The Mandarins

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Mandarins. Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1956.

Reason read: Wyoming passed the first woman suffrage law on December 10th, 1869.

The Mandarins has been called Ms. de Beauvoir’s most famous novel. Taking place in the mid 1940s, France’s City of Lights society is getting back to some semblance of normalcy at the end of World War II while the rest of Europe continues to struggle under the weight of devastating death and destruction. Loosely based on de Beauvoir’s relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, Mandarins is a biting commentary on politics, philosophy, and psychology of the times. Two different plots run simultaneously. First, there is the struggle to keep a once popular war-time leftist newspaper relevant after the war. Then, there is the first person account of Anne’s romance with an American author (autobiographical sketches of Simone herself with Sartre). In truth, I found all of the characters outrageously annoying. War has brought Henri and Paula together and peacetime begins to pull them apart. As World War II draws to a close, Henri sees it the prefect opportunity to escape France and ultimately leave his ten year relationship with Paula. Henri has decided they are no longer the same people and their relationship has worn too thin for mending. He considers himself a man who needs to say something, not only to the world around him, but to the future world not yet realized. He does most of his talking through the language of sex with other women. Paula constantly forgives Henri his affairs of the body because she thinks his heart belongs to her. I could go on, but I’m not sure what the point would be. Blah blah blah rubbish.

Author fact: Simone also wrote The Second Sex which I read for the Challenge.

Book trivia: The Mandarins has been called a classic by some.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about The Mandarins.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1950s” (p 177).



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