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Feminist Europe, Book Review: Who is she?

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For Simone de Beauvoir's jubilee on 9 January 2008, Schwarzer announced two new books on the writer who passed away in 1986. The two women had known each other well, both engaged since the early 70s in the women's movement.

These discussions with Simone de Beauvoir can be understood as key to her political work as well as to her life. Intimate and open talks, they treat identity, love, power, politics, children, and men— all still burning issues.

In a newspaper article about both publications, Schwarzer mentions that "although [she] knows de Beauvoir's work well, [she] constantly fmds something new, something surprising." And Schwarzer is "always thrilled by the clarity of thought, the integrity of de Beauvoir's sense of justice and the cleverness of her vision as expressed in political essays, above all in The Second Sex [1949]." In the memoirs and letters, in contrast, it is the "passion and vulnerability" that "exercise great attraction" (Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, No. 274, 24 November 2007, Z 3). Two of de Beauvoir's most beautiful compositions, Les Bettes Images (1966) and La Femme Rompue (1968), further testify to her refined emotional quality, but Schwarzer confesses one lacunae here: to this day, both novels remain on her future reading list.

Offering excerpts from Simone de Beauvoir's most important writings, an impressive photo section and a comprehensive essay, Alice Schwarzer takes the measure of the French philosopher's life work, asking what meaning she holds for today's society and how the future will receive her. What about the insights and demands of the women's movement that has achieved so many positive changes?

This excellent introduction to the older woman's oeuvre includes a promenade through her memoirs, letters to Sartre, and her "trans-Atlantic love" Nelson Algren. Novels and essays are presented as well.

„But who is she?" Schwarzer asks and immediately answers: „She is a woman on whom the nineteenth Century placed its stamp but who wrote herseif into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. She is a woman who called for absolute equality in an age which hadn't yet imagined such a thing—and at the same time remained conscious of her own all too obvious 'feminine' conditioning" (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung No. 274, 24 November 2007, Z 3).

By Waltraud Dumont du Voitel and Tobe Levin. - Review of Schwarzer, Alice ed.: "Simone de Beauvoir. Ein Lesebuch mit Bildern." [Simone de Beauvoir. An Illustrated Reader]. Rowohlt Verlag, 2008.

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