A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren

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9781565844223: A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren

The "amazing" (Los Angeles Times) and "engrossing" (Publishers Weekly) love letters of Simone de Beauvoir to Nelson Algren. Called "intimate, intelligent, and sincere" by The New Yorker, the more than three hundred love letters written by Simone de Beauvoir to Nelson Algren after their love-at-first-sight meeting in 1947 are collected for the first time in A Transatlantic Love Affair. A unique cross between a personal memoir and an insider's intellectual history of Left Bank life in post-war Paris, this "tender and intimate" (Booklist) collection chronicles their passionate affair, spanning twenty years and four continents. Penned as she was writing The Mandarins, America Day by Day, and The Second Sex, the letters provide a new backdrop for those now classic works. Frank, tender, and often humorous, they are praised by The Nation as "fascinating" and by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as "reveal[ing] a lighter, funnier, and more physically sensuous de Beauvoir than we are used to."

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Review:

Simone de Beauvoir met Nelson Algren in Chicago in February 1947, when a mutual friend arranged for him to serve as her tour guide for two days. The attraction was immediate, and within two months they were in love. Because Algren was so alien to de Beauvoir's world, she spent time describing events and people to him she might otherwise have taken for granted. The result is that de Beauvoir's 300 surviving letters to Algren are unusually rich in detail--love letters with a conscious undercurrent of French social history. Translated and annotated by Kate Leblanc, they offer amusing insights into postwar Parisian life and characters, delivered with the charm of the nonnative writer.

In one letter, de Beauvoir sums up Albert Camus as "an interesting but difficult guy. When he was not pleased with the book he was writing, he was very arrogant; now, he has got a rather great success and he has become very modest and sincere." She coolly describes a dinner party where she witnessed the separation of the apexes of mind and body: "Sartre was alone in a corner, eating sadly some corned-beef, and I sat in front of Rita Hayworth, trying to speak to her, and looking at her beautiful shoulders and breasts which could have made so many men crazy but which were so useless for me." This is essential reading for devotees of the Paris literary scene and other literary romantics. --Regina Marler

About the Author:

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) is best known for her existentialist and feminist writing, including The Second Sex, The Mandarins (winner of the Prix Goncourt), The Coming of Age, and America Day by Day. Editor of the monthly Paris review Les Temps Modernes with her lifelong companion, writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, she met novelist Nelson Algren (1909-1981), author of Never Come Morning, The Man With the Golden Arm (winner of the National Book Award), The Neon Wilderness, and A Walk on the Wild Side, in Chicago in 1947.

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de Beauvoir, Simone; Beauvoir, Simone de
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