by Simone de Beauvoir
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 2 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 2 Oct 2021
Random House UK, Vintage, Vintage Classics
'Life without her would be death'
The lost novel from the author of The Second Sex.
The compulsive story of two friends growing up and falling apart.
INTRODUCED BY DEBORAH LEVY.
When Andrée joins her school, Sylvie is immediately fascinated. Andrée is small for her age, but walks with the confidence of an adult. Under her red coat, she hides terrible burn scars. And when she imagines beautiful things, she gets goosebumps... Secretly Sylvie believes that Andrée is a prodigy about whom books will be written.
The girls become close. They talk for hours about equality, justice, war and religion; they lose respect for their teachers; they build a world of their own. But they can't stay like this forever.
Written in 1954, five years after The Second Sex, the novel was never published in Simone de Beauvoir's lifetime. This first English edition includes an afterword by her adopted daughter, who discovered the manuscript hidden in a drawer, and photographs of the real-life friendship which inspired and tormented the author.
TRANSLATED BY LAUREN ELKIN. WITH AN AFTERWORD FROM SYLVIE LE BON DE BEAUVOIR.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 49 members
Novellas are the perfect way to get hard hitting concepts and thought provoking scenes into a story and this book goes beyond that. I was literally enthralled by the characters and their relationship. 5 stars, easy recommend.
Having read Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter it is impossible for me to ignore the echoes of de Beauvoir's autobiography in this novella - in many ways, it's not so much fiction as a candid ode to Zaza/Andrée's tragically brief life. This is very much Andrée's story: the character of Sylvie/Simone only really exists as a shadow to her brilliant and ephemeral friend. Here, de Beauvoir has done all she can to efface herself and give Zaza centre stage. It's probably fair to say that The Inseparables is more powerful as a historical artifact than a piece of literature; it's the context in which this novella was written, rather than its content, that makes it so compelling. The Inseparables is short but perfectly formed - one of those rare, truly poignant stories that seems to slip through your fingers as you read.
I was intrigued to read this previously unpublished work by Simone de Beauvoir and it didn't disappoint. Written in the first person, Sylvie, the narrator (based on the author) paints a vivid picture of her childhood friendship with Andrée. It is this friend (based on de Beauvoir's real life friend, Zaza) who gradually becomes the protagonist and around whom the major events of the story revolve. The storyline itself is strong but it's de Beauvoir's talent as a writer which turns it into something quite outstanding. In spite of its brevity, 'the Inseparables' offers an insight into the lives of girls and women at the time as well as issues of social class. It forces the reader to examine more closely the nature of love and its complexities and one cannot fail to be in awe of Sylvie's selfless attitude in this respect.. I found it unique and think it's a book with many layers, in which I'd discover something new if I were to read it again. Highly recommended.
I have never read any of Simone de Beauvoir’s fiction before - I admit I haven’t read much of her non-fiction either - but this beautiful novella has me itching for more. In The Inseparables, we follow two friends, Andrée and Sylvie, through their childhood and early adulthood. The story is semi-autobiographical, based heavily on Beauvoir’s own friendship with her childhood friend Zaza. It was clearly a very formative friendship for her on a number of levels, ending prematurely with Zaza’s tragic death. It’s impossible to separate the truth from fiction in this story. Having never been published in the author’s lifetime, there is a sense that writing this story was an emotional, cathartic process, as she attempted to put into words what this friendship meant to her. Andrée’s pain and Sylvie’s yearning feel so vivid and real, you can’t help but feel your heart go out to them. It’s also worth mentioning the translator, Lauren Elkin, who not only did a fantastic job of conveying the emotion of the original text (not that I can do a direct comparison) but also wrote a fascinating foreword explaining not only some of the decisions she made in translating the text but also highlighting some details that couldn’t be carried over into English. Both the foreword and the afterword, which gives us an insight into the biographical elements of the story, really added to the reading experience and made me appreciate it all the more. Whether you’re a lifelong fan of Simone de Beauvoir, or if like me you haven’t yet read many of her books, this book is a gem of a must-read. Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a free copy for review. All opinions are my own.