Rachel Mann on The Inseparables by Simone de Beauvoir

The Inseparables by Simone de Beauvoir is the choice for this month’s Church Times Book Club. On the podcast this week, Rachel Mann, who has written this month’s book club essay about the book, is in conversation with Sarah Meyrick.

The Inseparables is published by Vintage at £9.99 (Church Times Bookshop £8.99); 978-1-78487-718-7.

The Inseparables is an autobiographical novel that was never published in Simone de Beauvoir’s lifetime, as it was considered too intimate for publication at the time of its writing in the 1950s. It covers the real-life story of de Beauvoir’s adolescent relationship with Zaza, which had a profound effect on the philosopher’s thinking and writing. Zaza died at the age of 21. In the book, Zaza is represented by the character Andrée Gallard, and the author appears as the narrator, Sylvie Lepag. Set in France just after the First World War, the story follows their ten-year relationship from the age of nine, describing their in-depth discussions about equality, justice, and religion. Their teachers deemed them “inseparable”.

The late Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) is heralded as being one of the most important philosophers and feminists of the 20th century. She worked alongside the French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, and became one of the leaders of the existentialist movement. Her writing included work on philosophy, feminism, fiction, autobiography, and politics. Her books include the novel The Mandarins (1957), which won the Prix Goncourt. The author is best known for her influential philosophical work The Second Sex (1949) — a work of feminist philosophy which was put on the Vatican’s Index of Prohibited Books.

The Church Times Book Club is run in association with the Festival of Faith and Literature. Tickets are now on sale for the next Festival, which takes place in Winchester from 24 to 26 February. For more information and to buy tickets, visit here.

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