Monday, January 16, 2006

Burn Your Idols

Yesterday's Observer carried a particularly enjoyable review by Peter Conrad of Hazel Rowley's book Tête à Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, described as a "fawning double biography."

"Here, Hazel Rowley tells us, we have 'one of the world's legendary couples', snuggled in a shared grave like Abelard and Heloise. I've never been convinced that a love affair that ended in castration is one we should celebrate; to my way of thinking, a better comparison for Sartre and de Beauvoir would be the Macbeths, or perhaps Bill and Hillary Clinton. They were a hard-boiled, predatory pair, joined in a political alliance - co-dependents perhaps (as therapists might say), but not lovers."

Not sure who should be more insulted.


Bill said...

Who is this Peter Conrad, with his sanctimonious moralising about promiscuity and indulging in stimulants, so exemplary of the new puritanism in vogue amongst middle class intellectuals and imposed so dangerously by Blair? What intellectual contributions has he made to humanity? And in what sense, exactly, does Sartre’s preface to Fanon apologise for ‘terrorism’ (with all the shifting senses of that word, so easily pressed into service for the imperialist West who, of course, never practice terror against civilians)? Sartre defends the Algerians’ fight against a particularly brutal colonialist regime and upholds their right to resist that regime by violent means if necessary—the violence of the settlers thrown back at them, as he says. Conrads’s conflation of resistance to oppression with every other form of political violence (apart from that conducted by states) is not uncommon; it’s not clever either, and neither is the attempt to undermine Sartre and De Beauvoir’s stature by high-minded shock at their personal failings.

John said...

Hi Bill--

I'm assuming that this Peter Conrad is the same one who wrote Modern Times, Modern Places, reviewed here by Terry Eagleton:

in which case, this is his CV:

and here he is talking about Orson Wells:

Or were you being rhetorical?