What have I learned today (Whilt)?
That our public ‘persona’ (if we can afford to have one being popular, charismatic and/or famous) may be completely different from the ‘face’ we have and show to our closest ones. And – that possibly makes the true ‘professional’ – the private, ‘self-contained’ man/woman of riddles, who can be truly discovered as an individual only after his/her death (providing, there is someone being like a ‘witness’ to one’s life).
Witness to my life is a series of letters Jean-Paul Sartre wrote to his life-long, romantic and intellectual partner – Simone de Beauvoir… The correspondence has been edited by de Beauvoir herself, which is especially important considering the private, in moments even intimate contents of these…
That’s the fascinating point – that this generously sized volume shows rather that ‘romantic’ that the ‘intellectual’ side of the relationship between those two brilliant thinkers. One is charmed, amazed and ashamed at the same time joining the company, which – clearly – enjoys perfectly to be left on their own. Hence the obvious question – why did Simone consider to publish all this – de Beauvoir we all know – the sharp, fiercely independent Muse to all the feminists?
The answer to the mystery may lay simply in the title – being ‘a witness’ to somebody’s life, bearing that responsibility to ‘tell the story’ from the perspective, which illuminates and enriches – that’s more important than petty self-protection (‘what would they say reading this?’).
Whoever has in mind the image of Sartre as a dry, stiff -looking genius with the cynical smile wandering on his lips, someone who famously had said: Hell is Others… may be forced to modify it reading something like this:
– “What is this very beautiful way you have of loving me, my dear little girl? It’s your tenderness I’m particularly fond of…”
-” My dearest, you cannot know how I think of you every minute of the day, in this world of mine which is so filled with you…”
And – the years later?:
– “I love you passionately, my love. I long to hold your skinny little body in my arms. And I want to see your coat… Goodbye, my little flower..”.
And so on… so gloriously ‘on’ for over four hundred pages! Who of you there, my dear ladies, doesn’t feel a bit jealous?… Just imagine, such an explosive mixture of the razor-edged intelligence with the emotional intensity and a sophistication of an artist, all made even more inflaming by the sheer beauty and the depth of the personality… All simply radiating in countless confessions, all the glory of the genius that got drunk with passion… And Simone made a right (out of love I bet, couldn’t be otherwise) step – whoever reads this book will never look at Sartre as a philosopher in the same way… She has told her story extremely well, being – indeed- the witness to an exceptional life – the one, who anyone would dream to have…
All fragments quoted: “Witness to my life, The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir 1926-1939” , edited by Simone de Beauvior, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman Macafee, Hamish Hamilton. London, 1992