Loads of Learned Lumber

Friday, December 25, 2015

Simone de Beauvoir, _Une mort très douce_

A SHORT BOOK, more of a long essay, on the final illness and death of Beauvoir's mother--the book club read it this past August, but I never got around to writing a blog entry on it, partly because the school year kicked in and partly because I'm still wondering why she wrote it.

I found myself wishing I had read Mémoires d'une jeune fille bien rangée, published six years before this one. In places Une mort très douce alludes to the ways Beauvoir's mother, who seems a fairly conventional sort of woman, had to come to terms with being a parent of one of France's most prominent and convention-defying intellectuals.  Beauvoir's autobiography probably sheds some valuable cross-illumination on this text, just as Roth's Patrimony does on The Facts (and all of the novels with some version of Herman Roth). Probably.

The title turns out to be ironic--one of the doctors mentions that Beauvoir's mother is going through a relatively easy or gentle death, but the narrative makes clear that even a relatively easy death, with modern medical attention and nationalized health insurance, is arduous enough.

It's a swift read, vivid and immediate. Puts you right in the face of how we die. Maybe that's all the why it needs. Maybe that's also the reason I never felt like writing about it.

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