Thursday, January 10, 2008

Top 10 books by & about Simone de Beauvoir

Lisa Appignanesi is a writer, novelist and president of English PEN. Her new book, Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 comes out this spring in the US. Among her other books is the acclaimed family memoir, Losing the Dead. Her Simone de Beauvoir was honored with a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

She named her "top 10 books by and about Simone de Beauvoir" for the Guardian.

Her introductory remarks, followed by Number One on the list:
"I think I must have been around 18 when I first dipped into the pages of The Second Sex and was mesmerised by Simone de Beauvoir's terrifyingly lucid account of how one is not so much born, but rather becomes, a woman. Her judicious presence and bold intelligence have been with me ever since, not only in her many books. In a sense the very arc of her life gave us all permission: we could think for ourselves, be actors in the public sphere, and write across the genres - fiction, non-fiction and memoir...."

1. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
This is the book that set the agenda for the women's movement in our times. It provides an encyclopaedic and sometimes shocking account of woman's condition as 'other' in a world dominated by male descriptions and power. Not for nothing did the book find its way onto the Papal black list. You can dip. My favourite sections describe the young girl, sexual initiation, marriage, the narcissist and the woman in love. De Beauvoir is particularly good at describing women's complicity in their state. At a time when religious hierarchies are once more on the ascendant, it's a salutary read.
Read more about Lisa Appignanesi's top 10 books by and about Simone de Beauvoir.

--Marshal Zeringue