(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

This is the second installment of de Beauvoir’s autobiographical series. It begins on a note of relief at her emancipation from her rigidly conservative family and ends on an even higher note of joy at France’s deliverance from German Occupation. Dominating the work is de Beauvoir’s friendship and alliance with Jean-Paul Sartre.

In July, 1929, she was a philosophy student at France’s most distinguished university, the École Normale Supérieure, when she met Sartre, a fellow student, while preparing for comprehensive orals. By the fall they had begun a friendship that was to become a lifelong union. They agreed that, while theirs was an “essential” love, it should not be allowed to degenerate into constraint or mere habit; nor should their partnership prevent them from experiencing contingent affairs with others. By the mid-to-late 1930’s they had become the core couple, while teaching philosophy in Paris, of a group they termed “the Family.” This was a social network of current and former students, friends, and lovers. It took the place of marriage and children for de Beauvoir and Sartre.

The 1930’s were extremely active for de Beauvoir. She read voraciously in literature as well as philosophy and frequented, usually with Sartre, theaters, cinemas, art galleries, cafés, jazz clubs, and many lively, long-lasting parties. Often to the urban Sartre’s discomfort, she loved to hike and climb rocks, touring most European...

(The entire section is 422 words.)