Diskuterade Beauvoir : The Second Sex

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de Beauvoir : The Second Sex

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aug 26, 2013, 5:04pm

Starting this thread a bit early . . . because I just happened to start this book a few days ago and then noticed that you all are reading Simone de Beauvoir during Oct-Dec.

My current (re)read of The Second Sex is of the 2011 translation by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier. I doubt I will finish BEFORE October . . . so even if the rest of you wait until then I will still be reading :)

Like many anglophones, I read the old Parshley translation of The Second Sex way back in college (early 1980s). Then back in 1999 (the 50th anniversary of the book's original publication) I started gathering current critical analyses (such as those by Margaret Simons and Toril Moi) in preparation for an anniversary (re)read. But then I postponed the whole project when I heard there was a new unabridged translation in the works. That translation (by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier) finally appeared in 2011 . . . And I'm finally getting around to my long-delayed (re)read.

I would love to be able to discuss The Second Sex with a group of people who are reading it (regardless of the translation and especially if some of you would be reading the original French).


aug 27, 2013, 2:11am

The second sex has been on my wishlist for a very long time and I definitely intend on reading it (in French). I'll doubt I'll be able to start before October though.
You say that you need a lot of time to read it, is it very long or very complicated? I'm not sure I have the background for fully understanding it...

aug 27, 2013, 1:08pm

Oh, I read that back in the early 70s (apparently, according to LT, in an abridged translation) -- don't remember much, sorry!

aug 28, 2013, 9:56am

My copy is 800 pages of small type. It consists of two volumes, the first half is an exploration of the "Facts and Myths" (in biology, psychology, ,history, literature, etc.) surrounding the concept of "woman". The second volume deals with women's "Lived Experience".

So far the "refreshing" aspect of the book (for me) is the precision of her language . . . I also enjoy that when she describes a theory that may not have much backing in fact, she refers to it as "just rambling" or "only verbiage" :)

This review from The Women's Review of Books provides an overview of the importance of the work and evaluates the new translation:

As this review says, "The new translation is not perfect. How could it be? But it's very much better and can be read with confidence, enlightenment, and pleasure."

It will be great to compare notes with those reading in the original French!
See you in October!

aug 28, 2013, 6:26pm

I just checked my mom's library and it seems we only have the second volume of this book. I'll have to make a search for the first. Or it's just been miscatalogued on LT and we have the actual book. I don't know if I'll read it for the quarter but I like to know that I could.

Redigerat: aug 29, 2013, 2:55am

For the records:

originally published in France by Librairie Gallimard in 1949 under the title, Le Deuxieme Sexe
(2 vols.)

published in England by Jonathan Cape in 1953

First Four Square Edition 1960-The New English Library Ltd Paperback, Second Impression 1956


Chapter I Childhood
Chapter II The Young Girl
Chapter III Sexual Initiation
Chapter IV The Lesbian


Chapter I The Married Woman
Chapter II The Mother
Chapter III Social Life
Chapter IV Prosititues and Hetairas
Chapter V From Maturity to Old Age
Chapter VI Woman's Situation and Character
Chapter VII


Chapter I The Narcissist
Chapter II The Woman in Love
Chapter III The Mystic


Chapter I The Independent Woman


464 pp Translated from the French and edited by H M Parshley

This paperback covered only the original Volume II in French by the orignal writer.(1949-1st Edition)

H.M. Parshley ,1989-2nd Edition translated the two original volumes now considered as one of the unabridged English vertsion.


See many versions and reviews.

Redigerat: aug 29, 2013, 2:56am

aug 29, 2013, 5:06am

This is perfect ! I'm in and I'll be reading the French version! I've been meaning to do an attentive re-read of The Second Sex for ages, ever since I've realised that I hardly remember anything from my first read... Not sure I'll contribute much though, as I tend to be more of a lurker than a poster...
I'll see if I can find second-hand copies of volumes I and II at the bookshop next Saturday. I *could* borrow the first volume from the library again, but then, I'd have to give it back after 3 weeks and I wouldn't be able to underline passages...

aug 29, 2013, 12:01pm

>6 razzamajazz: This outline/description is only of volume II "Lived Experience"

I'll add the contents of Volume I "Facts and Myths" when I get a chance.

And Parshley, though two volumes, is NOT considered to be "unabridged" . . . see the review linked in > 4 for why.

The 2011 Borde and Malovany-Chevallier translation is considered to be the First Complete and Unabridged English translation.

But it's great that some of you will be able to read the original French . . . Alas, I do not have that option :)

Redigerat: aug 30, 2013, 6:16am

See this review, very interesting


Search: The Second Sex

The Adultress Wife



Redigerat: aug 29, 2013, 12:49pm

Yes, I'm familiar with that one . . . read the one I cited for a different perspective (and a take on Moi).

Not sure they would differ on the abridged/unabridged question . . .

You might also want to read the comments by B&M-C and MS at the end of the Moi review . . . i'd say Simons description of the review as "mean-spirited" fits pretty well.

But like I said, I don't care what translations others are reading, I'm more interested in discussing de Beauvoir . . . I've got Parshley, the new one, as well as two books of critical analysis by Margaret Simons and one by Toril Moi . . . I think there's enough there to be worth reading . . . at least for me.

Redigerat: aug 30, 2013, 9:17am

In the Translators' Note to the new translation, much of which you can read by clicking on Look Inside on this Amazon page, the translators explain what Parshley left out and "edited" and what they have done differently in this edition. I will probably buy it, but not sure when I will get around to reading it.

sep 1, 2013, 2:59pm

I got the last copies of Le deuxième sexe I (408 pages) and II (652 pages) off the students' shelves at the local bookshop. I had to buy them new, though. I know there will be a big stack of second-hand copies by the end of the academic year, but that would be too late for this group reading. Clearly, Simone de Beauvoir is being taught in our universities... And here name has been mooted for the Panthéon, where she would be in the company of Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Marie Curie, Voltaire, and other "national heroes". The final decision will be announced at the end of the month (French citizens have 22 days to cast their votes online).

sep 3, 2013, 10:42pm

> 13 Excellent news!

okt 28, 2013, 5:12pm

I've finally got my copy of the book and started reading it. Same remark as Dilara86: in Paris the book can be found in huge piles in all the libraries mostly frequented by students. :)

My first impression when starting reading the introduction is that Beauvoir can _write_. She's really got a good style, making the read quite enjoyable. I didn't expect to laugh while reading the introduction.

I've just finished the second part of the first book.
The first part, Destiny, studies woman through the questions of biology, psychoanalysis and historical materialism. I can't say I cared much for this part, as her conclusions are (and I agree with her on this) that neither biology nor psychoanalysis can explain the role of woman in society. Spending much time on why this is so wasn't very unlightening for me, but I reckon it's necessary for exhaustivity's sake.

I must say I'm a bit sceptical about the beginning of the second part, History. Beauvoir goes way back in time in her history - long before civilisations with any kind of writing -, and gives a somewhat precise description of how women were treated, what were their rights and duties, whether they were respected, etc. I can't help but wonder if it's really possible to know things with such details for such remote times, and if this might be more guessing than history. I was also startled to read that arabic women had more rights before islam, and that the Coran gave them a lower status than they had before. I thought I had heard elsewhere that the Coran was rather advanced at its time concerning women's right. Of course I might be completely mistaken.

I found the History part much more interesting starting from the 18th century.