits of 'independent' female characters in Beauvoir's Åuvre. Tidd does not judge Beauvoir morally, but rather tries to understand her actions and choices in their historical and personal context. She agrees, for instance, that it is important to examine the wartime records of intellectuals such as Beauvoir, and argues that this has clarified some issues as well as 'underscoring the ambiguities of action and ease of post facto judgement' (p. 78). The book has minimal references, which is understandable for a general guide such as this (perhaps an index and a short section on the different approaches taken by Beauvoir scholars over the last fifty years or so could have been added, since this would give an indication of the ideological shifts in the critical analysis). Tidd integrates commentaries on the novels, essays, and other works into the biographical narrative with appropriate contextualization of the philosophical influences on those texts. These commentaries will be particularly helpful for students, or anyone who wants to learn more about Beauvoir's Åuvre. The author deserves praise for managing to include so much detail: we learn, for example, why Beauvoir was called 'le Castor', what she thought of the 'New Novel', where she traveled in China, why she had a conflict with Sartre's assistant Benny LÃvy, and more. Overall, this is a comprehensive and informative study. 061ffe29dd


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