10 Great Quotations from Simone de Beauvoir on her Birthday

Simone de Beauvoir (or, to give her full name, Simone-Lucie-Ernestine-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir), is perhaps best known as the author of the feminist treatise The Second Sex (1949) and as the long-term lover of Jean-Paul Sartre. Since she was born on this day in 1908 – at four in the morning, according to her memoirs – we thought we’d gather together ten of her most thought-provoking quotations.

1. I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.

The Blood of Others (1946)

2. Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it.

Force of Circumstances vol. III (1963)

3. What is an adult? A child blown up by age.

A Woman Destroyed (1967)

4. Let us try to assume our fundamental ambiguity. It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting.

The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947)

5. One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

The Second Sex (1949)

Simone de Beauvoir6. To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have her independent existence and she will continue none the less to exist for him also: mutually recognising each other as subject, each will yet remain for the other an other. The reciprocity of their relations will not do away with the miracles — desire, possession, love, dream, adventure — worked by the division of human beings into two separate categories; and the words that move us — giving, conquering, uniting — will not lose their meaning. On the contrary, when we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy that it implies, then the ‘division’ of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.

The Second Sex (1949)

7. It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life’s parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it preserves it by giving it the absolute dimension. Death does away with time.

The Coming of Age (1970)

8. Society cares about the individual only in so far as he is profitable. The young know this. Their anxiety as they enter in upon social life matches the anguish of the old as they are excluded from it.

The Coming of Age (1970)

9. Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.

- Quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations (2007)

10. I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth — and truth rewarded me.

All Said and Done (1972)

Image: French philosopher-writer Jean Paul Sartre and writer Simone De Beauvoir arriving at Israel and welcomed by Avraham Shlonsky and Leah Goldberg at Lod airport (14/03/1967), © 1967 Government Press Office, share alike licence.

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14 thoughts on “10 Great Quotations from Simone de Beauvoir on her Birthday

  1. Hurray for Simone de Beauvoir! A woman who thought at an exulted level and lived in confusion, and yet who wrote fiction about women on the verge of nervous breakdowns and memoirs about her strong, steady progress through life. She was so ahead of her time, and so much a product of it.

  2. Pingback: 10 Great Quotations from Simone de Beauvoir on her Birthday | Teresa Wymore

  3. After post-structuralist feminism’s strong disenchantment with Simone de Beauvoir, this blog post makes me want to revisit the woman who made all that disenchantment possible, revisit her pioneering theoretical texts as well as her dry but well-crafted, engaging, and often-undervalued fiction!

  4. Pingback: Simone de Beauvoir | Plans & What We Did In Class

  5. It’s a shame that such figures don’t receive mainstream attention. While De Beauvoir provides a structural backbone for feminism and lit theory, so many are craving for her mainstream presence! Articles like this one help do that!

  6. Pingback: Writing, Reading and Watching Links (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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