Disgraceful Affair: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Bianca Lamblin: Women's Life Writings from Around the World

Overview

Bianca Bienenfeld was a seventeen-year-old lycee student when she was seduced both intellectually and sexually by her philosophy professor, Simone de Beauvoir, in 1938. The following year de Beauvoir passed Bianca on to her "essential partner," Jean-Paul Sartre. The three formed a menage a trois until 1940, when Bianca was suddenly abandoned by her dual mentors and lovers. Their lack of concern for Bianca's fate as a Jew in occupied France made the abrupt break even more shattering for her. She began to suffer ...
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Overview

Bianca Bienenfeld was a seventeen-year-old lycee student when she was seduced both intellectually and sexually by her philosophy professor, Simone de Beauvoir, in 1938. The following year de Beauvoir passed Bianca on to her "essential partner," Jean-Paul Sartre. The three formed a menage a trois until 1940, when Bianca was suddenly abandoned by her dual mentors and lovers. Their lack of concern for Bianca's fate as a Jew in occupied France made the abrupt break even more shattering for her. She began to suffer periodic bouts of severe depression linked not only to the Nazi horrors, but to the betrayal by de Beauvoir and Sartre. After World War II, Bianca Bienenfeld (now married to Bernard Lamblin) resumed a platonic friendship with de Beauvoir that lasted more than forty years, but the pain of the old, perturbing affair flooded back when, in 1990, she read de Beauvoir's posthumously published Letters to Sartre and War Journal. The intimate content of these books referred directly to Bianca in a tone of ridicule and contempt, and she finally discovered the full extent of de Beauvoir's deception. Now Bianca explodes with the true story behind her earlier relationship with the high priests of existentialism. Published here in English for the first time, her memoir reveals what it was like to be a third party in the "contingent" affairs of de Beauvoir and Sartre. Bianca's compelling narrative is not written out of revenge or retaliation. Rather, it is an eloquent, candid account of how de Beauvoir and Sartre influenced the shape of her life and how she survived a disgraceful affair that, when broken, almost broke her. Bianca's unique perspective on de Beauvoir and Sartre is the central focus of the book, but not the sole one. She writes about her love for her husband Bernard, who helped her recover. She also describes life during the dark times of German occupation, and recounts witnessing the battle of Vercors during the French Resistance. Her well-crafted and poi
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Always candid, this exceptional account brings to light some intimate—and not too surprising—aspects of the life of Sartre and de Beauvoir." —Library Journal
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this tell-all memoir, Lamblin evens the score between herself and renowned French thinkers-and lovers-de Beauvoir and Sartre. Their mnage trois-begun in 1938 when Lamblin was a 17-year-old student of de Beauvoir (who was 29)-ended when Sartre dismissed her, at de Beauvoir's instigation, right after the outbreak of WW II. The two women maintained a 40-year friendship after the war, but later Lamblin became enraged at de Beauvoir's humiliating account of their threesome in Letters to Sartre, published posthumously, although Lamblin's real name was not used. She also declares the two failed to appreciate the danger to which she was exposed during the war because she was a Jew, and she takes issue with many of the details in Deirdre Bair's Simone de Beauvoir. Whatever one may conclude from the affair, this memoir is fueled by spite rather than insight. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Arguably moving on the one hand and controversial on the other, this work involves two of the most prominent French thinkers of this century, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. It is the story of Bianca Bienenfeld, a 17-year-old student who was seduced by her philosophy professor, de Beauvoir, and then passed on to de Beauvoir's partner/lover Sartre. The three lived in a mnage `a trois between 1939 and 1940, when the relationship ended and the teenager was abandoned. The shock of being let down wasn't easy for the Jewish youngster to bear, especially during those menacing and politically dangerous years. Following the war, Bianca Lamblin, now married, resumed a platonic friendship with de Beauvoir. The former teacher and student met every month for 40 years. After de Beauvoir's death, Bianca was in for yet another disappointment. In the posthumously published Letters to Sartre and War Journal, de Beauvoir contemptuously ridiculed Louise Vedrine, a pseudonym for Lamblin, who found her portrait by someone she thought a close friend vulgar, full of hypocrisy, and upsetting. Always candid, this exceptional account brings to light some intimate-and not too surprising-aspects of the life of Sartre and de Beauvoir. Recommended for large collections.-Ali Houissa, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, N.Y.
Booknews
A translation by Julie Plovnick of the original French publication Memoires d'une jeune fille derangee (Editions Balland, 1993). Bianca Bienenfeld Lamblin's scathing indictment of her mentors'/lovers' callousness and cruelty in their "contingent" affairs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Patricia Hassler
Bianca Bienenfield Lamblin is finally in control of her own story. As she says, she needs at last to be the "subject" of a memoir, not the "object" of further biography. This account is her response to the 1990 publication of Simone de Beauvoir's posthumously published "Letters to Sartre" and "War Journal", in which the author unveiled the depth of her hypocritical disgust toward her protege. At age 17, Bienenfield, a Polish Jew, entered an intellectual and sexual affair with Beauvoir, her professor at the Lycee Moliere. Soon, Beauvoir widened the seduction to include her partner, Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1940, following a two-year menage atrois, Bienenfield was unceremoniously dumped by her two lovers. Her emotional destruction served as a bleak accompaniment to the collapse of her adopted country by Hitler's invading forces. After the war, Lamblin and Beauvoir resumed a relationship that continued platonically for 40 years. Lamblin's memoir recounts the details of her involvement in the infamous threesome, balanced by the counterpoint of her later, loving marriage to Bernard Lamblin. A valuable inside look at the gurus of existentialism and a fascinating perspective of Jewish life during the German occupation.
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