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Simone de Beauvoir

  • ... it is only on posters and in advertisement pages that Americans have those chubby cheeks, expanding smiles, smooth looks, and faces flushed with well-being. In fact, almost all are at odds with themselves; drink offers a remedy for this inner malady of which boredom is the most usual sign: as drinking is accepted by society, it does not appear as a sign of their [Americans'] inability to adapt themselves; it is rather the adapted form of inadaptability.

  • Many things would be changed for Americans if they would only admit that there is ill-luck in this world and that misfortune is not a priori a crime.

  • The film was so typically American that it left nothing to thought.

  • Reno with its brilliant, sordid truths fascinated me far more than the artificial casino by which I recalled its name. I had some difficulty in going to bed in this town where hope and despair never sleep.

  • Americans are nature-lovers: but they only admit of nature proofed and corrected by man.

  • History is a great cemetery: men, deeds, ideas are always dying as soon as they are born.

  • ... from one minute to the next the present is merely an honorary past. It must be filled unceasingly anew to dissemble the curse it carries within itself; that is why Americans like speed, alcohol, thriller films and any sensational news: the demand for new things, and ever newer things, is feverish since nowhere will they rest.

  • They [Americans] want to believe that Good and Evil can be defined in precise categories, that Good is already, or will be easily achieved. ... if this optimism appears too superficial, they will try to create a kind of anti-God: the U.S.S.R. That is Evil, and it only needs to be annihilated to re-establish the reign of Good.

  • The time that one gains cannot be accumulated in a storehouse; it is contradictory to want to save up existence, which, the fact is, exists only by being spent and there is a good case for showing that airplanes, machines, the telephone, and the radio do not make men of today happier than those of former times.

  • In the face of an obstacle which it is impossible to overcome, stubbornness is stupid.

  • One of the benefits that oppression confers upon the oppressors is that the most humble among them is made to feel superior; thus, a poor white in the South can console himself with the thought that he is not a 'dirty nigger' — and the more prosperous whites cleverly exploit this pride. Similarly, the most mediocre of males feels himself a demigod as compared with women.

  • This has always been a man's world, and none of the reasons hitherto brought forward in explanation of this fact has seemed adequate.

  • The father's life is surrounded by mysterious prestige: the hours he spends in the home, the room where he works, the objects around him, his occupations, his habits, have a sacred character. It is he who feeds the family, is the one in charge and the head. Usually he works outside the home, and it is through him that the household communicates with the rest of the world: he is the embodiment of this adventurous, immense, difficult, and marvelous world; he is transcendence, he is God.

  • Justice can never be done in the midst of injustice.

  • The curse which lies upon marriage is that too often the individuals are joined in their weakness rather than in their strength — each asking from the other instead of finding pleasure in giving.

  • No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.

  • In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society.

  • When an individual (or a group of individuals) is kept in a situation of inferiority, the fact is that he is inferior. But the significance of the verb to be must be rightly understood here; it is in bad faith to give it a static value when it really has the dynamic Hegelian sense of 'to have become.'

  • The fact that we are human beings is infinitely more important than all the peculiarities that distinguish human beings from one another ...

  • It is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal; that is why superiority has been accorded in humanity not to the sex that brings forth but to that which kills.

  • Christian ideology has contributed no little to the oppression of woman.

  • ... it is not the inferiority of women that has caused their historical insignificance; it is rather their historical insignificance that has doomed them to inferiority.

  • Personal accomplishment is almost impossible in the human categories that are maintained collectively in an inferior situation.

  • All oppression creates a state of war.

  • One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

  • ... those interested in perpetuating present conditions are always in tears about the marvelous past that is about to disappear, without having so much as a smile for the young future.

  • Living by proxy is always a precarious expedient.

  • To be sure, the ego is not always odious. Few books are more thrilling than certain confessions, but they must be honest, and the author must have something to confess.

  • To lose confidence in one's body is to lose confidence in oneself.

  • The writer of originality, unless dead, is always shocking, scandalous; novelty disturbs and repels.

  • Woman is shut up in a kitchen or in a boudoir, and astonishment is expressed that her horizon is limited. Her wings are clipped, and it is found deplorable that she cannot fly.

  • The ideal of happiness has always taken material form in the house, whether cottage or castle; it stands for permanence and separation from the world.

  • Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.

  • Eating, sleeping, cleaning — the years no longer rise up toward heaven, they lie spread out ahead, gray and identical. The battle against dust and dirt is never won. Washing, ironing, sweeping, ferreting out rolls of lint from under wardrobes — all this halting of decay is also the denial of life; for time simultaneously creates and destroys, and only its negative aspect concerns the housekeeper.

  • ... it is a sad fate to be required without respite to repel an enemy instead of working toward positive ends, and very often the housekeeper submits to it in a kind of madness that may verge on perversion, a kind of sado-masochism. The maniac housekeeper wages her furious war against dirt, blaming life itself for the rubbish all living growth entails. When any living being enters her house, her eye gleams with a wicked light: 'Wipe your feet, don't tear the place apart, leave that alone!' She wishes those of her household would hardly breathe; everything means more thankless work for her. Severe, preoccupied, always on the watch, she loses joie de vivre, she becomes overprudent and avaricious, she shuts out the sunlight, for along with that come insects, germs, and dust, and besides, the sun ruins silk hangings and fades upholstery ... She becomes bitter and disagreeable and hostile to all that lives ...

  • ... there is a poetry in making preserves; the housewife has caught duration in the snare of sugar, she has enclosed life in jars.

  • Cooking is revolution and creation ...

  • Dwelling-place and food are useful for life but give it no significance: the immediate goals of the housekeeper are only means, not true ends.

  • The worst of it all is that this labor [housework] does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable. Woman is tempted — and the more so the greater pains she takes — to regard her work as an end in itself. She sighs as she contemplates the perfect cake just out of the oven: 'it's a shame to eat it!' It is really too bad to have husband and children tramping with their muddy feet all over her waxed hardwood floors! When things are used they are soiled or destroyed — we have seen how she is tempted to save them from being used; she keeps preserves until they get moldy; she locks up the parlor.

  • The products of domestic work, then, must necessarily be consumed; a continual renunciation is required of the woman whose operations are completed only in their destruction.

  • The most sympathetic of men never fully comprehend woman's concrete situation.

  • The individuals who seem to us most outstanding, who are honored with the name of genius, are those who have proposed to enact the fate of all humanity in their personal existences.

  • ... one is not born a genius, one becomes a genius ...

  • Ah! if only there were two of me, one who spoke and the other who listened, one who lived and the other who watched, how I would love myself! I'd envy no one.

  • ... immortality is a terrible curse.

  • That's what I consider true generosity. You give your all and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.

  • If one lives long enough, one sees that every victory sooner or later turns to defeat.

  • Literature takes its revenge on reality by making it the slave of fiction ...

  • It's not a very big step from contentment to complacency.

  • Harmony between two individuals is never given, it must be worked for continually.

  • Sometimes speech is no more than a device for saying nothing — and a neater one than silence.

  • In every society the artist or writer remains an outsider ...

  • ... words have to murder reality before they can hold it captive ...

  • A foreign country can best be understood through its literature.

  • ... to adapt one's outlook to another person's salvation is the surest and quickest way of losing him.

  • Writing ... is a profession that can only be learned by writing.

  • Literature is born when something in life goes slightly adrift.

  • Anyway I know only too well that all life is nothing but a brief reprieve from death.

  • ... it is so difficult not to become vain about one's own good luck.

  • A writer is hoisted up onto a pedestal only to scrutinize him more closely and conclude that it was a mistake to put him up there in the first place.

  • I had never believed in the sacred nature of literature. God had died when I was fourteen ...

  • ... I was struck by the absence, even among very young boys and girls, of any interior motivation; they were incapable of thinking, of inventing, of imagining, of choosing, of deciding for themselves; this incapacity was expressed by their conformism; in every domain of life they employed only the abstract measure of money, because they were unable to trust to their own judgment.

  • Old age was growing inside me. It kept catching my eye from the depths of the mirror. I was paralyzed sometimes as I saw it making its way toward me so steadily when nothing inside me was ready for it.

  • ... the Sahara was a spectacle as alive as the sea. The tints of the dunes changed according to the time of day and the angle of the light: golden as apricots from far off, when we drove close to them they turned to freshly made butter; behind us they grew pink; from sand to rock, the materials of which the desert was made varied as much as its tints ...

  • ... except when when I am traveling or when extraordinary events are occurring, a day when I do not write tastes of ashes.

  • Tonight, once more, life sinks its teeth into my heart.

  • Sign of old age: distress at all leave-takings, all separations. And the sadness of memories, because I'm aware they're condemned to death.

  • Every time a man dies, a child dies too, and an adolescent and a young man as well; everyone weeps for the one who was dear to him.

  • For years I thought my work still lay ahead, and now I find it is behind me: there was no moment when it took place.

  • Every time I start on a new book, I am a beginner again. I doubt myself, I grow discouraged, all the work accomplished in the past is as though it never was, my first drafts are so shapeless that it seems impossible to go on with the attempt at all, right up until the moment — always imperceptible, there, too, there is a break — when it is has become impossible not to finish it.

  • It's frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can't assume the responsibility for everything you do — or don't do.

  • When someone you love dies you pay for the sin of outliving her with a thousand piercing regrets.

  • One had to listen very intently to catch the words that she laboured to breathe out; words whose mystery made them as disturbing as those of an oracle. Her memories, her desires, her anxieties were floating somewhere outside time, turned into unreal and poignant dreams by her childlike voice and the imminence of death.

  • You do not die from being born, nor from having lived, nor from old age. You die from something. ... There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.

  • ... I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.

  • Retirement ... may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap.

  • Retirement revives the sorrow of parting, the feeling of abandonment, solitude and uselessness that is caused by the loss of some beloved person.

  • It is not mere chance that makes families speak of a child who is 'extraordinary for his age' and also of an old man who is 'extraordinary for his age'; the extraordinariness lies in their behaving like human beings when they are either not yet or no longer men.

  • We always come back to the same vicious circle — an extreme degree of material or intellectual poverty does away with the means of alleviating it.

  • ... habit has a kind of poetry.

  • And indeed, it is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life's parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny ...

  • Society turns away from the aged worker as though he belonged to another species. That is why the whole question is buried in a conspiracy of silence. Old age exposes the failure of our entire civilization.

  • Society cares for the individual only in so far as he is profitable.

  • The man of today did not establish this patriarchal regime, but he profits by it, even when he criticizes it. And he has made it very much a part of his own thinking.

    • Simone de Beauvoir,
    • in Alice Schwarzer, "The Radicalization of Simone de Beauvoir," Ms. ()
  • The nearer I come to the end of my days, the more I am enabled to see that strange thing, a life, and to see it whole ...

  • ... it is true that nothing is gained without something being lost: everyone knows that in fulfilling oneself one necessarily sacrifices some possibilities.

  • ... I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for the truth; and truth rewarded me.

  • The arrogance of some Christians would close heaven to them if, to their misfortune, it existed.

  • If you haven't been happy very young, you can still be happy later on, but it's much harder. You need more luck.

    • Simone de Beauvoir,
    • in The Observer ()
  • In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.

    • Simone de Beauvoir,
    • in John Gerassi, "The Second Sex 25 Years Later: An Interview With Simone de Beauvoir," Society ()
  • Art is an attempt to integrate evil.

  • The human species is forever in a state of change, forever becoming.

  • I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.

  • I'm not against mothers. I am against the ideology which expects every woman to have children, and I'm against the circumstances under which mothers have to have their children.

    • Simone de Beauvoir,
    • in Alice Schwarzer, Simone de Beauvoir Today ()
  • Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay.

    • Simone de Beauvoir
  • As long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed.

    • Simone de Beauvoir,
    • in Betty Friedan, "A Dialogue With Simone de Beauvoir," It Changed My Life ()
  • Whether you think of it as heavenly or as earthly, if you love life, immortality is no consolation for death.

  • The ballot box is a most inadequate mechanism of change.

    • Simone de Beauvoir,
    • 1973, in Anne Whitmarsh, Simone Beauvoir and the Limits of Commitment ()
  • A Darwinian nation of economic fitness abhors idleness, dependence, non-productivity.

    • Simone de Beauvoir
  • One can hardly tell women that washing up saucepans is their divine mission, [so] they are told that bringing up children is their divine mission. But the way things are in the world, bringing up children has a great deal in common with washing up saucepans.

    • Simone de Beauvoir,
    • in Alice Schwarzer, Simone de Beauvoir Today ()
  • I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.

    • Simone de Beauvoir,
    • in Hazel Rowley, ed., Tête-à-tête: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre ()
  • The representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from the point of view which is theirs and which they confuse with the absolute truth.

  • If one lives long enough, one sees that every victory sooner or later turns to defeat.

  • [On the Catholic Church:] They have always reserved their uncompromising reverence for life to life in the fetal form.

    • Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir, French philosopher, writer

(1908 - 1986)

Full name: Simone Bertrand de Beauvoir.