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Bloomsbury Academic

Becoming Beauvoir : A Life

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Becoming Beauvoir
Author(s): Kate Kirkpatrick

“One is not born a woman, but becomes one”, Simone de Beauvoir

A symbol of liberated womanhood, Simone de Beauvoir's unconventional relationships inspired and scandalised her generation. A philosopher, writer, and feminist icon, she won prestigious literary prizes and transformed the way we think about gender with The Second Sex. But despite her successes, she wondered if she had sold herself short.

Her liaison with Jean-Paul Sartre has been billed as one of the most legendary love affairs of the twentieth century. But for Beauvoir it came at a cost: for decades she was dismissed as an unoriginal thinker who 'applied' Sartre's ideas. In recent years new material has come to light revealing the ingenuity of Beauvoir's own philosophy and the importance of other lovers in her life.

This ground-breaking biography draws on never-before-published diaries and letters to tell the fascinating story of how Simone de Beauvoir became herself.


“[An] accessible and enjoyable resource for a wide audience … Becoming Beauvoir gives sensitive treatment to issues that have troubled feminists: Beauvoir’s polyamory; the damage caused by her early liaisons with younger women; and her ambivalent attitude toward the philosophical content of her own oeuvre. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.” – CHOICE

“[An] impressively fresh personal and intellectual biography … Marked by a clear narrative contextualizing the many key figures interacting with Beauvoir across her life, as well as the international events that also touched and affected her, this biography belongs in both academic and popular philosophy collections.” – Library Journal

“This powerful, important book offers a necessary and radical, new, evidence-based reading of Simone de Beauvoir's life and work. It unpicks and undermines the extraordinary torrent of belittling and sexist criticism that has been directed at Beauvoir, both in her lifetime and since, and recovers her from Jean-Paul Sartre's shadow to bring her to stand in her own light. This haunting, scholarly, and compelling biography lingers long in the reader's mind.” —Suzannah Lipscomb FRHS, Professor of History, University of Roehampton, UK

“Do we need another biography on Simone de Beauvoir? Definitely! Here we finally have a biography that makes Beauvoir's philosophical ideas the focal point – not her love life. Based on new material, and written with insight, respect and sympathy, Kate Kirkpatrick re-examines Beauvoir's life and demonstrates how it was guided by her own existentialist ideals as well as twisted by her circumstances. A timely and fascinating book!” —Tove Pettersen, Professor of Philosophy, University of Oslo, Norway. President of the International Simone de Beauvoir Society

“Beautifully written and meticulously researched, Kirkpatrick draws on new material to find contradictions in previous accounts of Simone de Beauvoir's biography, including those from Beauvoir herself. Becoming Beauvoir is essential reading for anyone interested not just in Beauvoir's life, but the philosophy within it.” —Fiona Vera-Gray, Assistant Professor in Sociology, Durham University, UK

ISBN:  9781350047174