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They are one of the world's legendary couples. We can't think of one without thinking of the other. Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre -- those passionate, freethinking existentialist philosopher-writers -- had a committed but notoriously open union that generated no end of controversy. With Tete-a-Tete, distinguished biographer Hazel Rowley offers the first dual portrait of these two colossal figures and their intense, often embattled relationship. Through original interviews and access to new primary sources, Rowley portrays them up close, in their most intimate moments.

We witness Beauvoir and Sartre with their circle, holding court in Paris cafes. We learn the details of their infamous romantic entanglements with the young Olga Kosakiewicz and others; of their efforts to protest the wars in Algeria and Vietnam; and of Beauvoir's tempestuous love affair with Nelson Algren. We follow along on their many travels, involving meetings with dignitaries such as Roosevelt, Khrushchev, and Castro. We listen in on the couple's conversations about Sartre's Nausea, Being and Nothingness, and Words, and Beauvoir's The Second Sex, The Mandarins, and her memoirs. And we hear the anguished discussions that led Sartre to refuse the Nobel Prize.

The impact of their writings on modern thought cannot be overestimated, but Beauvoir and Sartre are remembered just as much for the lives they led. They were brilliant, courageous, profoundly innovative individuals, and Tete-a-Tete shows the passion, energy, daring, humor, and contradictions of their remarkable, unorthodox relationship. Theirs is a great story -- and a great story is precisely what Beauvoir and Sartre most wanted their lives to be.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061852909
List price: $7.99
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I read this after reading Carole Seymour-Jones's similar book A Dangerous Liaison. Both are well-written, informative books, and neither leaves me terribly impressed with Sartre and Beauvoir. In contrast to this book, A Dangerous Liaison weighs the moral character of the two subjects, finding them lacking in their propensity for seducing their minor students; their failure to put up a meaningful resistance to the Nazis (while afterwards claiming to have been defiant heroes); their willfully blind support of the USSR; and the lies and harm to third parties required to maintain their pact. With the exception of their behavior during World War II, which is dealt with only briefly, Hazel Rowley discusses these things, but pretty much without passing judgment.I don't regard philosophers and intellectuals as people who necessarily deserve reverence. Like everybody else, they are as they do. They seriously undercut their moral pronouncements when even they can't live by them. Both of these books make it clear that Sartre and Beauvoir were liars and hypocrites, and their pact has only novelty to commend it. In fact, their freedom came at the cost of deceiving their "contingent" lovers, and the whole polyamorous throng was roiled by jealousy and back-biting. Asked how he dealt with his various women, Sartre admitted that he lied to all of them, especially to Beauvoir.An interesting look at the realities of a much bally-hooed partnership.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Okay - I'm not going to write a proper review of this (after all, I struggle to review fiction - I wouldn't know where to begin reviewing non-fiction) but Tete-a-Tete only deepened my fascination with Sartre and de Beauvoir. If you're a fellow devotee, I can't recommend this book highly enough.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An very worthwhile biography..... very interesting on so many levels (psychological, historical/context, ethical/moral, spiritual/existential). As Irvin D. Yalom has so well pointed out, all of us struggle with some basic existential issues (e.g., life, death and anxiety), and Simone and Jean Paul were no exception. In fact, it seems they struggled with these universal questions more than most of us. I found the book exceptional and many of the critics come to the biography with what seems so clear to an outsider - preconceived notions and biases about these 2 extraordinary people. I found it interesting that Sartre struggled with "guilt" over the suicide of one of his girl friends. He was also very "deceitful" (intentionally choose to not be completely honest) when it came to his concurrent lovers.In the end, I found Simone's life story to be the much more interesting.... as one of the first feminists of her generation. Just goes to show you what an education in philosophy can do...... powerful individuals, powerful message and an excellent author. This review is for the 2006 paperback edition by Hazel Rowley. 4 1/2 stars. Paul Floyd, Mpls, MNread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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I read this after reading Carole Seymour-Jones's similar book A Dangerous Liaison. Both are well-written, informative books, and neither leaves me terribly impressed with Sartre and Beauvoir. In contrast to this book, A Dangerous Liaison weighs the moral character of the two subjects, finding them lacking in their propensity for seducing their minor students; their failure to put up a meaningful resistance to the Nazis (while afterwards claiming to have been defiant heroes); their willfully blind support of the USSR; and the lies and harm to third parties required to maintain their pact. With the exception of their behavior during World War II, which is dealt with only briefly, Hazel Rowley discusses these things, but pretty much without passing judgment.I don't regard philosophers and intellectuals as people who necessarily deserve reverence. Like everybody else, they are as they do. They seriously undercut their moral pronouncements when even they can't live by them. Both of these books make it clear that Sartre and Beauvoir were liars and hypocrites, and their pact has only novelty to commend it. In fact, their freedom came at the cost of deceiving their "contingent" lovers, and the whole polyamorous throng was roiled by jealousy and back-biting. Asked how he dealt with his various women, Sartre admitted that he lied to all of them, especially to Beauvoir.An interesting look at the realities of a much bally-hooed partnership.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Okay - I'm not going to write a proper review of this (after all, I struggle to review fiction - I wouldn't know where to begin reviewing non-fiction) but Tete-a-Tete only deepened my fascination with Sartre and de Beauvoir. If you're a fellow devotee, I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An very worthwhile biography..... very interesting on so many levels (psychological, historical/context, ethical/moral, spiritual/existential). As Irvin D. Yalom has so well pointed out, all of us struggle with some basic existential issues (e.g., life, death and anxiety), and Simone and Jean Paul were no exception. In fact, it seems they struggled with these universal questions more than most of us. I found the book exceptional and many of the critics come to the biography with what seems so clear to an outsider - preconceived notions and biases about these 2 extraordinary people. I found it interesting that Sartre struggled with "guilt" over the suicide of one of his girl friends. He was also very "deceitful" (intentionally choose to not be completely honest) when it came to his concurrent lovers.In the end, I found Simone's life story to be the much more interesting.... as one of the first feminists of her generation. Just goes to show you what an education in philosophy can do...... powerful individuals, powerful message and an excellent author. This review is for the 2006 paperback edition by Hazel Rowley. 4 1/2 stars. Paul Floyd, Mpls, MN
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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