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Part of her world.
TÊTE-À-TÊTE

Simone de Beauvoir’s lover has sold 112 letters from her, to stay part of her legacy

By Thu-Huong Ha

Wading into a literary skirmish, French newspaper Le Monde has published a never-before-seen letter from Simone de Beauvoir to one of her lovers, director Claude Lanzmann.

In the 1953 letter, Beauvoir writes of her devotion to the young Lanzmann, the director of Shoah, who was then in his late twenties—18 years her junior. “I don’t feel myself arriving or leaving, I don’t know where I am, I am nowhere,”  she writes (link in French). “I adore you, body and soul, with all my body and all my soul.”

The letter is one of 112 Lanzmann has sold to Yale University. According to Agence France-Presse, Lanzmann, now 92, fears that Sylvie le Bon de Beauvoir, Beauvoir’s adopted daughter and executrix, would publish all the writer’s letters but the ones to him, and his role in the life of the author of The Second Sex and The Woman Destroyed would be forgotten.

It’s not the first time Beauvoir has been caught up in a posthumous book dispute. Her longtime non-monogamous relationship with philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and their Olympic-level games of lies and predatory seduction were the stuff of literary legend. (After Beauvoir began her affair with Lanzmann, Sartre started one with Lanzmann’s sister, for example.) But the two have separate executrices, and they’ve kept a close watch over Beauvoir and Sartre’s divided legacies. Ten years ago, Le Bon de Beauvoir went head to head with Arlette Elkaïm-Sartre, his adopted daughter—and also, briefly, his lover—over a book about the two French writers.