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An Existentialist Marriage

John on April 14, 2008 at 11:10 pm

I’d read most of this before, but it’s still pretty stunning. Today’s Daily Mail gives an overview of the non-marriage of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir:

a fascinating new book paints this supposedly high-minded duo as serial seducers bent on their own gratification and as a couple who used their apparently lofty philosophy as a springboard to excuse their multiple liaisons, often with under-age teenagers who were broken by the experience.


And so on October 1, 1929, Sartre suggested their famous pact: they would have a permanent ‘essential’ love.

They would sleep together and have affairs on the side which they must describe to each other in every intimate detail.

During the first years, Sartre embarked on the arrangement with gusto. He liked to sleep with virgins, after which he rapidly lost interest.

This left the highly sexed Simone, now teaching philosophy, constantly frustrated, despite the lovers she took.

It was when she developed a relationship with one of her young female pupils that the first of her love triangles with Sartre came about.

When Sartre had a breakdown after experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, Simone asked her new lover to nurse him.

But she was not prepared for the crippling jealousy she felt when Sartre tried to seduce not only the girl but her younger sister as well.

Simone’s reaction to Sartre’s faithlessness was to sleep with another of her pupils, and when Sartre retaliated by deflowering another virgin, Simone pinched her lover’s 21-year-old boyfriend.

If this couple expected their arrangement would spare them the trials and heartache of a conventional marriage, they were wrong.

It actually continues for several more decades like that. Camus makes a guest appearance at one point. It re-confirms a lesson I’ve found to be true over the years: Geniuses are some of the people most likely to be complete and total idiots.

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Category: Marriage & Family |

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