WASHINGTON — In the late 1940s, Simone de Beauvoir came to the United States for a four-month stay, and wrote about her impressions when she returned to Paris. "In America the individual is nothing," she reported. "Even the appearance of democracy is disappearing from day to day." Fascism, she believed, was about to flourish in the United States. And into her old age, she went on believing that the United States was on the verge of capitalist collapse. All her life she remained a committed, dogmatic Marxist, a convinced atheist, a believer that only commitment gave meaning to life.
De Beauvoir was born in Paris, lived her life and died there last Monday at 78 years old. She had studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, taught for a brief time, and then, in 1943, published her first novel "L'Invitee" (translated into English in 1949 as "She Came to Stay"). Her second novel, "The Blood of Others" ("Le Sang des Autres"), published in 1945, was my first contact with existential thought in fiction, my first encounter with characters intellectually inhibited from action and others who heroically faced the absurdity and injustice of life.
De Beauvoir shared her philosophy with her long-time companion, the late Jean-Paul Sartre, whom she met at the Sorbonne in 1929. They lived close but never together; their liaison became a model for modern young couples amid the growing sexual liberation. Her life was full and free: She professed never to have been lonely after she met Sartre. Marriage to her represented a dangerous denial of personal freedom. She had no children, and believed with Sartre that complete sexual freedom was necessary for intellectual and creative life.