Me, Elsewhere

I seem suddenly to have a little rush of essays out on the internet.

In the latest edition of Cerise Press, two essays on authors and their sordid love lives:

Beauvoir2Simone de Beauvoir; The Courage to Love Differently

“There has been one undoubted success in my life,” she wrote in Force of Circumstances (La Force des choses), “my relationship with Sartre. In more than thirty years we have only once gone to sleep at night disunited.” Yet when she wrote those words, Beauvoir at fifty-five was feeling sad and fearful for the future. She was suffering the loss of her youthful looks, afraid that sexual relationships were now at an end for her, and desperately jealous of Sartre’s latest love affair. After their deaths, the executors of Beauvoir’s and Sartre’s literary estates published the letters they wrote to one another and to other lovers, revealing a very different story to the official version that Beauvoir had created. Generally, Beauvoir’s memoirs were rigorously honest about her experiences, but when it came to love affairs, the accounts she gave were partial; as the full facts of her life were revealed, the portrait of a different woman in love emerged.

andre gideWilful Blindness; The Marriage of Andre and Madeleine Gide

‘There must have been quite a bonfire. A thick plume of smoke must have risen into the still air of a sunny summer day in 1918, on the family estate in Normandy that Madeleine had inherited and where she lived for the most part without the company of her footloose husband. This last time when Gide had left her, he had gone too far, writing a dreadful note in which he said he was “rotting away,” all his “vitality ebbing away… I was dying there and I wanted to live… I had to live and that meant escaping from there, travelling, meeting new people, loving people, creating!” And so while Gide was away, loving and living and travelling, Madeleine had taken the key to the desk in which the letters he had written her were carefully stored. She had taken those letters out, read them for one last time, and then consigned them to the flames.’


Clearly, I am sending out a message to all dead authors: you can run but you can’t hide!

20 thoughts on “Me, Elsewhere

  1. Dear Litlove,

    I have just read your essay on Simone de Beauvoir. What a fascinating, well-written article. I enjoyed every word of it; your writing flows so beautifully, and is such a pleasure to read. I was totally absorbed – the fact that my two sons were playing a noisy X Box game and arguing at every stage was not able to deter me from finishing the article! Thank you so much for posting about this and your other work elsewhere – I hope to catch up with more of it when time allows.

    Meanwhile, I have also been enjoying your holiday diary, although I failed to post my appreciation until now. I do hope that you will give hill-walking another try – perhaps in more comfortable temperatures. I have only begun to experience the pleasures of walking in recent years. I don’t manage many ‘expeditions’ (!), but I am growing ever more appreciative of escaping into the hills. My advice would be to start slowly – the main thing is to find somewhere that fills you with pleasure at its beauty. I’m not familiar with your part of the world but you are probably not too far away from some lovely chalk landscape. Sometimes, being physically exhausted after a tiring walk can enhance the feeling of being back at home and enjoying all the familiar comforts…

    I have passed on details of your blog to a friend in Australia and she has also been enjoying reading your book reviews – she tells me you are expanding her literary horizons! That certainly is the case for me, too.

    I hope you are enjoying being back at home surrounded by all your books!

    • Dear Lorna, it’s so lovely to have you stop by! And thank you for reading Simone – she is one of my favourite authors, and a woman who had such a turbulent and extraordinary life that it is simply a gift to anyone who wants to write about her! Actually, I have to confess I’m loving writing these essays. They have all been such fun. So long as no one asks me to tackle anyone still alive; they are so much safer to deal with when they are dead. 😉

      I’m sure I will be giving walking another go. I think Mr Litlove will make sure of that – he enjoys it very much. I think you’re right that I haven’t quite found my landscape yet, and I couldn’t agree more that building up to a longer walk is the exact right strategy. And bless you for passing the blog onto a friend – that is SO kind of you! It is very nice to be home and I confess I rushed around saying hello to all my books when I got back. I know, I know, I’m hovering near that borderline between eccentric and fruitcake! 😉

      • Thank you for your lovely response, and I’m so pleased that you will persevere with the hill walking – it will be worth it, honestly! It’s my absolute pleasure to spread the word about your blog – I can’t hog all this enjoyment to myself! Reading about you saying hello to all your books made me chuckle. I completely relate to that – clearly we share that borderline!

  2. Oops,apologies for the typo; that should have been ‘hill walking’, not ‘hill-walking’, the thought of which is rather alarming!

  3. Those are all three quite fantastic! I liked reading about all the mean things Andre Gide did to his wife. I’ve never liked Andre Gide. Even when he defended Oscar Wilde I could not bring myself to like him — as a side character in Oscar Wilde’s life he always comes off weak-minded and insinuating. Blech.

    (It was brave of him to be open about his sexuality though. Of course. I don’t deny that.)

    • Bless you, dear Jenny. You are not alone in disliking Andre Gide. I remember a woman academic I knew who was researching his books and she didn’t like him at all. She said it made it much easier to write about him. Undoubtedly compared to Oscar he tends to look a bit weedy. Somehow it’s the terrible exchanges he had with his mother that make me laugh. I know I shouldn’t, but somehow, it’s all just so…. funny. You could make a great sitcom out of the lives of the great authors. How come no one has done that already? 😉

  4. Can I add my appreciation of the wonderful Beauvoir article? I have read her works since my 20s and still find it relevant and fascinating. Reading recent biographies and studies has opened my eyes to the situation between her and Sartre (who is *such* a typical man….) but nevertheless she still achieved much, though at quite a personal cost. Your piece really crystallised the conflict she lived with – excellent!

    • Oh thank you so much! I am delighted to find another Beauvoir fan. I love her – she was such an amazing woman for her era, and indeed for any era. I wish I had been there when the new posthumous biographies began to come out and a completely different picture of the relationship between Beauvoir and Sartre was revealed. It must have been quite something!

      • I first read Beauvoir in the early 80s while she was still alive, and I guess I just accepted what she said in her memoirs at face value. I remember seeing an intriguing interview with her on the South Bank Show in about 82 or 83. She dipped out my view a little, while real life got in the way (having a family!) but I came across an excellent biography by Deirdre Bair which came out in the 90s – I felt it was very even handed in its treatment of Beauvoir but it was quite an eye-opener, particularly as to the relationship with Nelson Algren! I have “Beloved Chicago Man” on Mount TBR so she still fascinates….

  5. Lovely to see your writing published so widely! And I have saved these articles to read when I have a bit more time. I haven’t read Gide or Beauvoir but I would love to read your insights about them. My first thought on the Gide one was: How terrible Gide’s wife must have felt to burn his letters like that.

  6. Litlove, while not fond of Gide’s writing (the little I’ve read seemed enough), I appreciate the light you’ve shed on his personal circumstances, and on those of Madeleine. Very well done, and in a compact way, too. Beauvoir will come next.

  7. Oh, oh, oh – how exciting! I can’t wait to read the de Beauvoir in particular – and Gide sounds intolerably selfish. Wonderful to see your talents spreading further afield, darling Litlove!

  8. Curiously, a reference to gritty Chicago writers recently led me to the Wikipedia bio for Nelson Algren. He and de Beauvior were lovers; they spent a summer together at a cabin in Indiana. They didn’t part amicably; in an article for Playboy he unfavorably compared her and Sartre to a prostitute and pimp. But as the author of Man with the Golden Arm and Walk on the Wild Side, perhaps he was prone to such analogies?

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