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Simone de Beauvoir’s Comrades and Rivals

Your favorite critic has plenty of frenemies.


Jean-Paul Sartre

He's not just a friend, but a friend with benefits. Plus he's my intellectual equal, which is no easy task. We thought about marriage once upon a time, but agreed that it's just a bourgeois institution. So we've decided to be "life partners." We share a lot—like lovers (female)—and had sexual enthusiasts of our own. Basically, we're all about best of both worlds. We've never had biological children of our own, but we've each adopted a girl (of course), so we'd, er, have literary heirs.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Maurice is just the smartest. Seriously, this dude's a major brain. Maurice is my go-to friend when I want to get down and dirty on phenomenology—which happens a lot. Jean Paul and I also managed to make Maurice embrace Marxism. (One more for the Red Team!)

Claude Lévi-Strauss

We were school chums at the Sorbonne, but I really connected with Claude when he wrote The Elementary Structures of Kinship in 1949. That puppy is a central tome of anthropology, and I, for one, give it a thumb up for what it has to say about the place of women in non-western cultures.

Nelson Algren

Full disclosure: this American writer was my lover. In fact, he may even be the love of my life (sorry JP). I dedicated my book The Mandarins to him, but he got really ticked off that I detailed our sexual escapades in the book, so it's been a bit awkward lately. Even though we've written each other literally hundreds of love letters and have a real love connection, he had the nerve to write negative reviews of the American translations of my work. That's worse than sending sexy text messages to another feminist. 


Albert Camus

For a long time, Albert and Jean Paul were tight. We all met at a run through of JP's play The Flies. Things went south because Albert didn't think communism was as peachy as we do. And oh boy, when he wrote that book The Rebel, which basically tears communism apart, that was curtains for Albert and JP. And I have my loyalties, you know?

Luce Irigaray

We're both big-name feminists, but it has always bugged me that Luce applied psychoanalysis to her study of sexual determination. Plus Luce thinks that the quest for equality between men and women is a bogus argument for getting behind women's liberation. Say what? So typical. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: women inevitably look at each other as rivals, enemies, or at least "the competition." Why can't we all just get along?

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