Gems and oddities from Simone de Beauvoir
‘The Useless Mouths’ and Other Literary Writings
by Simone de Beauvoir (edited by Margaret A. Simons and Marybeth Timmermann)
University of Illinois Press (Footprint Books), $69 hb, 408 pp, 9780252036347
Let the potential reader be warned from the outset: the editorial perspective of this anthology of Simone de Beauvoir’s literary writings is disturbingly unsettled. If the intended audience is the ‘Beauvoir scholars’ alluded to in the jacket blurb, one cannot but imagine their irritation at the scores of quasi-Wikipedic notes covering almost every person mentioned in the text, and providing such information as ‘Brittany is a region in northwestern France with a distinct Celtic heritage’, or ‘The Champs-Elysées (Elysian fields) is a famous boulevard in Paris’. If the target is, rather, a culturally tabula rasa (freshman student?) readership, then the introductory essays for the Beauvoir texts are surely pitched too high, for many of them are scholarly, sophisticated, and thought-provoking. To account for these discrepancies would require an article of its own. Even then it would be hard to explain an editorial position that allows Proust to be presented as a ‘French modernist author best known for his monumental work, À la recherche du temps perdu (Remembrance of Things Past or In Search of Lost Time) characterised by an exploration of memories through free association reflecting Proust’s interest in Freud’s analytic method’.