Simone de Beauvoir was a feminist and, if you religiously read far-right websites such as Return of Kings (like we do, as we’re rampaging misogynists who like drinking beer, pumping iron, and firing weapons wildly into the air), you’ll know feminism is leading to the utter collapse of Western civilization. Those… bloody women and their opinions!
Anyway, de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986) was a trailblazing feminist, intellectual, and overall awesome lady who dedicated her life to culture, philosophy, and politics. The Woman Destroyed was published in 1967 as the writer verged on her 60s, with the result being three short stories contemplating ageing, loneliness, and what it is to be a woman. We know all about the latter!
The Woman Destroyed
Okay, so we’ve been a bit silly at the start of this review, but the fact is these are three beautifully observed short stories from a brilliant writer who massively influenced the world. She still does! It’s with the following line from the Age of Discretion (the first story in the book) which really made us fall for de Beauvoir:
"When I was a child, when I was an adolescent, books saved me from despair: that convinced me that culture has the highest of values, and it is impossible for me to examine this conviction with an objective eye."
Similarly, we realised from a young age the importance of culture. Not only does it stop humans from getting bored, a particularly brilliant piece of literature, film, or music can change the world. So if any imbecile ever snorts at you that your favourite text is “just a book” or “only a film”, snort in their direction and call them a philistine; culture makes the civilized world go round!
The Woman Destroyed maintains this introspective observation into its two other stories: the Monologue and the eponymous closer. What you’ll find in this short volume is a writer with tremendous command of the human psyche, as well as observations on getting older, bitterness, unhappiness, and a general world-weary leaning.
Later in life, it would appear from our observations, it’s very easy to wane into “back in my day” syndrome and consider progressivism as the curse of society.
Societal progress is inevitable and, usually, a very good thing, otherwise we’d still be burning witches at the stake.
Writers such as Simone de Beauvoir, with her intelligence, insights, and overall command of psychology, make the importance of liberalism abundantly clear at a time when often crushingly obnoxious right-wing belligerence is forcing itself back upon the world.
Highly intelligent, forthright, and groovy, de Beauvoir is famous for her lifelong partnership with another genius French writer: Jean-Paul Sartre (check out the Roads to Freedom trilogy).
The two made quite the formidable pair and left an indelible impact on philosophy and politics. For her part, The Second Sex (1949) made a bold statement for feminism and pushed the movement forward enormously after WWII.
We’ve got a bit of a de Beauvoir season coming up as we’ll be covering the Second Sex soon, as well as a few of her other works. For those of you out there looking for a sharp mind who’ll teach you a thing or two, a wonderful place to start is with The Woman Destroyed.
It’s something of an ironic title as the stories move beyond that, illuminating a path towards where we are now, here in 2017, when women aren’t expected to be in the kitchen baking Yorkshire puddings.