It was at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Paris that Simone de Beauvoir met Jean-Paul Sartre with whom she forged a legendary relationship, “a necessary love” that only death would separate. In 1929, she was second in the philosophy aggregation competition, just behind Jean-Paul Sartre.
Simone de Beauvoir was appointed to Marseille while Jean-Paul Sartre was posted to Le Havre. To facilitate their rapprochement, he offers to marry her, but Simone refuses, because for her, “marriage doubles family obligations and all social chores. By altering our relations with others, it would have fatally altered those who existed between us.” The following year, however, she managed to reproach herself by obtaining a position in Rouen. Bisexual, Simone de Beauvoir maintains relations with some of her students, “contingent loves” that her “pact” with Jean-Paul Sarre allows her to know.
The Sartre-Beauvoir couple was transferred to Paris shortly before the war. Unse satisfied with the teaching profession, she abandoned it in 1943 to pursue a literary career. Together with Sartre, Raymond Aron, Michel Leiris, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Boris Vian and other left-wing intellectuals, she founded in 1945 the magazine “Modern Times” whose aim is to make existentialism known through contemporary literature. Through her novels and essays, in which she deals with her commitment to communism, atheism and existentialism, she obtained her financial independence which allowed her to devote herself entirely to writing.
Simone de Beauvoir travels to many countries where she meets communist figures such as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, Richard Wright.
She gained notoriety by publishing The Second Sex in 1949, a philosophical and feminist essay, which became the reference of modern feminism and revealed her as a great theorist of the women’s liberation movement around the world. Indignant at seeing the woman treated as an erotic object, she describes a society where the woman is kept in a state of inferiority and advocates “equality in difference” and the emancipation of women.
Her analysis of the female condition through myths, civilizations, religions, anatomy and traditions is scandalous, and especially the chapter where she talks about motherhood and abortion, equated with homicide at that time. As for marriage, she considers it as a bourgeois institution as repugnant as prostitution when the woman is under the domination of her husband and cannot escape it.
Simone de Beauvoir won the Goncourt Prize in 1954 with Les Mandarins, a novel that features Parisian intellectuals confronting their views on French society after the Second World War. It is dedicated by Nelson Algren, an American communist writer who has had an intense relationship with Simone since 1949. Beginning in 1958, she published a series of autobiographical stories about her prejudiced environment, her efforts to get out of it, her relationship with Sartre.
Simone de Beauvoir played an important role in the struggles of Gisèle Halimi and Elisabeth Badinter for the recognition of the torture inflicted on women during the Algerian War and for the right to abortion that another Simone, Simone Veil, would get hard in 1974 by having it enshrined in French law.
After the death of Jean-Paul Sartre in 1980, she made Sylvie Le Bon, a young philosophy student known in the 1960s, her adopted daughter and the heir to her literary work. Simone de Beauvoir shares the same grave as Jean-Paul Sartre at the Montparnasse cemetery.