n French Studies in Southern Africa - Simone de Beauvoir :

Volume 2014, Issue 44
  • ISSN : 0259-0247



This article focuses on Simone de Beauvoir's relationship with London before and after World War II. It compares three of her visits to the British capital - 1933, 1947, and 1951 - with two to Berlin in 1934 and 1948. Simone de Beauvoir herself draws parallels between these two major European cities in her memoirs and correspondence. What comes to light in reading and deciphering Simone de Beauvoir's feelings and perceptions is her personal development, her sense of happiness and of History. The three visits to London should be understood as genuine border crossings in the way she sees herself in the world and the manner in which she negotiates the ever present idea of death after 1945. To use literary comparisons, one witnesses the transition from a naive "Mrs Dalloway" in the 1930s to a realistic and grateful "Charles Ryder" in the 1940s. Berlin in 1948 serves a reminder of the meaning of utter destruction, as opposed to the life she had experienced there in 1934 and the renascent London of 1947 and 1951. London, which has not entirely lost its pre-war charm and dignity, stands as strong as it can as a symbol of life whereas defeated and devastated Berlin epitomizes death and nothingness.

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