In the third volume of her memoirs, The Force of Circumstance, Simone de Beauvoir wrote that she did not perceive death as a physical reality until 1954, when word reached her of Sartre’s having been hospitalized, for unstated reasons, during a trip to the Soviet Union. Something “irrevocable” had happened, she declared. “Death had closed its hand around me; it was no longer a metaphysical scandal, it was a quality of our arteries, it was no longer a sheath of night around us, it was an intimate presence penetrating my life, changing the taste of things, the quality of the light, my memories, the things I wanted to do: everything.” Although the German Occupation and the liberation of Paris had made violence commonplace, her quasi-symbiotic relationship with Sartre conferred upon her—or so this account might suggest—a sense of invulnerability that vanished the moment her intellectual mate began to...

 

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