30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2004
For various reasons I'm no fan of Simone de Beauvoir, but her All Men are Mortal is one of the ten best novels I have ever read. The book is about a man, Fosca, telling the story of his life, which started 6 centuries ago. Fosca is immortal and has lived through many important historical episodes, such as revolutions and conflict, and he has also loved a number of women in his life. The first thought that comes to mind when thinking of an immortal person is "what a lucky guy". However, as this book clearly shows, without death, life has no meaning. For instance, Fosca goes into battle, but knows deep down he risks nothing and he is not the hero his fellow soldiers think he is. But the most memorable part of the book describes his relation to the woman he has loved most in his long life. Although Fosca tries to hide the fact he always remains as young while his wife ages, she eventually discovers the truth and rejects him because she says his devotion to her means nothing : she is devoting her life to him while he will have hundreds of other wives after her. Without sacrificing our life or part of it, we give nothing. At the end of the book Fosca wants nothing more than to be able to die like every other mortal human in order to give a meaning to his life. Too long as a book, but with profound implications. Unforgettable
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 1997
Indeed an unusual, and award winning novel. This book is for people who see life as being more than the mere physical. For those unfamiliar with Simone de Beauvoir, she was the long time companion and lover of John Paul Sartre - one of the forefathers of existentialism. The book although not intentful of an introduction to existentialism, can't help but be an allusive arguement between the author and her own beleifs and those of the existential movement.
The heroine, Regina, is an actress. Self absorbed, cruel to others without understanding of why, competetive and needing the undivided attention of the world around her. As an initiate into the nunhood, the realisation that she could not command the love of God for only herself, transformed her into the character we find at the time this story takes place.
The story truly begins when she sees a man, Fosca, laying on the ground staring at the sky hour after hour..day after day. His lack of admiration for the world around him, and his lack of attention to her, only spurs her further to force herself into his world. Fosca unwillingly is drawn slowly into her life, and reveals his history and a strange secret. He is immortal. What unfolds is Regina replacing God with Fosca. God could not love only her. But Fosca is immortal, therefor he is also God-like. By replacing God with Fosca, Regina feels that if he were to love only her, she too would be immortal (so to speak) and larger than life. What more could a self-absorbed woman ask for than to be immortalised in the minds of men?
This gothic novel with all it's history and battles, examines the state of humaness and the state of Godliness. When reading this novel, one can't help but feel the sadness of both experiences. The endless loneliness of being a God..seeing all of the creations of man have an end. And the
short-sightedness of being human where we only see the beginnings of our own creations.
This book is the meat and potatoes for those readers who enjoy works that prods them to come to new thoughts and revelations. It is also for readers who enjoy the historical tones of gothic novels. Pick up this book and discover the passion and intelect of the universe around you.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
In teaching undergraduates Existentialism, I found this book to be a wonderful addition to Sartre's _Being and Nothingness_, Buber's _I and Thou_ and Marcuse's _One-Dimensional Man._ In the novel, especially in the Prologue, De Beauvoir hits all the right chords and themes--the uneasy duality and unity of being-for-self and being-for Others; the necessity and contingency of facticity; the surpassing power of transcendence. Students seem to 'rest their eyes' from the abstract power of dialectic in Sartre and Marcuse on the very concrete descriptions that de Beauvoir offers. Following the novel with her _Ethics of Ambiguity_ only served to ground students further in the character of existentialism and its necessary outpouring into a finite, meaningful, ethical life. A good companion to this piece would be John Russon's _Human Experience_, especially the chapter he has on Memory and how we deposit our memories into the things of our experience. With that in mind, even ordinary passages of the novel, like the one in the Prologue where Annie makes Fosca pancakes and Regina wants them too, despite herself, take on much more meaning. For whom is the absolute? For the one who eats pancakes, the one for whom pancakes matter even when she doesn't want to want them.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2001
I haven't read any of De Beauvoir's books before. I bought this book at the advice of Amazon.com while purchasing another. What an extraordinary piece of work!
This is a story for realists who will not be disappointed! There are pangs which are meant to dishearten times, but they are counterbalanced with revelations of faith and warmth --everything in small doses. You just may find out more about yourself as you turn the pages, as this book is highly analytical and presses for self-exploration.
If you are fascinated by history, you will be easily drawn into the pages of this book and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells which surround you.
I have truly enjoyed reading this and being spun into the fabrics of its philosophy. Thank you, Amazon!!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2001
This book has tremendous breadth. It begins focussing at first on the petty and the small mindedness of an actress... it then expands into a very detailed and inspired history through Italy and then Europe. I don't know how historically accurate the Europe is portrayed, but I found it to be far more than enthralling than any history book.
Can you imagine what it is like trying to unify a Europe and then to see it shattered apart by Luther? Can you imagine the frustrations of endless battles and economic changes... And yet, it makes you wonder how the great changes in history did come about... as the book says, perhaps because they were ready for defeat, they believed they could conquer.
Finally the book is an excellent and compelling treatise on existentialism: the idea that man is unique and alone in an indifferent universe, where action and total involvement are truly what matters. Again this book is more entertaining than most books steadily directed towards teaching philosophy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2008
There's never enough time in a day to accomplish all that you would like to do...unless, perhaps, you knew had eternity to do whatever floats your boat. Imagine a wizened beggar offering you a dusty old bottle filled with cloudy green liquid and telling you it's the "elixir of immortality" (p.84)...do you dare drink it?
In All Men Are Mortal, Simone de Beauvoir weaves philosophy and history within a fantastic tale of one man's journey into immortality. First you meet Regina, a petty, vain, self-centered, young actress, who desires immortality. When she meets the odd stranger Raymond Fosca in Rouen, she decides to bring him home with her to Paris to "bring him back to his senses," as her boyfriend Roger tells another friend. (p. 18) When Fosca reveals to her he is immortal, she wants to cling to him, hoping to somehow benefit from his immortality.
She alone wants to exist for Fosca, despite Roger's admonition that "it's better to be loved by someone who's mortal, but who only loves you." (p. 39). Fosca knows better; he has already loved--more than once. He leaves her and Paris, but Regina finds him again. Why won't he return, she asks? She entreats him to tell his story to her to help her understand his "curse", and thus she (and you!) is propelled backwards and forwards into Fosca's immortal life.
There is so much history in this story that I was compelled to look up certain historical figures such as Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Martin Luther, whom I'm only vaguely familiar with from jr. high history. It was then that I realized de Beauvoir had to have meticulously researched A LOT of history in order to seamlessly weave Fosca into medieval times through the 20th century...amazing!
Through Fosca, you see how others view him as an immortal, and yet you see how his character becomes numb, having accomplished just about everything a man can do in life--knowing he doesn't have a deadline to meet. He makes seemingly rash (selfish) decisions as well as thoughtful ones (thinking of others), through the centuries. For sure, he has a very adventurous life--but at what cost?
Only late night hours forced me to stop reading--otherwise, this was hard to put down. It kept me engaged with Fosca's thoughts and emotions...I thoroughly enjoyed it!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2002
This haunting book is about a ruler of an Italian city-state who believes that he can make his fiefdom a prosperous and contented utopia if only he is given enough time to do so. He eventually attains the gift of immortality, but soon realizes that people cannot or will not change; rather they make the same mistakes over and over again. Giving up his ideals about making the perfect society, he wanders throughout time in a daze, which is broken only at rare points when someone renews his hope for humanity's potential. However, he watches the failure of humankind again and again, and thus his immortality becomes burdensome to the point of not being able to enjoy even the simplest of life's pleasures. What is the point of falling in love or making a friendship, only to watch people you care about grow old and die? What is the point in trying to change things when their essence remains the same throughout time? Du Beauvior dedicated this philosophical book to Jean-Paul Sartre, and it is a thoughtful, chilling look at humankind and our desire for perfection.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2001
Have you ever thought what it would be like to become immortal? This book examines not just the riddle of the possibility of immortality but to a great extent also makes the reader look at life with a new perspective. For we all strive to achieve ever so much within the uncertain span of a lifetime yet death can so suddenly put an end to all our efforts. Worse than that we can achieve everything we set out to achieve and yet discover at the end that our entire life was but a mere intake of a breath in the endless course of the history of humanity. In this book the hero is given the chance to achieve anything a man could desire or hope for. It truly is a wonder though to see how his life develops as he continues to live without any fear of death until eventualy he begins to desire mortality as a basic necessity for human happiness.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
the Realm of Existentialism...
In the middle of a drought?
If it's yellow, let it mellow.
If it's brown, flush it down.
but, if it's a murky green and comes in a dusty old bottle from ancient Egypt, whose keeper is a crusty old street beggar being marched off to his death (to decrease the population of the city of Coroma because there is not enough to feed women, children and the old -- all are sacrificed in this book) -- well, that's the "Immortality Potion" in Simone de Beauvoir's All Men are Mortal -- and, there is only enough for One!
Would you drink it?
The book begins in the present day, with Regina, an actress (blond, generous, ambitious, scared of death) who is not going to live forever (being a mere mortal, et al), but would like to be remembered...and, thus, live forever. early in the book, Regina discovers Fosca, who convinces her (by slitting his throat from ear-to-ear -- and then magically healing before she can faint) that he is immortal. hmmm, I guess that would work for me.
What can one do with so much time?
a) become a conquer -- crush everything, take all the booty
b) become a political conquer -- crush some things, take some booty "I decided to change my methods. Renouncing military parades, pitched battles and useless campaigns, I put all my efforts into weakening the enemy republics by practicing cunning politics." When you have "forever" on your side, most republics are enemy republics.
c) ho-hum (bored after so many years of fighting and collecting the same old booty) -- lead your armies up to the intended target and potential booty, and then just walk away without striking? Why? because suddenly, one is faced with the absurdity of it all, and enveloped with nausea.
d) Have a son; give him everything; protect him from all things harmful -- only to have him exercise his free-will and die in battle...doing what he most wanted to do -- see "a)" above.
e) Wait a minute...if one is immortal and there are obviously no gods, all things are possible -- How about one ruler for the entire planet, forever -- but through the use of mere mortals?
...and, this is only the first half of Simone de Beauvoir's (exquisitely crafted existential tale) All Men Are Mortal!
Never a dull moment! Beautifully translated. Historically, well researched and finely tuned. One scenario seamlessly fades into the next as one traverses Fosca's adventures of Immortality. This book reeks with basic existential themes. --Katharena Eiermann, 2007, the Realm of Existentialism -- Presidential Hopeful
All Men Are Mortal by Simone de Beauvoir
on April 12, 2003
Simone de Beauvoir's incredible novel kicks off with Regina, an up-and-coming actress, who meets Raymond Fosca, a mysterious stranger. She brings Fosca to Paris with her, and he confides in her that he is immortal. Things change for Regina; her outlook takes on a different perspective. But this is only a small factor of the book--the majority (and the strongest part) is Fosca's retelling of his immortal life.
This book is amazing on so many levels. It gives a historical recounting, one which will interest anyone with a liking for history. It shows how history truly does repeat itself, and how some seemingly informed descisions can bring hundreds of people to their knees.
But more interesting is the philisophical aspect of the story. There are times when Fosca is down and disheartened, when he is disconnected from the world--a shadow. And then there are times when he is almost like ordinary people--capable of thought and feeling and hope. It is through this immortal life that de Beauvoir explores what it means to be human, what it means to exist, and if one can ever really, truly be immortal. It also asks that if human life is so short and fragile, is it really meaningfull?
The greatest thing about this book is that you will be thinking about it long after you put it down. And that though only adds to the sheer greatness of the book. All Men Are Mortal clings to your heart--your emotions rise and fall with Fosca's, proof that he is a great character. And it will seep into your brain, making you dig deeper into both the book and your own feelings.
All Men Are Mortal is amazing.