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The French philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) was at the height of her influence after the publication of her landmark feminist treatise The Second Sex (1949) and of her acclaimed novel The Mandarins (1954). In the wake of the Second World War, alongside Albert Camus as well as her lover Jean-Paul Sartre, she had set out to usher in a new society built around ideals of freedom and justice. In doing so, the trio had also helped to ignite movements in the US and France whose adherents sought to spread existentialist philosophy through writing and art – or, at the very least, have a raucous good time. By the time this interview with Beauvoir aired on Canadian television in 1959, Camus and Sartre had already fallen out over communism and abandoned the existentialist label. Still, Beauvoir is able to make a compelling point for the value of ideology even as she distances the values of the existentialist cause from, in the interviewer’s words, the ‘noisy, rowdy jazz-loving young people’ they inspired. In this wide-ranging interview, Beauvoir also discusses her views on the intersection of philosophy and political activism, and the condition of women worldwide, offering insights into the cultural moment as well as her deeply held beliefs on philosophy and the human condition.
For more on Beauvoir, read this Aeon Idea.
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