Revisiting Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ as a Work in Progress

Simone de Beauvoir, the 20th-century French writer and philosopher, published her foundational feminist text “The Second Sex” in 1949, predating by more than a decade the women’s liberation movement that swept the Western world. An impassioned treatise on the female plight under the oppression of a male-dominated work force, this book — with such prescient and controversial themes as the comparison between gender and racial conflicts among the working class — stirred controversy in Europe and America and solidified her legacy as one of history’s most independent and influential thinkers.

It is a legacy that resonates now, nearly 70 years later, more than ever. The new publication of the manuscript pages to “Le Deuxième Sexe,” which she completed between the years of 1946 and 1949, reveals an artist’s creative process: Her adoptive daughter, Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir (herself a philosophy professor), explained that her mother wrote every page of her books longhand before enlisting professional typists to create pages like this one, on which she would make further revisions. According to Le Bon de Beauvoir, therefore, this page — 164 bis, an inserted page between 164 and 165 — would have represented a “more advanced stage of the writing process.”

“This page is particularly significant,” Le Bon de Beauvoir wrote to the Book Review. “De Beauvoir underlines here the historical divorce between two causes: the proletariat cause and the feminist one. There has never been any solidarity between these two categories of oppressed human beings. She confirms this thesis by drawing a parallel with the case of black Americans.”

For Le Bon de Beauvoir, then, this typewritten addendum reveals so much more than just the inner workings of a late avant-garde activist mind: “These lines justify the necessary autonomy of the feminist struggle.”

Copyrighted By nytimes.com. Source

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