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The Useless Mouths and Other Literary Writings$
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Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret A. Simons, and Marybeth Timmermann

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036347

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036347.001.0001

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Preface To Amélie 1

Preface To Amélie 1

(p.322) Preface To Amélie 1
The Useless Mouths and Other Literary Writings

Simone de Beauvoir

, Marybeth Timmermann

Janella D. Moy

University of Illinois Press

This book is the true story of a youth that is consumed in a potash mine in Alsace twenty years ago.1 With fascinating precision, it introduces us to the techniques of an exhausting and dangerous job that—at least to my knowledge—has never been described. But its value surpasses, and by far, that of a simple document. In a darkly passionate tone, the author reconstitutes an entire human experience for us—the experience of a “wood-louse of a man who scrapes at the salt nine hundred meters down.” He tells us of his fatigue, his fear, his resignation, his rebellion, his suffering: “A suffering measurable in centigrade degrees, in dry temperature, in liters of sweat lost, in the number of scabs on the skin where the potash penetrates like an acid, like a tongue of fire.” He has us enter into his night: an exhausting obscurity that “consumes both the living strength of man and his thoughts.” Yet something human remains in these annihilated individuals, each of whom feels like “the twin brother of the other.” This humanness is found in the relationships that they maintain with each other. Henri Keller tells us about them ...

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