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New Left Review I/159, September-October 1986

Mary Evans

Postscript on de Beauvoir

In her discussion of the books by Judith Okeley and myself on Simone de Beauvoir (nlr 156), Kate Soper raises many useful points and this brief reply is in no sense to quarrel with her interpretation of my work. Yet in writing about Simone de Beauvoir, there is always the appeal of adding one more thing, and that is precisely what I would like to do here. De Beauvoir remarked—as every commentator has pointed out—that if she could re-write her work she would give it a more ‘materialist’ emphasis. Quite what this would mean, in the context of her own remarks about Engels, materialism, Marx et al., must be a matter of conjecture. Nevertheless, de Beauvoir did allow that she would like the opportunity to add at least a few footnotes to her interpretation of the world. So must anyone who has written about her. Here, I would like to suggest that what needs to be added to my interpretation is a recognition of de Beauvoir as myth, and as a mythical figure who has had a profound effect on several generations of women. It is not so much de Beauvoir’s ideas that have become the potent mythical force, but the image of her as the independent woman of ideas.

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