This introductory chapter presents the literary writings of Simone de Beauvoir (1908–86), the renowned French existentialist author of The Second Sex. Such insight into her own thought is often provided by Beauvoir's prefaces to works by other authors. For instance, Beauvoir's 1964 “Preface” to La Bâtarde has been described as more reflective of her philosophy than of author Violet Leduc's life. Beauvoir's confrontation with her critics is another source of drama in this study. A criticism that spans the decades of these texts is the charge that an existential novel, with its focus on action and philosophical questions, forsakes the aesthetic function of literature. Yet, for Beauvoir, the true mission of the writer is to describe in dramatic form the relationship of the individual to the world in which he stakes his freedom.
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