“I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity.”
I was 15 when I discovered Simone de Beauvoir, who was already a well-known writer and avant-garde philosopher. An article about her life story in the daily newspaper triggered a tremendous curiosity in me. When I finished reading I literally went straight to my local library – along with the bookshop this was my favourite place to spend time – hoping I was able to find some of her books on the dusty shelves.
Before I continue, allow me to make a brief introduction. Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir (1908-1986) was a French writer, intellectual, political activist, feminist, social theorist, existentialist and philosopher. Imagine the mid-twentieth century, a woman and intellectual making a living as a writer. And although she never thought of herself being a philosopher, her work made a significant impact on the further development of both feminist existentialism and feminist theory.
The first book I read was “ Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter”. I was intrigued, hooked to this story about a Bourgeois girl, pushed into isolation after a long but successful struggle freeing herself from a strict catholic upbringing. Simone wrote this first autobiography in 1958. It describes her rebellion against the narrow mindedness of the world around her. She dedicated herself to intellectual labour and so managed to escape what was otherwise predestined.
Although I was raised in a liberal Jewish family so my situation was very different from hers, I took Simone as inspiration and dedicated myself to studying and literature. I decided I would become the new Simone, would go and live in Paris, become a philosopher and polyglot going from one cafe to another where I would meet interesting young writers, artists and poets. Talking all night about art, music, philosophy and most importantly literature.
Here I went to university to study literature which later on also allowed me to continue my research abroad. At some point, I ended up living in Paris for a while. But I, did not meet the interesting people Simone so vividly describes in her books. Then again as a poor student studies and work always had to take precedence over leisure. It was OK, the limited-time I had left I certainly enjoyed myself.
Nowadays on rare occasions, whenever I feel the need to escape daily reality Simone’s novels are still there for me. That is when I go back for a moment in time, being that 15-year-old girl again, even if just so briefly; full of innocence and big dreams, believing that I am free to do whatever I want, as a woman and as a valued member of society.
I thank you, Simone de Beauvoir, for keeping me company all these years.
Monique Lucy Weberink
Las Palmas, 4th of May 2020
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