Simone de Beauvoir and the Algerian war : the struggle for the independance of countries under colonialism with Sartre, the lawyer Gisèle Halimi and the staff of Les Temps Modernes (Modern Times).

October 15th, 2009


Simone de Beauvoir, modernité et engagement, Simone de Beauvoir, modern and committedClaudine Monteil, Ed L’Harmattan ISBN 978-2-296-10025-1 

When I was walking in the streets of Paris next to Simone de Beauvoir, I noticed that she would always move backward and have a moment of hesitation if she was approached by a stranger. I knew that this was because she was traumatized by personal threats during the Algerian war for independence. Her sister, the painter Hélène de Beauvoir told me that Simone received many death threats and Sartre’s apartment was bombed, so they had to move and hide in different locations for almost two years. In my essay I report on Beauvoir’s support for the independence struggles of colonized countries and people who were victims of colonialism as recorded in impressive essays and criticism that her journal Les Temps Modernes (The Modern Times) published for many years. These reports are rarely referenced today but because of the resurgence of torture and colonialism, this work has renewed relevance {and can provide valuable ideas and strategies for countering non-democratic movements.}

I have also included the entire text of the Manifesto of the 121, a statement by Beauvoir, Sartre, and others opposing the Algerian war. In this powerfully voiced appeal, they encouraged French soldiers to desert and thus to refuse to be complicit in the oppression of the Algerian people. I also describe the difficulties that Beauvoir and many intellectuals endured after the publication of the Manifesto, including loosing their jobs and being blacklisted from many occupations. It is noteworthy that Clara Malraux, wife of the French writer André Malraux, and her daughter Florence, signed the Manifesto while Malraux was Cabinet Member for Cultural Affairs for French president General de Gaulle. The Manifesto created quite an uproar and inspired feminists to write the Manifesto of 343 in favour of free abortion in 1971.

Beauvoir also wrote a very well-known preface to {title} the book by the prominent lawyer Gisèle Halimi about Djamila Boupacha, a young woman who was reported to have been tortured by French troops based in Algeria during the war of independence.

In this passage of the essay I also analyze Beauvoir’s reaction in her final years to the condition of women in the Third World countries. She was very concerned about the power of religion against women’s rights. And I show how she and Sartre became extremely popular in the Third World because of this struggle.


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