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A superb autobiography by one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century, Simone de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter offers an intimate picture of growing up in a bourgeois French family, rebelling as an adolescent against the conventional expectations of her class, and striking out on her own with an intellectual and existential ambition exceedingly ra A superb autobiography by one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century, Simone de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter offers an intimate picture of growing up in a bourgeois French family, rebelling as an adolescent against the conventional expectations of her class, and striking out on her own with an intellectual and existential ambition exceedingly rare in a young woman in the 1920s. She vividly evokes her friendships, love interests, mentors, and the early days of the most important relationship of her life, with fellow student Jean-Paul Sartre, against the backdrop of a turbulent time in France politically.


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A superb autobiography by one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century, Simone de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter offers an intimate picture of growing up in a bourgeois French family, rebelling as an adolescent against the conventional expectations of her class, and striking out on her own with an intellectual and existential ambition exceedingly ra A superb autobiography by one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century, Simone de Beauvoir's Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter offers an intimate picture of growing up in a bourgeois French family, rebelling as an adolescent against the conventional expectations of her class, and striking out on her own with an intellectual and existential ambition exceedingly rare in a young woman in the 1920s. She vividly evokes her friendships, love interests, mentors, and the early days of the most important relationship of her life, with fellow student Jean-Paul Sartre, against the backdrop of a turbulent time in France politically.

30 review for Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    “…but all day long I would be training myself to think, to understand, to criticize, to know myself; I was seeking for the absolute truth: this preoccupation did not exactly encourage polite conversation.” Paris, 1908, and Simone de Beauvoir enters the world. Born into a bourgeois family this beautifully deep and intimate account of one girls journey into early womanhood is both a fascinating and intelligent read. From her young spirited days as a child, to an intricate student life where literat “…but all day long I would be training myself to think, to understand, to criticize, to know myself; I was seeking for the absolute truth: this preoccupation did not exactly encourage polite conversation.” Paris, 1908, and Simone de Beauvoir enters the world. Born into a bourgeois family this beautifully deep and intimate account of one girls journey into early womanhood is both a fascinating and intelligent read. From her young spirited days as a child, to an intricate student life where literature and philosophy would play a pivotal role in shaping the future, to the beginnings of a blossoming friendship with Jean-Paul Sarte, Simone would become a leading figure in the roots of both feminism and existentialism, a true independent voice the the 20th century. The early years. Having the same attributes as any girl should have, Simone looked at the world even at a very young age with eyes wide open, she had the characteristics that any parent would wish for in their child, intelligent, pleasant to be around, willing to learn, listen, and play happily with sister Louise. But she was also an independent thinker, ahead of her years, asking questions that someone of this age shouldn't even be interested in. Her education was a top priority, and Simone was always thinking ahead, deeply passionate for her Mama and Papa, they were her salvation, but the overly protected nature they showed had both good and bad points regarding her development. A family of devout Catholics, the de Beauvoir household was certainly a strict one, I guess it's easy to say that where today's young learn about things they shouldn't from the internet and so forth, back then books made a huge difference in ones self-discovering and learning about life, her mother would reiterate there are books for you and there are books for us, and was constantly keeping an eye on what she was reading. Reading was a big deal for Simone, spending weekends and evening with her head in book. There were two books in particular that had a lasting impression, 'Little Women' and 'The Mill on the Floss', both featuring female characters that Simone felt so strongly about she was driven to tears. It's safe to say that from the age of about twelve Simone's perception of women was changing, her father, a hard working banker believed a women's place in this world was either in the kitchen or the bedroom, and over the early teenage years the relationship with her parents would often bring conflict, but she remained very close to her sister, and had a good friend in Zaza who she spent plenty of time with. Females were definitely her comfort zone. And there was one question she just couldn't figure out, "how can a women fall in love with a man, whom she may have only known briefly, and replace Papa who had been loved for her whole life"?. This would constantly be a problem she just couldn't comprehend, Simone had no plans to fall in love, to wed, to have children, to live a wife's life. She just wanted her own, on her own terms. In the later teen years, when a student, this thought process would change, well only slightly. The Student. Having excelled at school but also battling adolescent insecurity, her loss of faith, and the drive for her independence, Simone was very clear she wanted to be a writer, and took to start writing a novel as well as studying deep and philosophical work at the Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève. She would remain close friends with Zaza, fall in love with a charming young man in Jacques, and make many new student acquaintances at the Sorbonne. She became fascinated with Robert Garric, a speaker of French Literature trying to bring culture to the lower classes after apparently giving up a promising career at the university, this she felt so strongly about and regularly sat in on some of his talks. Here Simone fell in with Jean Pradelle and Pierre Cairaut, dedicated left-wingers and a small group was set up to discuss various important matters concerning the social classes, possible war looming, as well as Philosophy. This would eventually lead her to cross paths with Jean-Paul Satre, and possibly the biggest moment in her life. Taking Simone under his wing, Sarte always said he prefered the friendship with that of women more than men, and it's as if the two where just destined to meet. Something great was building, they could both feel it, a new direction was taking shape, which would lead to the birth of existentialism, and the rest, as they say, is history. Superbly written, and classed as autobiographical, which it is, but the grandest thing of all is it kind of reads like a coming-of-age novel, and it's so personal and heartfelt, you start to think it's an intellectual story rather than an actual real life, but a real life it is, a courageously defiant account of a woman breaking free, and showing a determination to follow her own path, not one already mapped out for her.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    My introduction to the writing of Simone de Beauvoir is the first of several memoirs she wrote. Published in 1958, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter takes place during the Great War and the postwar years, with de Beauvoir an intellectually ravenous, morally prudish and eternally questioning teenage daughter of a bourgeois family in Paris. Lit with tremendous desire, but, as a child of privilege, very little drama, I related to her life immediately. My childhood in suburban Houston of the 1980s was f My introduction to the writing of Simone de Beauvoir is the first of several memoirs she wrote. Published in 1958, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter takes place during the Great War and the postwar years, with de Beauvoir an intellectually ravenous, morally prudish and eternally questioning teenage daughter of a bourgeois family in Paris. Lit with tremendous desire, but, as a child of privilege, very little drama, I related to her life immediately. My childhood in suburban Houston of the 1980s was filled with great anticipation but very little in the way of anything actually happening. The author relates all of this in writing that is absolutely jeweled. -- One day in the place Saint-Sulpice, walking along hand-in-hand with my Aunt Marguerite who hadn't the remotest idea how to talk to me, I suddenly wondered: 'How does she see me?' and felt a sharp sense of superiority: for I knew what I was like inside; she didn't. Deceived by outward appearances, she never suspected that inside my immature body nothing was lacking; and I made up my mind that when I was older I would never forget that a five-year-old is a complete individual, a character in his own right. But that was precisely what adults refused to admit, and whenever they treated me with condescension I at once took offence. -- One evening, however, I was chilled to the marrow by the idea of personal extinction. I was reading about a mermaid who was dying by the sad sea waves; for the love of a handsome prince, she had renounced her immortal soul, and was being changed into sea-foam. That inner voice which had always told her 'Here I am' had been silenced for ever, and it seemed to me that the entire universe had foundered in the ensuing stillness. But--no it couldn't be. God had given me the promise of eternity; I could not ever cease to see, to hear, to talk to myself. Always I should be able to say: 'Here I am.' There could be no end. -- In the afternoons I would sit out on the balcony outside the dining-room; there, level with the tops of the trees that shaded the boulevard Raspail, I would watch the passers-by. I knew too little of the habits of adults to be able to guess where they were going in such a hurry, or what the hopes and fears were that drove them along. But their faces, their appearance, and the sound of their voices captivated me; I find it hard now to explain what the particular pleasure was that they gave me; but when my parents decided to move to the fifth-floor flat in the rue de Rennes, I remember the despairing cry I gave: 'But I won't be able to see the people in the street any more!' -- Papa used to say with pride: 'Simone has a man's brain; she thinks like a man; she is a man.' And yet everyone treated me like a girl. Jacques and his friends read real books and were abreast of all current problems; they lived out in the open; I was confined to the nursery. But I did not give up all hope. I had confidence in my future. Women, by the exercise of talent or knowledge, had carved out a place for themselves in the universe of men. But I felt impatient of the delays I had to endure. Whenever I happened to pass by the Collège Stanislas my heart would sink; I tried to imagine the mystery that was being celebrated behind those walls, in a classroom full of boys, and I would feel like an outcast. -- My father, the majority of writers, and the universal consensus of opinion encouraged young men to sow their wild oats. When the time came, they would marry a young woman of their own social class; but in the meanwhile it was quite in order for them to amuse themselves with girls from the lowest ranks of society--women of easy virtue, young milliners' assistants, work-girls, sewing-maids, shopgirls. This custom made me feel sick. It had been driven into me that the lower classes have no morals: the misconduct of a laundry-woman or a flower-girl therefore seemed to me to be so natural that it didn't even shock me; I felt a certain sympathy for those poor young women whom novelists endowed with such touching virtues. Yet their love was always doomed from the state; one day or other, their lover would throw them over for a well-bred young lady. I was a democrat and a romantic; I found it revolting that, just because he was a man and had money, he should be authorized to play around with a girl's heart. Much of Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter is devoted to Simone de Beauvoir's best friend Elizabeth "Zaza" Mabille, a bookworm whose mother grows to fear that Simone's preference for a ideals will corrupt daughter. The girls grow closer, pull apart and come together again as they move through college. The same goes for Simone's cousin Jacques, who she alternatively detests, loves and decides she'd be grossly incompatible with as a wife. The book is absent of drama and those hoping for a pageant of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll are encouraged to look elsewhere, but de Beauvoir's prism of introspection, intellectual curiosity, virtue, integrity and honesty are an intoxicating read. Translation by James Kirkup.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Be careful of those quiet, nerdy-looking teenage girls, they may grow up to become famous authors. Here's Simone listening to her parents' friends (my translation):Ils lisaient et ils parlaient de leurs lectures. On disait: "C'est bien écrit mais il y a des longueurs." Ou bien: "Il y a des longueurs, mais c'est bien écrit." Parfois, l'œil rêveur, la voix subtile, on nuançait: "C'est curieux" ou d'un ton plus sévère: "C'est spécial." They read, and they talked about what they'd been reading. They Be careful of those quiet, nerdy-looking teenage girls, they may grow up to become famous authors. Here's Simone listening to her parents' friends (my translation):Ils lisaient et ils parlaient de leurs lectures. On disait: "C'est bien écrit mais il y a des longueurs." Ou bien: "Il y a des longueurs, mais c'est bien écrit." Parfois, l'œil rêveur, la voix subtile, on nuançait: "C'est curieux" ou d'un ton plus sévère: "C'est spécial." They read, and they talked about what they'd been reading. They said "It's well-written but a bit boring." Or, perhaps, "It's a bit boring, but it's well-written." Sometimes, with a dreamy look and a hushed voice, they provided further details: "It's strange" or, in a more severe tone, "It's different."Her mother had strict ideas about what Simone was allowed to read herself; many of the books had paperclips inserted to mark the forbidden pages. By the time she was 17, she'd read every single page they had at home. She removed the paperclips, then put them back in the same place when she was done. Apparently her mother never noticed. Oh, and did you know that Sartre got her on the rebound?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    I was reading Simon Schama's Citizens about the French revolution, I had got up to the storming of the Bastille, and I thought I'd step back and take a break by reading de Beauvoir's memoirs of her childhood. Goodness what a shock, Schama paints a picture of France on the eve of revolution in which you might struggle to find a priest who believes in God, where disrespect for the royal family is near universal, the ideas of Rousseau and the classical world as an ideal were on all minds, here de B I was reading Simon Schama's Citizens about the French revolution, I had got up to the storming of the Bastille, and I thought I'd step back and take a break by reading de Beauvoir's memoirs of her childhood. Goodness what a shock, Schama paints a picture of France on the eve of revolution in which you might struggle to find a priest who believes in God, where disrespect for the royal family is near universal, the ideas of Rousseau and the classical world as an ideal were on all minds, here de Beauvoir pere, while an atheist, is a royalist (view spoiler)[ admittedly it is far easier to be a royalist once there are no actual kings or emperors and what not to deal with (hide spoiler)] , the parents censor de Beauvoir's correspondence until she was almost twenty, her loss of faith is a profound blow to de Beauvoir mere. While one of de Beauvoir's friends comes of a family were all the daughters either marry men or Christ. Naturally in such constricted circumstances cousin marriage is frequent and Simone herself spends a fair chunk of the book fixated upon cousin Jacques who in time becomes fixated upon the bottle (not due to her, his trajectory seems powered by a different dynamic). The dowry is an important instrument for transferring capital between generations and maintaining a bourgeois status. We are introduced to a society which is engaged in fighting a rear guard action against the French Revolution, this you might find reasonable for a memoir from the early days of the nineteenth century, the twist is that de Beauvoir was born at the beginning of the twentieth. The Rights of Man are along with pesky Bolshevik revolutions (destroying the value of de Beauvoir pere's investment in Russian debt) the threats to a careful, cloying, controlled, catholic culture. Simone herself the lucky beneficiary of the world changing about her. Memoirs and autobiographies are interesting things - they give the author to shape and transform the raw stuff of their life into a narrative, not that will say anything untrue (hopefully) but there is always selection and emphasis going on, perhaps subconsciously - what we chose to remember and prefer to forget - as much as consciously. I can't say that I am quite certain what de Beauvoir's narrative is, towards the middle of her book I felt it was the loss of Eden. The family unit of her self, her younger sister, and their parents is for her stable and complete, at the same time we read that she is growing out of that life. Since she is loosing her faith at the same time one feels that Eden is a kind of prison state and for the remainder of the book we see her rattling and fluttering against the cage of values and expectations that she was brought up within. She notices her learnt prudishness when she feels shock when people are pointed out to her who are only romantically interested in the same sex. I felt also that she was engaging with Freud, perhaps not surprising given his intellectual influence during the period of her adult life. She is careful to point out that she was happy being a girl and saw nothing superior about boys (although physically her upbringing was constrained, no swimming, no gymnastics, to the point that when she begins dancing lessons she feels clumsy and awkward, as she is also flushed with certain physical reactions to dancing in couples she gives up dancing lessons(view spoiler)[ fear of or disquiet at the intensity of ones own physical or emotional reactions is also something of a theme, not just for Simone either by more broadly within her milieux, this was a culture which aimed to set people against themselves, and which sadly to some extent was successful (hide spoiler)] ) and that she wasn't envious of them and indeed as a student rather liked male company in different ways. At the same time there was a psychological awareness, particularly here in her discussion of her father, of how his self regard meant he cold never fully share in de Beauvoir's academic success and likely career as a Lycée teacher, as the necessity of her having to earn a living and get a job with a secured pension was due to his failure to be a real man and provide a fat dowry for his daughter so she could be married off. A certain tension in their relationship developed as she passes exams and collects diplomas. Although she writes Literature took the place in my life that had once been occupied by religion: it absorbed me entirely, and transfigured my life (p.187) and while books play a certain part in her narrative she points out that it is far more the record of moods and prolonged feelings, partly perhaps because from about half way through she mentions that she started to keep a diary and no doubt her emotional state was something she wrote about, this stands in ironic counterpoint to her engagement in studying philosophy which does move her at so profound a level. Philosophy had neither opened up the heavens to me nor anchored me to earth...I had no fixed ideas of my own, but least I knew that I rejected Aristotle, St Thomas Aquinas, Maritain, and also all empirical and materialist doctrines (p.234). She seeks for meaning at one stage falling under the influence of a young man who from his experience of comradeship in the first world war was forming a catholic youth movement, this was quite paternalistic in style, for instance de Beauvoir is enrolled to lecture working class men and women on literature. There's an air of searching for a kind of secularised Catholicism at this stage in her life, she likes the ideals of self denial, mortification of the flesh, structure and purpose, so as not to waste her time for a while she gives up on brushing her teeth. One might see in this too the kinds of inter-war cultural developments for a national culture which unified social classes as a precursor to fascism or communism, indeed de Beauvoir pere approves of Mussolini (view spoiler)[ from monarchy to Mussolini not such a jump I suppose (hide spoiler)] . However young Simone is also moved by the experiences of her friend abroad and of foreigners that she meets, despite her learnt reticence she has a desire for openness both to new experiences (including Gin Fizzes) and new thinking. In this regard this is a story of self liberation, a fond farewell, or rediscovery from an adult perspective of her childhood self. There is great feeling for nature, what it was to be like on the small estate her grandfather owned in the spring, the flowers, the colours, the cool of the morning as sh sets out to find a cosy place to read. It is a bizarre thing a book largely about an urban childhood in Paris, in which that city barely features, the Luxembourg Gardens get more mentions than the Louvre, it is a very constrained childhood, one senses the chick pecking at the shell. It is the kind of childhood which I guess would be very rare in France today. Of course had life panned out as her parents wished it she would have emerged from the shell of childhood in the parental house to the shell of marriage in the husbands, as it was history intervened, slowly, but with decisive effect and we see her building a different kind of life for herself even if she is still at that point in her life herself looking for some grand unifying structure.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I loved this book so much any review will be wholly inadequate. I loved is how she captures the innocence of childhood and the pains her parent took to maintain that innocence far beyond what seems right. I loved the confusion, despair and vanity of adolescences and how she could feel so strongly about ideals that themselves constantly changed. I loved how her idea of self was in constant flux and the richness of her inner life. I love how books meant just so much to her, and all those descripti I loved this book so much any review will be wholly inadequate. I loved is how she captures the innocence of childhood and the pains her parent took to maintain that innocence far beyond what seems right. I loved the confusion, despair and vanity of adolescences and how she could feel so strongly about ideals that themselves constantly changed. I loved how her idea of self was in constant flux and the richness of her inner life. I love how books meant just so much to her, and all those descriptions of her spending day after day of her youth reading outdoors in some lovely garden just demands the reader should enjoy this book in the same way. Even the smell of this book was intoxicating. "I loved those evenings when, after dinner, I would set out alone on the Metro and travel right to the other side of Paris, near Les Buttes Chaumont, which smelled of damp and greenery. Often I would walk back home. In the Boulevard de la Chapelle, under the steel girders of the elevated railway, women would be waiting for customers; men would come staggering out of brightly lit bistros; the fronts of cinemas would be ablaze with posters. I could feel life all around me, an enormous, ever-present confusion. I would stride along, feeling it's thick breath blow in my face. And I would say to myself that, after all, life is worth living." I place this above 'Speak, Memory' on my list of favorite memoirs, and there isn't any higher praise I offer then that! It's absolutely beautiful. If, just once, while reading a book I become so enamored that I gasp it to my chest uttering uncontrollable signs; then that, for me, is an automatic five stars. I probably did that a dozen times or more throughout this book; just utterly lost in the ethereal dreaminess of her passions or shattered by her despairs; especially the end, I sat at work for nearly a half hour, completely still, completely moved. "At night I would climb the steps to the Sacre-Coeur, and I would watch Paris, that futile oasis, scintillating in the wilderness of space. I would weep, because it was so beautiful, and because it was so useless."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Kennedy

    "I was born at four o'clock in the morning on the ninth of January 1908, in a room fitted with white-enameled furniture and overlooking the Boulevard Raspail. In the family photographs taken the following summer there are ladies in long dresses and ostrich feather hats and gentlemen wearing boaters and panamas, all smiling at a baby: they are my parents, my grandfather, uncles, aunts; and the baby is me. My father was thirty, my mother twenty-one, and I was their first child." And later, there wa "I was born at four o'clock in the morning on the ninth of January 1908, in a room fitted with white-enameled furniture and overlooking the Boulevard Raspail. In the family photographs taken the following summer there are ladies in long dresses and ostrich feather hats and gentlemen wearing boaters and panamas, all smiling at a baby: they are my parents, my grandfather, uncles, aunts; and the baby is me. My father was thirty, my mother twenty-one, and I was their first child." And later, there was Sartre... "From now on, I'm going to take you under my wing," Sartre told me when he had brought me the news that I had passed (Sorbonne). He had a liking for feminine friendships. During the fortnight of the oral examinations we hardly ever left each other except to sleep. I was now beginning to feel that time not spent in his company was time wasted." But Simone de Beauvoir always knew... "Whatever happened, I would have to try to preserve what was best in me: my love of personal freedom, my passion for life, my curiosity, my determination to be a writer. Not only did he give me encouragement but he also intended to give me active help in achieving this ambition." This is an outstanding memoir written by a woman who came to know herself, stepped away from the crowd, and put feelings together in prose meant to enlighten all.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    The other day, I was waiting for my husband to meet me for dinner, and I had plenty of time to kill so, I went to read at a nearby coffee shop. I had been sitting there for a few minutes when it hit me that I was drinking espresso whilst reading Simone de Beauvoir (in French!!) and listening to Bob Dylan on my iPod. This moment couldn’t have been any snootier if I had tried… that is, until I started laughing – at myself – out loud, to the other patrons’ confusion. I felt I was only missing a ber The other day, I was waiting for my husband to meet me for dinner, and I had plenty of time to kill so, I went to read at a nearby coffee shop. I had been sitting there for a few minutes when it hit me that I was drinking espresso whilst reading Simone de Beauvoir (in French!!) and listening to Bob Dylan on my iPod. This moment couldn’t have been any snootier if I had tried… that is, until I started laughing – at myself – out loud, to the other patrons’ confusion. I felt I was only missing a beret and a cigarette, and the picture would have been perfect (note to self: carry emergency beret and cigarette in purse, to maximize future poser moments). But really, reading Beauvoir shouldn’t be considered a snobby read, especially her memoirs! They are very elegantly written, but show a candor and honesty few people are brave enough to have when looking back at their own lives. They are also a fascinating account of how a relatively ordinary young girl grew up to become one of the 20th century’s luminaries of philosophy and feminism; so you know, it's really interesting! The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as Beauvoir was certainly not always a picture-perfect daughter: she isn’t shy to admit she was a brat who threw public tantrums and who was perfectly happy to make herself throw up rather than eat things she did not like. I admit I was surprised to learn how deeply religious she was throughout her childhood and early adult life: considering her intellectual work and the lifestyle she later cultivated, I had not expected her to have contemplated becoming a nun! Since this book covers mostly her childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, it focuses a lot on her family, her childhood friend Zaza, her love of books, her studies... and her crushes! The very lucid way she remembers the pangs of puberty, the strange and mysterious agonies of trying to understand oneself and others as you grow up were fascinating and moving. I felt a certain kinship with Beauvoir as I was reading this: her discovery of the complexity of the adult world and refusal to be treated as a child who did not belong to it, her struggle with the loss of faith and her precocious intellectual interests were things I related to deeply. I loved reading her thoughts about the effect "Little Women" had on her, not only because I also love Jo March, but because she thought Jo's relationship with Professor Bhaer to be more desirable than a more romantic alternative, because they have a greater intellectual connection. I simply couldn't agree more. In fact, the way she saw her relationships with men was amazing: never could she conceive of being with a man who would not consider her an equal and a partner. When she learns that her cousin Jacques, whom she pinned for when she was a teenager, had a working class mistress he pushed aside when came time for him to make a reasonable marriage, she was most mad at him, not for having had a mistress, but for being a cliché. That lack of originality inspired nothing but disdain in her, she simply could not abide the mediocrity. Her relationship with Sartre is only just beginning when "Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter" concludes, but she knew he'd always be a part of her life because she felt like she had finally found an intellectual equal, who values her mind and her intelligence. Can I just say: "YAS!!!!". The amazing story of an absolutely amazing woman. I will be looking for the rest of her autobiography!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    The short of it: From the opening pages I fell head over heels for Memoires d'une jeune fille rangée (translated into English as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter but more literally "Memoirs of a well-behaved girl"), the first of four volumes in de Beauvoir's autobiography. It's been a long time since I connected with a book at such a level of visceral sympathy—since I had the feeling "Yes! That's what it's like for me too!," since I felt such a sense of loss upon turning a final page. So there may The short of it: From the opening pages I fell head over heels for Memoires d'une jeune fille rangée (translated into English as Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter but more literally "Memoirs of a well-behaved girl"), the first of four volumes in de Beauvoir's autobiography. It's been a long time since I connected with a book at such a level of visceral sympathy—since I had the feeling "Yes! That's what it's like for me too!," since I felt such a sense of loss upon turning a final page. So there may be a certain lack of critical distance in this post: I'm declaring myself right up front to be a newly-converted de Beauvoir fangirl, and my only dilemma now is whether to break my book-buying ban and order the second volume (La force de l'age) right this second, or whether to hold out for a gift-giving holiday or upcoming trip to France. And the long: For me, one of the greatest pleasures of Memoires d'une jeune fille rangée is simply watching de Beauvoir's brain apply its lifelong training in philosophy and semiotics to the examination of her own early life. Beginning with birth and ending with the completion of her secondary schooling, some of the most interesting passages in this book map to what are often the "boring bits" of biography and autobiography: de Beauvoir's early childhood. She is such a keen observer, and obviously so well-accustomed to dissecting the way humans perceive and process the world, that hers becomes an early-childhood story unlike any I've ever read before—and it's especially exciting to read about her development in this regard if the reader has some slight familiarity with her existentialist feminism later in life, since she does a complete about-face on many issues. She writes, for example, about her early assumption (age five or so) that language and other signs sprang organically—necessarily and without human intervention—from the things they signify, so that the word "vache" (cow) was somehow a necessary and organic component of the animal itself. In this mindset she could understand letters as objects (an "a," for example) but not as building blocks representing sounds that make up words. In this passage, she recalls the "click" in her brain when she finally, although in a limited way, grasped the concept of a sign: [J]e contemplais l'image d'une vache, et les deux lettres, c, h, qui se prononçaient ch. J'ai compris soudain qu'elles ne possedaient pas un nom à la manière des objets, mais qu'elles représentaient un son: j'ai compris ce que c'est un signe. J'eus vite fait d'apprendre à lire. Cependant ma pensée s'arrêta en chemin. Je voyais dans l'image graphique l'exacte doublure du son qui lui correspondait: ils émanaient ensemble de la chose qu'ils exprimaient si bien que leur relation ne comportait aucun arbitraire. [I was looking at a picture of a cow [vache], and the two letters, c and h, that together were pronounced "ch." I understood suddenly that they had no name in the sense that objects do, but that they represented a sound: I understood what a sign is. It then took me very little time to learn to read. However, my ideas stopped there. I saw in the picture the exact double of the sound corresponding to it: they emanated together from the thing they expressed, so well that the relation between them involved nothing arbitrary. One of the many threads running through the book traces de Beauvoir's evolving understanding of signs: where they come from, how they work, and the inescapable gap (despite her early naïvete) between the thing itself and the sign humans have invented to indicate it. There comes a period in her teenage years when language, the necessity of interpreting language, becomes her enemy for just this reason: when we express our thoughts, feelings, and intentions, there is always a chasm between the thing itself—our interior landscape—and our expression of it; often this chasm is only widened when our words are interpreted by another person. Despite this semiotic difficulty, however, de Beauvoir herself does an impeccable job of articulating her own interior landscapes at different times in her life, not only as personal experiences, but as ontological states capable of dissection by her as an adult. Another thread that is first woven into the narrative very early is the dread inherent in the realization that we change with time, that our present incarnation is different than the person we will be in the future, and in ways currently dismaying or frightening to us. That these changes may cease to dismay or frighten us in the future, before or after they happen to us, doesn't change the dread our current selves feel at being left behind, replaced: Je regardais le fauteuil de maman et je pensais: "Je ne pourrai plus m'asseoir sur ses genoux." Soudain l'avenir existait: il me changerait en une autre qui dirait moi et ne serait plus moi. J'ai pressenti tous les sevrages, les reniements, les abandons et la succession de mes morts. [I looked at maman's chair and I thought: "I won't be able to sit on her lap anymore." Suddnely the future existed: it would change me into someone else who would say "me" and would no longer be me. I sensed all the weanings, the renunciations, the abandonments and the whole progression of my deaths. This was one of those jolts of recognition for me: I have a memory very like this, of being at the zoo with my mother and grandmother when I was three or four years old, and overhearing them talk about how unpleasant "teenagers" were. Mom and Grandma probably didn't actually say this, but I got the impression from their conversation that teenagers hate their parents. And it suddenly dawned on me that one day I would be a teenager: would I hate my parents as well? But I didn't want to hate them; I loved and depended upon my parents. Where would this monstrous teenage-me come from, and how would it eat away at the love I currently felt toward my family? I remember an awful feeling of dread, and of impotence: I didn't want to become this future self I foresaw, but presumably I could do nothing to stop it: "I"—the "me" looking at the polar bears—would be consumed in teenage-ness and no longer care about "my" (toddler-age) preferences. Of course the truth was more complicated—I never stopped loving my parents, needless to say—but in a way, my three-year-old self was right: by the time I was a teenager I DID act snotty and unpleasant to them a lot of the time, and I no longer wished (luckily) to regress into the trusting dependence of toddler-hood. I had become a stranger, and no longer wanted to go back; the only way was forward. De Beauvoir's delineation of this process is fascinating, and she returns to it several times throughout this volume: the dread that precedes a change, and the ontological break that enables us to be in a completely different emotional space after the change, so that our former dread is no longer relevant. Raised devoutly Catholic, for example, she realizes sometime in her early teens that she no longer believes in God. At some point before this realization, she thinks to herself that to lose one's faith would be the most horrible thing she can imagine happening to a person; yet when she herself realizes that it has happened to her, it makes no immediate change in her life; she feels little distress. She had thought that her morality and assumptions about the universe would immediately and drastically be torn asunder, but in fact she retains the tenants of her bourgeois Christian upbringing long after she has stopped believing in God, and only very gradually (years, decades later) comes to reexamine the aspects of that upbringing that no longer make sense to her. By the time she is questioning these assumptions, other things (literature, philosophy, human relationships) have taken the spiritually fulfilling place that religion once held in her life: La littérature prit dans mon existence la place qu'y avait occupée la religion: elle l'envahit tout entière, et la transfigura. Les livres que j'aimais devinrent une Bible où je puisais des conseils et des secours; j'en copiai de longs extraits; j'appris par coeur de nouveaux cantiques et de nouvelles litanies, des psaumes, des proverbes, des prophéties et je sanctifiai toutes les cironstances de ma vie en me recitant ces textes sacrés. [...] entre moi et les âmes soeurs qui existaient quelque part, hors d'atteinte, ils créaient une sorte de communion; au lieu de vivre ma petite histoire particulière, je participais à une grande épopée spirituelle. [Literature took, in my life, the place that had formerly been occupied by religion: it overran everything, and transfigured it. The books I loved became a Bible from which I took advice and comfort; I copied long extracts from them; I learned by heart new hymns and new litanies, psalms, proverbs, prophecies, and I sanctified all the circumstances of my life by reciting these sacred texts. [...] Between me and these sister souls there existed something, out of reach; they created a sort of communion; instead of living my trivial individual story, I was participating in a grand spiritual saga.] Although I want to discuss so much more—young Simone's feeling of tragedy at the unconsciousness of inanimate objects; her attribution of her own negative capability to the difference in her parents' belief systems; her relationships with her sister and her best friend; her first meetings with Sartre—I'm already running long. I can't close this post, however, without mentioning the insight that Memoires d'une jeune fille rangée gives into de Beauvoir's feminism. Her father looms large in this history, as both the object of her childhood and adolescent idolatry, and as a conservative blow-hard who says things like "a wife is what her husband makes her; it's up to him to shape her personality," and bitterly regrets the fact that his loss of money means that his daughters will be earning their own livings, rather than marrying well into good society (never mind that they PREFER to earn their own livings; that's not the point). Her father's betrayal of her—he tells her she will have to educate herself and earn her living, then hates her for being a reminder of his own financial failure—was a formative event in de Beauvoir's life, and a source of real bitterness for her; I was impressed, however, at how impartial she manages to be toward her father himself, while coming to reject the set of values he held. As with all other aspects of the book, her observations on gender relations are detailed and perceptive, and the roots of her feminism run through this volume, from her examination of the sexual double-standard that allowed her parents to entertain men who kept mistresses but not the mistresses themselves; to the assertion of her otherwise avant-garde philospher friends that they "can't respect an unmarried woman"; to the effects of having her reading censored (it was considered dangerous for unmarried women to read about sex). I can't resist including this passage, in which a ten-year-old Simone is reacting to her priest's story about a young female parishioner who reads "bad books," loses her faith in God, and subsequently commits suicide: Ce que je comprenais le moins, c'est que la connaissance conduisît au désespoir. Le prédicateur n'avait pas dit que les mauvais livres peignaient la vie sous des couleurs fausses: en ce cas, il eût facilement balayé leurs mensonges; le drame de l'enfant qu'il avait échoué à sauver, c'est qu'elle avait découvert prématurément l'authentique visage de la réalité. De toute façon, me disais-je, un jour je la verrai moi aussi, face à face, et je n'en mourrai pas. [What I understood least, was the idea that knowledge led to despair. The priest hadn't said that the bad books painted life in false colors: in that case, it would have been easy to brush aside their lies; the tragedy of the girl he had failed to save was that she had prematurely discovered the true face of reality. In any case, I said to myself, one day I'll see it too, face to face, and I won't die.] This passage makes me feel like cheering. And de Beauvoir does not neglect to notice that men and boys were not considered so delicate as to kill themselves over premature exposure to a tawdry potboiler. Still, Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée puts de Beauvoir's feminism in perspective: she may be most famous for The Second Sex, but she's primarily a humanist, interested in the modes of existence experienced by all humans, and by specific humans, regardless of gender. I'll be honest: this is not the memoir for everyone. If you're not interested in philosophy and like a lot to "happen" in your books, it will probably seem hopelessly dry. De Beauvoir's adolescence involves all the arrogance and angst one might expect from a recently-secularized teen who went on to become a preeminent existentialist (hint: a lot). But even when she is recalling her most turbulent periods, the adult de Beauvoir maintains her incisive, perceptive, ever-so-faintly-amused voice. She doesn't take herself too seriously, but neither does she dismiss her experiences or manifest a false modesty. This balanced tone, combined with her stunning intelligence and existentialist insights, makes this volume easily one of my favorite reads of the year, if not of all time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    M.rmt

    great great lifestory of a great great writer

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    I would crack between my teeth the candied shell of an artificial fruit, and a burst of light would illuminate my palate with a taste of blackcurrant or pineapple: all the colours, all the lights were mine, the gauzy scarves, the diamonds, the laces; I held the whole party in my mouth. Living in Indiana, mass transit remains a topic left of center. Sure we have a bus system but nothing further. Such is dreams of those elites who want to undermine something core, something both pure and competiti I would crack between my teeth the candied shell of an artificial fruit, and a burst of light would illuminate my palate with a taste of blackcurrant or pineapple: all the colours, all the lights were mine, the gauzy scarves, the diamonds, the laces; I held the whole party in my mouth. Living in Indiana, mass transit remains a topic left of center. Sure we have a bus system but nothing further. Such is dreams of those elites who want to undermine something core, something both pure and competitive: something FREE. I have nerded on trains most of my adult life and look forward to every opportunity to indulge such. That was before I was to spend a week commuting at peak times back and forth from Long Island to Penn Station. Thus my spirit has been tempered. I can say with relish that this memoir was definitively transportive. I was impressed with her specificity, the reliable old journal always helps to sort things out. The dutiful of the title is ironic. Her true obligations weren't filial but to a more harrowing tradition. This is some arrogant reading. My eyes did tend to roll. That said, the candor at times was certainly to be admired.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ophelia.Desdemona

    I have developed a crush on Simone. What an incredible woman. What a brain. Even from early childhood her intelligence shows. Her courage, her strength. I truly find her so interesting. Also, at times, she made feel like a useless shit. I think of her struggles she had to go through to get her knowledge and independence and I have all of that for free and what have I done with my life? But of course she also inspires a great deal. I didn't know she was so religious actually, that came as a shock. I I have developed a crush on Simone. What an incredible woman. What a brain. Even from early childhood her intelligence shows. Her courage, her strength. I truly find her so interesting. Also, at times, she made feel like a useless shit. I think of her struggles she had to go through to get her knowledge and independence and I have all of that for free and what have I done with my life? But of course she also inspires a great deal. I didn't know she was so religious actually, that came as a shock. I loved this book, a slow thinking-book. It will not be for everyone I guess. If you're not interested in philosophy and like a lot "to happen" in your books, it will probably seem a bit boring to you. For me it was 5 star for sure. And I look forward to read more from her.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Well written discourses on growing up are amazing. The clarity with which the author described her years from infancy to childhood and beyond was astonishing; it was as if the babies in Mary Poppins had retained the eloquent speech which they used to discourse with birds and other nonhuman entities. It made for some serious misunderstandings on my part at the beginning though, as I was originally very annoyed with Simone at the beginning of her life. Her tantrums and her taking of her blessed li Well written discourses on growing up are amazing. The clarity with which the author described her years from infancy to childhood and beyond was astonishing; it was as if the babies in Mary Poppins had retained the eloquent speech which they used to discourse with birds and other nonhuman entities. It made for some serious misunderstandings on my part at the beginning though, as I was originally very annoyed with Simone at the beginning of her life. Her tantrums and her taking of her blessed life for granted were very frustrating, at least until I realized that the way she was conveying her emotions and thought processes made her seem much older than she actually was. It was easier to forgive her then, and actually made the reasons behind her outbursts as a child fascinating instead of insufferable. Once my annoyances with her cleared up, her life was one of the more intellectually stimulating autobiographies that I have had the pleasure of reading, to the extent that I will have to find more works by the deep thinkers of the period. I'm especially looking forward to reading Jean-Paul Sartre; the way she describes him makes me wish I had met him, and if given the chance I would gladly give my right arm in order to do so. Many of the people she interacted with were interesting, but what shone clearest through her time with them is how it was normal for her to quickly fall in with them, discourse for a while, and then fall out just as quickly. This resonated deeply with my own experiences with others, along with the fact that she had multiple periods of stagnancy that overwhelmed her body and soul. To want for everything, yet be limited to a repeating daily life barred on all sides by both physical walls and ignorant people! There is no greater torture than this. Reading this book doesn't help my own dissatisfaction with my short term goal of settling down to a career, but it was satisfying in my long term goal of figuring out exactly what my existence is supposed to consist of. I think there's a little too much personal reflection in here. Darn. Going back to the book, it was a heady mix of descriptive elegance and intellectual stimulation in a never ending journey of self-discovery, and Simone honed the process of its creation down to a science. Not sure if I'll ever look into any of the books that she devoured in the course of the novel, but as said previously, I definitely need to read Sartre. Someone who was described as always thinking definitely deserves some attention.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Justine

    Update 23/5/19 More 4.5 stars Still moved by the end, and still kind of "strange" to feel close to Simone, to see similitudes between the two of us! __________________ I thought this book was more like the beginning of an autobiography than a memoir. For me, a memoir implies historical events, and thoughts about them; here, Simone de Beauvoir focuses on herself, her life, her studies, her friends, and doesn't really "speak" about her political thoughts. I love Zaza, and could really feel the love o Update 23/5/19 More 4.5 stars Still moved by the end, and still kind of "strange" to feel close to Simone, to see similitudes between the two of us! __________________ I thought this book was more like the beginning of an autobiography than a memoir. For me, a memoir implies historical events, and thoughts about them; here, Simone de Beauvoir focuses on herself, her life, her studies, her friends, and doesn't really "speak" about her political thoughts. I love Zaza, and could really feel the love of Simone de Beauvoir for her; she became dear to me thanks to her. Jean-Paul Sartre is also there, of course, but only appears in the end, when she is about to take the agrégation (funny, as I read this precisely for the agrégation!) There are reflexions about feminism, or politics, and I loved it; but the author writes mostly about her turmoil as a teenager, and a woman who looks for a purpose in life. It was pleasant to discover her as a woman, compared with the writer and thinker we see in her, the image she forged of her. I identified with a lot of thoughts, and situations, it was quite disturbing! The writing is (of course) very good, pleasant to read, even there were some repetitions: her life goes round in circles, or in cycles exactly, and that's this constant fall, and rising that I most identified with. She doesn't know life, and dreams about it. I can't wait to study this book next year!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I literally picked this book up after seeing it fall (get thrown?) out of a second story apartment window on Farwell. I wish more books would get thrown out of windows and land at my feet...

  15. 5 out of 5

    El

    A little over a year ago, I read Simone de Beauvoir's 1949 tome, The Second Sex. The feminist text covers so much ground from biology to philosophy, and it's not a book for the weak. It's a commitment, but one I feel everyone should make at some point in their lives. I've had Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter on my shelf for years, after having picked it up in a used bookstore in Baltimore several moons ago. It's the first book in her autobiographical series and thus covers her early years - her youn A little over a year ago, I read Simone de Beauvoir's 1949 tome, The Second Sex. The feminist text covers so much ground from biology to philosophy, and it's not a book for the weak. It's a commitment, but one I feel everyone should make at some point in their lives. I've had Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter on my shelf for years, after having picked it up in a used bookstore in Baltimore several moons ago. It's the first book in her autobiographical series and thus covers her early years - her young childhood throughout her late teens or so. It can be difficult to write about ones childhood with much honesty, because we tend to reflect on those early years with the mindset we have today. We like to say things like "I was a good baby" or "I never threw fits in the grocery store like kids do today", and of course that's all bogus. Maybe we were good babies, relatively speaking, but we all threw tantrums, even if we don't remember them. Beauvoir talks about her childhood as an adult would, but she does not sugarcoat it. She was a brat, as we all were, and there's nothing wrong with admitting it. As Beauvoir unfolds her early story, we discover that her parents were not the warm, fuzzy sorts. They each had their own issues, and don't forget, we're talking about a time when children did not have warm, fuzzy relationships with their parents. Beauvoir spent many years of her younger days sharing a room with her nanny, and her little sister had a spot out in the hallway. Through the course of her relationship with her parents, and their frequent disagreements, we learn that Beauvoir was always a rather strong female, a force to be reckoned with. She spent a lot of her time analyzing herself, working on improving herself through her education and her own personal reading, and growing as a person. It was clear she would not settle for what was expected of her, or what society demanded of her as a young woman. But whenever I abandoned myself to these delicious downfalls, I never for one moment forgot that it was just a game. In reality I refused to submit to anybody. I was, and I would always remain, my own master. p59 The title itself is sassy - she was not particularly a "dutiful" daughter. She broke the rules and she made her parents tear their hair out. She was an intelligent young person who questioned everything that made up her little world. She was privileged, which she seems to have recognized to a certain extent - unlike Marie Bashkirtseff in I Am the Most Interesting Book of All: The Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff, Vol. 1 (another strong female who had somewhat similar experiences though died in 1884, 24 years before Beauvoir was born). It was a bit of a coincidence that I wound up reading this memoir so soon after finishing Beauvoir's longtime partner's (Sartre) book, Nausea. But I'm glad I read Nausea first as it gave me some of the background for existentialism that was helpful to me in reading Beauvoir's memoirs. She long suffered with some of the same things, a bit of the nausea as detailed by Sartre: The idea of living through an infinity of days, weeks, months, and years that were void of hope completely took my breath away; it was as if, without any warning, the world had died. But I was unable to give a name to this distress either. p95 We see the early stages of Beauvoir's feminism which is all the more interesting because of the time and place, both of which were not necessarily open to the idea of feminism. I was not a feminist to the extent of caring about politics: I didn't give twopence for women's right to the vote. But in my opinion men and women had a right to be considered equal as human beings, and I demanded that they should have exactly reciprocal benefits and privileges. p190 and I was stupefied to learn from a small news item that abortion was a crime: what went on in one's body should be one's own concern; no amount of argument could make me see it any differently. p190 She has relationships with girlfriends and, later, boyfriends. What is striking about a lot of these relationships and friendships is her ability to reflect on them as incredibly special, but without dwelling and becoming maudlin. She shares her stories, but doesn't unpack and live there. These are people that came and went in her life, as we all have, and they each, in their own way, helped form the woman we know now based on the writing she left behind. As with Nausea, not everyone will be keen to be stuck in a world of Beauvoir's very minute details about her early years. Personally, I find it all fascinating. I can appreciate the information about her experiences growing into a feminist in France in the early 20th century; I find it interesting to learn about the family dynamics of the time and the place; and I recognize the long and winding road that led her, by the completion of this memoir, to the introduction to Sartre, a relationship which would change both their lives forever. If you are interested in any of those things yourself, you may also appreciate this beautifully written and intelligent memoir. I do intend to continue to read the "series" and will be searching for a used copy of the second installment, Prime of Life.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    I looked forward to this first volume of Simone de Beauvoir's autobiography with much anticipation, but had no idea how wonderful it would be. Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter covers the first twenty-three years of her life beginning with her earliest childhood memories. I loved the way she explained the early tantrums that came over her whenever adults attempted to block her efforts to act in an independent, self-realized fashion. Apparently she was born with the sense that she was an individual w I looked forward to this first volume of Simone de Beauvoir's autobiography with much anticipation, but had no idea how wonderful it would be. Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter covers the first twenty-three years of her life beginning with her earliest childhood memories. I loved the way she explained the early tantrums that came over her whenever adults attempted to block her efforts to act in an independent, self-realized fashion. Apparently she was born with the sense that she was an individual who mattered and had the right to follow her own ideas. Her upbringing was bourgeois Catholic, though her family was by no means wealthy. She went to Catholic schools, was trained and guarded as a young girl by a devout, socially conservative mother, yet stimulated by her father's love of the theater. Although she was kept close to home and inculcated with fears about bodily functions, passion, men and sex, Simone had always a brilliant inquiring intellect. She read and studied incessantly all throughout grade school, high school and college, entering the Sorbonne as one of the few female philosophy candidates. Every drive she had was sublimated into mental activity. She was almost twenty before she went out on her own to bars, plays, movies, at which point she went a bit wild but never experienced more than a kiss from a male. As she relates her female friendships, her infatuation with her cousin Jacques, her quest to understand life through philosophy, I was enthralled by the combined emotional, spiritual and intellectual fervor which imbued every minute of her coming of age. The loss of her Catholic faith and her attempts to understand her own mind, passions and aspirations were as exciting to me as her tortured relationship with her best friend Zaza. I doubt that I will ever reach the intellectual heights of this amazing woman, but I have always dreamed of doing so. As I mentioned in my review of The Second Sex, it blows my mind that Simone de Beauvoir was of my own mother's generation yet our mothers were so much alike. It is almost true that she went through my life a generation earlier in another country, in Paris of all places. I am lucky that she always kept a journal and could write so movingly about her life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    gwayle

    I don't think I've ever read anything that so wonderfully captures the intellectual development of a smart young woman, especially that period when you simultaneously overestimate and underestimate yourself, when the stakes are so high that a word of praise will inflate your ego to monstrous proportions and a word criticism--even if it's well-meant and constructive--will fling you into paroxysms of despair. One moment you think you're the smartest person ever to walk the face of the earth; from I don't think I've ever read anything that so wonderfully captures the intellectual development of a smart young woman, especially that period when you simultaneously overestimate and underestimate yourself, when the stakes are so high that a word of praise will inflate your ego to monstrous proportions and a word criticism--even if it's well-meant and constructive--will fling you into paroxysms of despair. One moment you think you're the smartest person ever to walk the face of the earth; from your exalted position you view the world with pity and disgust. The next, you are sobbing into your pillow, mortified by your fraudulence and unworthiness. Beauvoir also chronicles those bursts of passionate, worshipful attachment to an ideology or cause. I think back to those halcyon days when I discovered Ayn Rand and my father's response to my vehement espousal: "Oh, all smart girls go through an Ayn Rand phase." (HA!) I'd never felt so belittled and dismissed. I also remember the first philosophy class I took, how each week I'd leave aflame with some -ism only to feel crushed by its dismantlement the next session. Remember when you thought this stuff was worth arguing about into the wee hours? Beauvoir is a fantastic, vivid writer, and she fearlessly plumbs her adolescent psyche in this first installment of her memoir. The humor of it all is not lost on her, and that gives this a special charm; I feel almost--almost!--nostalgic for this period of my own life. The narrative also features crises of faith, rocky friendships, wars with parents, and first love. You hear about the writers and philosophers who made their mark on her, and in the end you get the first glimpses of Sartre, her lifelong lover.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    There are times I'm out with the significant other, and we're meeting people, other couples, in social-type situations, and we do the rounds, and I find myself in conversation with another couple or sets of couples, people I'm just meeting, and when I walk away I find myself thinking "how can that elegant, intelligent, beautiful woman be with such a boring, boorish, douche of a man?" I'm fairly confident that is how I'm going to feel about de Beauvoir and Sartre.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Domhnall

    This autobiography of a remarkable woman takes her through her childhood and up to the completion of her education. It is populated with a cast of characters for whom we learn to care, providing a lively story and a sense of unfolding progress towards a close in which many plot lines are resolved with great style. Along the way, beautiful descriptive writing and excellent narrative skills sustain interest and contain more than enough tension, surprise and suspense to make this a most enjoyable r This autobiography of a remarkable woman takes her through her childhood and up to the completion of her education. It is populated with a cast of characters for whom we learn to care, providing a lively story and a sense of unfolding progress towards a close in which many plot lines are resolved with great style. Along the way, beautiful descriptive writing and excellent narrative skills sustain interest and contain more than enough tension, surprise and suspense to make this a most enjoyable read. It can be read on face value as a nice example of the genre – a portrait of the artist – and stand comparison with the best in its class. It is unavoidably a commentary on the position of women in this society and an account of one woman’s rejection of her assigned status, with cutting asides on the sheer hypocrisy of male values and Catholic sexual morality, though it really cannot be accused of stridency. It can be read as a description of a particular social class – the wealthy elite of French society, for whom marriage and family are integral to the networks of power, while parenting and education are a process of socialisation which forcefully impels its subjects towards their predestined responsibilities in a system of privilege which is as restrictive for its elite as it is exclusive towards lower social orders. On its margins, casual references to a disappointed woman seeking a civil-service position in Saigon, young men doing their military service in Algeria, a difficult character disappearing to Togoland, place the French empire in the background as an ever present source of opportunity and challenge, part of the natural state of affairs which requires no explanation. Yet it has few lectures and no harsh tones; it can be enjoyed as a well constructed novel in which the adult world is made strange when viewed from the perspective of an imaginative child. It is a book that might change you, but only if you want it to. Quotes I loved the red curtain, the lights, the scenery, and the flower ballet; but the adventures taking place on stage were of only minor interest to me. The actors were too real, and at the same time not real enough. The most sumptuous finery had not an iota of the brilliance of a carbuncle in a fairy tale. I used to clap my hands and gasp with wonder, but in my heart of hearts I preferred a quiet afternoon alone with my books. [p53] I liked those moments when, pretending to be busied with some easy exercise, I let my ear be beguiled by the sounds of summer: the fizzing of wasps, the chattering of guinea-fowls, the peacock’s strangulated cry, the whispering of leaves,; the scent of phlox mingled with the aromas of caramel and coffee and chocolate that came wafting to me from the kitchen; rings of sunlight would be dancing over my exercise book. I felt I was one with everything: we all had our place just here, now, and for ever. [p80] I contented myself with the announcement that I did not intend to marry. My father smiled: ‘We’ll have plenty of time to think about that when you’re fifteen years old.’ [p75] The grown-ups did not share our games or our pleasures. I didn’t know a single grown-up who appeared to enjoy life on earth very much: life’s no joke, life’s not what you read about in novels, they all declared. I had always been sorry for the grown-ups’ monotonous existence; when I realized that, within a short space of time, it would be my fate too, I was filled with panic. One afternoon I was helping Mama to wash up; she was washing the plates, and I was drying; through the windows I could see the wall of the barracks, and other kitchens in which women were scrubbing out saucepans or peeling vegetables. Every day lunch and dinner; every day washing-up; all those hours, those endlessly recurring hours, all leading nowhere: could I live like that? An image formed in my mind, an image of such desolate clarity that I can still remember it today: a row of grey squares, diminishing according to the laws of perspective, but all flat, all identical, extending away to the horizon; they were the days and weeks and years. Since the day I was born I had gone to bed richer in the evening that I had been the day before; I was steadily improving myself, step by step; but if, when I got up there, I found only a barren plateau, with no landmark to make for, what was the point in it all? [pp103, 4] My mother’s whole education and upbringing had convinced her that for a woman the greatest thing was to become the mother of a family; she couldn’t play this part unless I played the dutiful daughter. [p106] Not one of these novels evoked an image of human love or of my own destiny which afforded me the slightest satisfaction; I did not look to them for a foretaste of my own future; but they gave me what I wanted: they took me out of myself. Thanks to them I broke free from the bonds of childhood and entered a complicated, adventurous, and unpredictable world. When my parents went out in the evening, I would prolong far into the night these surreptitious delights; while my sister slept, I, propped up on my pillow, would be reading; as soon as I heard the key turning in the door, I would put out the light. In the morning, as I made my bed, I would slip the book under the mattress until I got the chance to put it back in its place on the bookshelf. It was impossible for Mama to catch me out... [p110] Up to a certain point I was the victim of a mirage; I felt myself from within, and I saw her from without: it wasn’t a fair contest. [p114] I lost myself in the infinite and at the same time remained myself. .. The wind went whirling round the poplars; it came from elsewhere, from everywhere; it went hustling through space, and I, too, was whirled away with it, without stirring from where I stood, right to the ends of the earth. When the moon rose in the heavens, I would be in touch with far-off cities, deserts, oceans, and villages which at that moment were bathed, as I was, in its radiance. I was no longer a vacant mind, an abstracted gaze, but the turbulent fragrance of the waving grain, the intimate smell of the heather moors, the dense heat of noon or the shiver of twilight; I was heavy; yet I was as vapour in the blue airs of summer and knew no bounds. / My experience of humanity was small; lacking insight and the appropriate words, I could not comprehend it at all. But nature revealed to me a host of visible, tangible modes of existence which my own had never remotely resembled. I admired the proud isolation of the oak that dominated the landscaped garden; I felt sorry for the communal solitude of blades of grass. ... Here, once again, I became unique and I felt that I was needed: my own eyes were needed in order that the copper-red of the beech could be set against the blue of the cedar and the silver of the poplars. When I went away, the landscape fell to pieces, and no longer existed for anyone; it no longer existed at all. [p125] “I no longer believe in God,” I told myself, with no great surprise... I was not denying Him in order to rid myself of a troublesome person: on the contrary, I realized that He was playing no further part in my life and so I concluded He had ceased to exist for me... However little you withheld from Him, it would be too much if God existed; and however little you gave to Him, it would be too much again if He did not exist. [p137] Literature took a place in my life that had once been occupied by religion; it absorbed me entirely and transfigured my life. The books I liked became a Bible from which I drew advice and support; I copied out long passages from them; I learnt by heart new canticles and new litanies, psalms, proverbs and prophecies and I sanctified every circumstance in my existence by the recital of these sacred texts. My emotions, my tears and my aspirations were no less sincere on account of that: the words and the cadences, the lines and the verses were not aids to make-believe: but they rescued from silent oblivion all those intimate adventures of the spirit that I couldn’t speak to anyone about; they created a kind of communion between myself and those twin souls which existed somewhere out of reach; instead of living out my small private existence, I was participating in a great spiritual epic. [p187] If she questioned me, it was not in order to come to an understanding with me on some common ground; she was simply making an investigation. I always had the feeling, whenever she asked me a question, that she was spying on me though a keyhole... The most innocent conversations were full of hidden traps; my parents construed my words in their own idiom and ascribed to me ideas that had nothing in common with what I really thought. I had always fought against the tyranny of language, and now I found myself repeating Barres’ phrase? ‘Why have words, when their brutal precision bruises our complicated souls?’ [p192] My poverty and helplessness would have worried me less if I had had the least suspicion of how ignorant and narrow-minded I still was ... But the worst of living in a prison without bars is that you aren’t even aware of the screens that shut out the horizon; I was wandering through a thick fog, believing it to be transparent. [p229] The incomprehensible uproar going on in the world might be of interest to specialists; it was not worthy of the philosopher’s attention, for, when he had got to the point where he knew that he knew nothing and that there is nothing worth knowing, he knew everything. That is why I was able to write in January: ‘I know everything; I've gone all the rounds.’ [p230] I wanted to write about the vanity of things; but the writer is a traitor to his despair as soon as he writes a book [p252] Whenever other people made attempts to analyse me, they did so from the standpoint of their own little worlds, and this used to exasperate me. But Sartre always tried to see me as part of my own scheme of things, to understand me in the light of my own set of values and attitudes. [p340] I couldn’t imagine living and not writing: but he only lived to write .... Sartre held that when one has something important to tell the world, it is criminal to waste one’s energies on other occupations. [p341]

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Another bargain basement find, this book was painfully boring. Most memoirs I've read are full of personal anecdotes, colorful characters, and a broad spectrum of emotion while this was like reading 300 pages of which authors Simone de Beauvior liked and disliked. Perhaps I would have gleaned more from this memoir had I had any inkling as to who de Beavior was before buying this book, but even after doing some biographical research, I found this memoir to be nothing but dry personal facts. If I Another bargain basement find, this book was painfully boring. Most memoirs I've read are full of personal anecdotes, colorful characters, and a broad spectrum of emotion while this was like reading 300 pages of which authors Simone de Beauvior liked and disliked. Perhaps I would have gleaned more from this memoir had I had any inkling as to who de Beavior was before buying this book, but even after doing some biographical research, I found this memoir to be nothing but dry personal facts. If I didn't have a personal rule of finishing every book I begin, I wouldn't have gotten past the first fifty pages.

  21. 4 out of 5

    cansu m

    life changing tbh. this memoir is about simone de b's adolescent life, which means it's full of #relatablecontent. except she's a super genius feminist trailblazer and her brain and zest for knowledge frightens me. this book also contains: youthful crushing on garbage boys, walking around paris and that bit where she can't stop talking about how much she ships jo and laurie. i've already started the second volume of her memoirs and tbh i'm hopeful that she'll give an explanation as to why she fi life changing tbh. this memoir is about simone de b's adolescent life, which means it's full of #relatablecontent. except she's a super genius feminist trailblazer and her brain and zest for knowledge frightens me. this book also contains: youthful crushing on garbage boys, walking around paris and that bit where she can't stop talking about how much she ships jo and laurie. i've already started the second volume of her memoirs and tbh i'm hopeful that she'll give an explanation as to why she finds sartre so hot. besides the fact that he's a super genius too, obvs.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard Lowenstein

    Absolutely vivid and engrossing account of how growing up amongst constant oral & literary stimulation creates minds & characters the likes of which we may never see again.. Instead of handing kids iPads so they can play Angry Birds, we used to hand them books.. An important prelude to the world that led her to the writing of the Second Sex.. Absolutely vivid and engrossing account of how growing up amongst constant oral & literary stimulation creates minds & characters the likes of which we may never see again.. Instead of handing kids iPads so they can play Angry Birds, we used to hand them books.. An important prelude to the world that led her to the writing of the Second Sex..

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eleanor

    Simone de Beauvoir is an original bad ass motherfucker. I want her and Satre. Polygamously.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shoug

    Any woman can relate to Simone's diaries!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joshie

    The first volume of de Beauvoir's memoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, is both distressing and fascinating. An account of her childhood to early adulthood: from her Catholic upbringing to her abandonment of religious sentiments and confinements ad nauseam in exchange of at times depressing, second-guessing journey to the eye-opening comforts of Philosophy. Brought up in a bourgeois family restricted both by religion and expected gender roles, de Beauvoir was perceptive and insightful, her ques The first volume of de Beauvoir's memoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, is both distressing and fascinating. An account of her childhood to early adulthood: from her Catholic upbringing to her abandonment of religious sentiments and confinements ad nauseam in exchange of at times depressing, second-guessing journey to the eye-opening comforts of Philosophy. Brought up in a bourgeois family restricted both by religion and expected gender roles, de Beauvoir was perceptive and insightful, her questions challenging in nature. As a child, she pondered about her easy acceptance of the truth after finding out Santa Claus was not real and their Christmas presents came from their parents, 'is this because we still get what we wanted that even if it's a deception it matters not?' and a budding scepticism towards adults' intent whenever they express concern and kindness, 'are they doing this to make me obey them?'. Towards her adolescence, amidst her parents' literary censorship and avoidance on conversations about sex (babies came from the anus, her mother stated), she acquired her own set of beliefs and discarded those which were stifling to her until she had to prove herself from her parents' disappointments regarding her choices (especially her choice to teach and refusal to adopt the common female role of that era). Her literary undertakings greatly contributed on her growth both as an author and a thinker, ** "Literature took the place in my life that had once been occupied by religion: it absorbed me entirely, and transfigured my life." (p204) Nobody managed to stop her. They called her thirst for knowledge corruption, her influence evil. Her rebellious attitude often coincided with her ambivalent feelings towards marriage and family. It's a tug-of-war between her intellectual and spiritual lives, ** "The consequence was that I grew accustomed to the idea that my intellectual life — embodied by my father — and my spiritual life — expressed by my mother — were two heterogeneous fields of experience which had nothing in common." (p41). By her early 20s, though struggling, she had made peace with her inner desire, opting for the rewarding and difficult intellectual path in spite of her relatable, terrible longing for a romantic relationship. She was obviously head over heels with her cousin Jacques which she eventually learnt to move on from. However, a series of disillusionment can still be sensed with her string of platonic and ambiguous friendships which lasted years. She mused that it was easy for men to form a platonic friendship with her because she had a "female appearance and a male brain". Curiously, she didn't scare men off. However, most often than not, she saw herself as alien, different, never fitting anywhere. This was until she met Sartre and found in him her intellectual and romantic match; Sartre supported and took her under his wing, his respect and support for her choices was a breathe of fresh air; an enlightenment in itself. He did not put her inside The Gender Box: that women ought to marry and make herself a wife, nothing else. de Beauvoir's admiration for Sartre transcended the pages of this book and it was such a delight to read. I personally wanted more. Amusingly, it took 300 pages before she finally mentioned Sartre and his failure on a written exam. What was deeply moving in de Beauvoir's memoir was how the people in her life, as she developed as a person, also developed for better or for worse. Vividly, we read and, to an extent, relate to the sudden estrangements, changes, and pleasant closeness she had with people beloved to her. It took years, at times it took only words. It depicted the loss of innocence and the fears of adulthood. Her longing for solitude both anguished and comforted her. She was a contradictory we all could find ourselves in. Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter was surprisingly painful by the end. A reflection of how remorse and guilt impact the conscience more so when they're without logic. It reminded me of what Winterson said regarding religious upbringing that one cannot completely eradicate it from one's inner self. However tiny, there'll always be a remnant of it left. We only have to try our best to silence it to a mere whisper of nonsense. This was a spectacular memoir. It's something that will certainly stay with me for a while. I honestly can't wait to get my hands on the second volume then surround myself with her fiction and hardcore philosophical works.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Though it took me more than a month to finish this, I enjoyed DeBeavoir's incredibly clear perceptions of her own childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, as she first becomes the little girl her parents and society expect her to be, then struggles in the discomfort of coming to understand her own discordant views that don't always fit and increasingly are the opposite to that which she has tried to be to please others, until the latter pages when she begins to find her like-minded others, th Though it took me more than a month to finish this, I enjoyed DeBeavoir's incredibly clear perceptions of her own childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, as she first becomes the little girl her parents and society expect her to be, then struggles in the discomfort of coming to understand her own discordant views that don't always fit and increasingly are the opposite to that which she has tried to be to please others, until the latter pages when she begins to find her like-minded others, the group with whom she feels she can be herself, find common thinking, friendships that stretch her intellect rather than frustrate it. Now she has found her place, life won't necessarily become any easier, but it is likely to engage more directly with her. Looking forward to reading the next volume and some of her novels. An interesting and articulate woman philosopher.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Megha Chakraborty

    Reading Beauvoir was always on my wishlist, this is my first time reading her and I am spellbound. In Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, the feminist philosopher and author Simone de Beauvoir eloquently writes about so many feelings and experiences that seem beyond words. She will make you think hard, she will make you ask questions about such basic beliefs which we take for granted. For me, her transition from a God-fearing young girl to an atheist beautiful woman is just beautiful. The book is rel Reading Beauvoir was always on my wishlist, this is my first time reading her and I am spellbound. In Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, the feminist philosopher and author Simone de Beauvoir eloquently writes about so many feelings and experiences that seem beyond words. She will make you think hard, she will make you ask questions about such basic beliefs which we take for granted. For me, her transition from a God-fearing young girl to an atheist beautiful woman is just beautiful. The book is relatable at so many levels, its a must read for everyone. Just the first part was a little bit repetitive and exhaustive, otherwise it's a perfect book. De Beauvoir offers an unforgettable glance into both her youth and into the French intellectual culture of the time. Amazing. A must-read for avid readers and philosophy students. Highly Recommended. Happy Reading!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    A bejeweled memoir by one of the brightest minds of the 20th Century, from her youth to her meeting of Jean-Paul Sartre, whom she clearly considered to be OMG-that-guy at the party when she was younger, and her slow, steady exit from the bullshit expectations of bougie prewar French society. Don't expect anything groundbreaking here -- it's not -- but it is an exceptional look into the life of an exceptional person (BTW, the bits about her parents are very shady and very funny).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Leone Davidson

    Simone de Beauvoir wrote novels, essays, non-fiction, and although I have not read The Second Sex since college, she stands out as being one of the great feminists of all time, who furthered women's rights more than most. For all of this I admire and respect her. I'm going back and rereading The Second Sex because I remember liking it years ago. Her Memoirs, however, I just did not enjoy. I like reading in her own words what her upbringing was like but the inclusion of every single detail, every Simone de Beauvoir wrote novels, essays, non-fiction, and although I have not read The Second Sex since college, she stands out as being one of the great feminists of all time, who furthered women's rights more than most. For all of this I admire and respect her. I'm going back and rereading The Second Sex because I remember liking it years ago. Her Memoirs, however, I just did not enjoy. I like reading in her own words what her upbringing was like but the inclusion of every single detail, every thought, feeling, word spoken, nuance between the people in her life, is, in places, tedious. I also have difficulty accepting that anyone remembers every single thing from the time they were three years old. I can't remember everything that happened when I was three, or thirteen. Or twenty three. Or a week ago. Granted, she kept diaries but again, not when she was small. And this a more general complaint, for all autobiographies: if at any time anyone writing theirs embellishes or adds detail because they can't recall everything, then about what else might they be stretching the details? Anyway, interesting enough for three stars, but I really wish I had enjoyed it more.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Moa Norberg

    I will be eternally grateful that I found this book at this particular time in my life. I am now around the same age as the self de Beauvoir writes about for a majority of this memoir and can relate to many of the trials and tribulations that she herself lived through. There is something comforting about knowing that your experiences are shared by others and that thousands of people before you have had the same struggles and will continue to have them after you are gone. De Beauvoir captures the I will be eternally grateful that I found this book at this particular time in my life. I am now around the same age as the self de Beauvoir writes about for a majority of this memoir and can relate to many of the trials and tribulations that she herself lived through. There is something comforting about knowing that your experiences are shared by others and that thousands of people before you have had the same struggles and will continue to have them after you are gone. De Beauvoir captures the female condition with such poignancy and she gives words to feelings I have not been able to express to myself before. I see myself reflected in her in an infinite amount of ways. Not because I flatter myself to think we are alike in intelligence, but because we both are women and thus share all that entails. There is no doubt to why she is considered a divinity among feminists - a description de Beauvoir probably would have disliked immensely judging by her religious viewpoints. My only complaint is that her writing is a bit dense. A bit too dense for my liking, hence why I will not give it five stars. Some passages felt irrelevant to people other than de Beauvoir herself and, in my opinion, could have been shortened down or cut completely. However, one cannot deny the brilliance of de Beauvoir and reading “Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter” felt more like having a conversation with a friend rather than being confined to silent judgement. How lucky I feel for the privilege of having shared her company.

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