A Woman to Know: Simone de Beauvoir

Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness. — Simone

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Step No. 1 for any baby feminist. Simone is famously linked to Jean Paul Sartre, her colleague in the French philosophy renaissance of the midcentury. Simone's books are staples on any women's studies course catalogue, from "The Second Sex," her legendarily "pornographic" treatise on the modern female condition, to "The Woman Destroyed," three short stories of ladies at life's crossroads. She became a legend amongst younger feminists in the 60s and 70s: her personal life with Sartre was notoriously unconventional (they shared lovers, swapped partners and more), and her political activism spearheaded the French Women's Liberation in 1970.

All that, yes, of course -- but Simone is also a writer to read just for, well, her writing. Read her "let's call it off" letter (tsk tsk, Simone, like a 20th century breakup text) to fellow writer Nelson Algren. My favorite excerpt:

I am better at dry sadness than cold anger, for I remained dry-eyed until now, as dry as smoked fish, but my heart is a kind of dirty soft custard inside.

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