Category: Simone de Beauvoir

book of books – The Blood of Others


The idea behind the timing of reading this book was that it was a sort of companion piece to Iron in the Soul by Jean-Paul Sartre. The prompt was the suggested further reading at the end of the book. The problem was that the library did not have a copy so eBay became the supply route and that took time and in the end this bookby Simone de Beauvoir was not read quite when intended.

That is a shame because this would work well with the Sartre Roads to Freedom trilogy. The same topics are covered and you get a reinforced sense that far from the second world war being the only major thing to happen to the French in the 1930s there was also political unrest that spawned some of the future leadership of the resistance movement.

Plot summary
The book evolves around the relationship of Jean and Helene. There are a series of flashbacks from a point where for reasons unknown Helene is dying that outline how Jean left home and became a communist before rejecting that political line and becoming a trade union leader before finally post invasion becoming part of the resistance. His relationships with his parents go full circle as well with his father initially disliking him for the communism but then becoming proud of his resistance activities. Helene is a young girl trapped in a boring relationship with Paul, a work colleague of Jean’s, and stuck in a dull job. She meets Jean and falls for his independence and sense of clear direction and identity. They become lovers and even plan to marry but when war is in the offing she gets him a desk job back in Paris and he hates her for it and they split up. She eventually comes back to him to ask her to help get a Jewish friend across the border and she starts working for the resistance. In a mission she is fatally wounded and she dies in his arms and Jean, who by now is responsible for hostages dying each time he carries out a bombing or sabotage really does have the blood of others on his hands.

Is it well written?
It starts a little bit clumsy with it not quite clear what is going one and it is only after a little while that you start to understand the time device being used to build up the story from the past to the point of the present. The characters are strong and the small cast makes it feel intimate. But the crucial but here is te exetensialist style that is consitent and is on display in both Jean and Helene. In the end no one can force you to make a decision you don;t feel you want to make or feel honest about and it is the dilemma of having to make a choice that will have a fatal impact on others that is the dilemma that Jean faces that is at the heart of the book, It does gently but firmly grip you and make you want to see it through to some sort of conclusion, which as a measure of the success of the writing is a fairly strong one.

Should it be read?
For those who want to build up a picture of the state in France prior to the war and immediately afterwards then this deserves to be read. The scenes of the retreating army leaving them exposed to the enemy and the Jewish baby being taken away are powerful and not connected with any philosophical style. It is also one route into this prolific but legendarty feminist writer. This seems like a good starting point and she has a real knack of imagining the male motivation and point of view making it a strong book from a characterisation point of view. Overall it deserves to get a look in but the fear is that the start is so liable to leav you confused and lukewarm that you might fail to continue with a book that has some valuable things to say.

Summary
An independent man learns painfully that he cannot make decisions or live a life that is solitary and unconnected with the world around him.

Version read – Penguin paperback

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book of books – The Blood of Others


The idea behind the timing of reading this book was that it was a sort of companion piece to Iron in the Soul by Jean-Paul Sartre. The prompt was the suggested further reading at the end of the book. The problem was that the library did not have a copy so eBay became the supply route and that took time and in the end this bookby Simone de Beauvoir was not read quite when intended.

That is a shame because this would work well with the Sartre Roads to Freedom trilogy. The same topics are covered and you get a reinforced sense that far from the second world war being the only major thing to happen to the French in the 1930s there was also political unrest that spawned some of the future leadership of the resistance movement.

Plot summary
The book evolves around the relationship of Jean and Helene. There are a series of flashbacks from a point where for reasons unknown Helene is dying that outline how Jean left home and became a communist before rejecting that political line and becoming a trade union leader before finally post invasion becoming part of the resistance. His relationships with his parents go full circle as well with his father initially disliking him for the communism but then becoming proud of his resistance activities. Helene is a young girl trapped in a boring relationship with Paul, a work colleague of Jean’s, and stuck in a dull job. She meets Jean and falls for his independence and sense of clear direction and identity. They become lovers and even plan to marry but when war is in the offing she gets him a desk job back in Paris and he hates her for it and they split up. She eventually comes back to him to ask her to help get a Jewish friend across the border and she starts working for the resistance. In a mission she is fatally wounded and she dies in his arms and Jean, who by now is responsible for hostages dying each time he carries out a bombing or sabotage really does have the blood of others on his hands.

Is it well written?
It starts a little bit clumsy with it not quite clear what is going one and it is only after a little while that you start to understand the time device being used to build up the story from the past to the point of the present. The characters are strong and the small cast makes it feel intimate. But the crucial but here is te exetensialist style that is consitent and is on display in both Jean and Helene. In the end no one can force you to make a decision you don;t feel you want to make or feel honest about and it is the dilemma of having to make a choice that will have a fatal impact on others that is the dilemma that Jean faces that is at the heart of the book, It does gently but firmly grip you and make you want to see it through to some sort of conclusion, which as a measure of the success of the writing is a fairly strong one.

Should it be read?
For those who want to build up a picture of the state in France prior to the war and immediately afterwards then this deserves to be read. The scenes of the retreating army leaving them exposed to the enemy and the Jewish baby being taken away are powerful and not connected with any philosophical style. It is also one route into this prolific but legendarty feminist writer. This seems like a good starting point and she has a real knack of imagining the male motivation and point of view making it a strong book from a characterisation point of view. Overall it deserves to get a look in but the fear is that the start is so liable to leav you confused and lukewarm that you might fail to continue with a book that has some valuable things to say.

Summary
An independent man learns painfully that he cannot make decisions or live a life that is solitary and unconnected with the world around him.

Version read – Penguin paperback

book of books – The Blood of Others


The idea behind the timing of reading this book was that it was a sort of companion piece to Iron in the Soul by Jean-Paul Sartre. The prompt was the suggested further reading at the end of the book. The problem was that the library did not have a copy so eBay became the supply route and that took time and in the end this bookby Simone de Beauvoir was not read quite when intended.

That is a shame because this would work well with the Sartre Roads to Freedom trilogy. The same topics are covered and you get a reinforced sense that far from the second world war being the only major thing to happen to the French in the 1930s there was also political unrest that spawned some of the future leadership of the resistance movement.

Plot summary
The book evolves around the relationship of Jean and Helene. There are a series of flashbacks from a point where for reasons unknown Helene is dying that outline how Jean left home and became a communist before rejecting that political line and becoming a trade union leader before finally post invasion becoming part of the resistance. His relationships with his parents go full circle as well with his father initially disliking him for the communism but then becoming proud of his resistance activities. Helene is a young girl trapped in a boring relationship with Paul, a work colleague of Jean’s, and stuck in a dull job. She meets Jean and falls for his independence and sense of clear direction and identity. They become lovers and even plan to marry but when war is in the offing she gets him a desk job back in Paris and he hates her for it and they split up. She eventually comes back to him to ask her to help get a Jewish friend across the border and she starts working for the resistance. In a mission she is fatally wounded and she dies in his arms and Jean, who by now is responsible for hostages dying each time he carries out a bombing or sabotage really does have the blood of others on his hands.

Is it well written?
It starts a little bit clumsy with it not quite clear what is going one and it is only after a little while that you start to understand the time device being used to build up the story from the past to the point of the present. The characters are strong and the small cast makes it feel intimate. But the crucial but here is te exetensialist style that is consitent and is on display in both Jean and Helene. In the end no one can force you to make a decision you don;t feel you want to make or feel honest about and it is the dilemma of having to make a choice that will have a fatal impact on others that is the dilemma that Jean faces that is at the heart of the book, It does gently but firmly grip you and make you want to see it through to some sort of conclusion, which as a measure of the success of the writing is a fairly strong one.

Should it be read?
For those who want to build up a picture of the state in France prior to the war and immediately afterwards then this deserves to be read. The scenes of the retreating army leaving them exposed to the enemy and the Jewish baby being taken away are powerful and not connected with any philosophical style. It is also one route into this prolific but legendarty feminist writer. This seems like a good starting point and she has a real knack of imagining the male motivation and point of view making it a strong book from a characterisation point of view. Overall it deserves to get a look in but the fear is that the start is so liable to leav you confused and lukewarm that you might fail to continue with a book that has some valuable things to say.

Summary
An independent man learns painfully that he cannot make decisions or live a life that is solitary and unconnected with the world around him.

Version read – Penguin paperback

The Blood of Others – post V

The book ends with Jean not only for spilling the blood of others but also once again treated differently from those around him. He is also left without Helene who dies in his arms after being injured in a mission that Jean feels he could have stopped her from carrying out. Again there is a real sense here of the no win situation the resistance were in because for every Nazi they killed the retribution against their countrymen was severe.

At the risk of pre-empting a review it is safe to say that would be a great companion piece to the Jean-Paul Sartre’s Road to Freedom trilogy with the same themes and the same feelings covered.

Bullet points between pages 220 – 240

* Helene is shaken out of her plodding routine by her Jewish friend Yvonne who has to go into hiding because the Germans are rounding up the Jews and deporting them back to the concentration camps

* Helene witnesses a woman being torn apart from her baby with the soldiers assuring her that they will soon be reunited and the woman cries her name “Ruth” as the truck carries her away

* After those two incidents Helene goes to call on Jean to try and get Yvonne away into the free zone and asks if she can work for him and although reluctant he accepts because it is not his place to decide other people’s decisions

* He wants to go in her place but the committee has decreed that he is too important to the organisation and cannot risk his life – something that again separates him from the workingmen and women around him making him feel bourgeois

* Helene must have been wounded and she lays dying and does so finally in his arms and all the time Laurent, one of the resistance fighters keeps asking Jean if he will agree to laying a bomb, something that will be paid for with the death of hostages the German’s will shoot in reprisals

* Jean has already faced the wrath of his mother who told him to turn himself over to the authorities and face the consequences of his actions rather than let other people die but that along with his guilt for Helene and his friends is the guilt he is carrying

A review will follow shortly…

The Blood of Others – post V

The book ends with Jean not only for spilling the blood of others but also once again treated differently from those around him. He is also left without Helene who dies in his arms after being injured in a mission that Jean feels he could have stopped her from carrying out. Again there is a real sense here of the no win situation the resistance were in because for every Nazi they killed the retribution against their countrymen was severe.

At the risk of pre-empting a review it is safe to say that would be a great companion piece to the Jean-Paul Sartre’s Road to Freedom trilogy with the same themes and the same feelings covered.

Bullet points between pages 220 – 240

* Helene is shaken out of her plodding routine by her Jewish friend Yvonne who has to go into hiding because the Germans are rounding up the Jews and deporting them back to the concentration camps

* Helene witnesses a woman being torn apart from her baby with the soldiers assuring her that they will soon be reunited and the woman cries her name “Ruth” as the truck carries her away

* After those two incidents Helene goes to call on Jean to try and get Yvonne away into the free zone and asks if she can work for him and although reluctant he accepts because it is not his place to decide other people’s decisions

* He wants to go in her place but the committee has decreed that he is too important to the organisation and cannot risk his life – something that again separates him from the workingmen and women around him making him feel bourgeois

* Helene must have been wounded and she lays dying and does so finally in his arms and all the time Laurent, one of the resistance fighters keeps asking Jean if he will agree to laying a bomb, something that will be paid for with the death of hostages the German’s will shoot in reprisals

* Jean has already faced the wrath of his mother who told him to turn himself over to the authorities and face the consequences of his actions rather than let other people die but that along with his guilt for Helene and his friends is the guilt he is carrying

A review will follow shortly…

The Blood of Others – post IV

Because it is the weekend and a lot has been going on today with school fairs and working in the house all I am aiming to do is read the remaining 40 pages of The Blood of Others in two readings.

By now the uncertainty of the start has long been forgotten and the way de Beauvoir weaves the past and the present has actually become familiar and you start to appreciate the way she is building the story to its climax. The other point that has to be made for her is a wonderful ability to put herself into the heads of both strong male and female characters and the way she describes Jean’s thinking is incredibly perceptive.

Bullet points between pages 200 – 220

* Helene splits from Denise and her family and heads back into Paris after hitching a lift with the Germans who are taking supplies and villagers back into the capital, which is deserted and feels like a Sunday afternoon, but a particularly strange one

* Then there is a skip ion time and Helene is working for a German and even considering going to Berlin but at the moment when she has to commit she backs out because she is ashamed to be collaborating

* Then the story moves to Jean who meets his old friend Marcel who has escaped from the prisoner of war camp and is bemused to find his friend running a resistance movement that involves ‘terrorism’ as he describes it but at the same time he thoroughly approves

Last pages tomorrow…

The Blood of Others – post IV

Because it is the weekend and a lot has been going on today with school fairs and working in the house all I am aiming to do is read the remaining 40 pages of The Blood of Others in two readings.

By now the uncertainty of the start has long been forgotten and the way de Beauvoir weaves the past and the present has actually become familiar and you start to appreciate the way she is building the story to its climax. The other point that has to be made for her is a wonderful ability to put herself into the heads of both strong male and female characters and the way she describes Jean’s thinking is incredibly perceptive.

Bullet points between pages 200 – 220

* Helene splits from Denise and her family and heads back into Paris after hitching a lift with the Germans who are taking supplies and villagers back into the capital, which is deserted and feels like a Sunday afternoon, but a particularly strange one

* Then there is a skip ion time and Helene is working for a German and even considering going to Berlin but at the moment when she has to commit she backs out because she is ashamed to be collaborating

* Then the story moves to Jean who meets his old friend Marcel who has escaped from the prisoner of war camp and is bemused to find his friend running a resistance movement that involves ‘terrorism’ as he describes it but at the same time he thoroughly approves

Last pages tomorrow…