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The Second Sex Paperback – December 17, 1989

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Editorial Reviews Review

In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir posed questions many men, and women, had yet to ponder when the book was released in 1953. "One wonders if women still exist, if they will always exist, whether or not it is desirable that they should ...," she says in this comprehensive treatise on women. She weaves together history, philosophy, economics, biology, and a host of other disciplines to show women's place in the world and to postulate on the power of sexuality. This is a powerful piece of writing in a time before "feminism" was even a phrase, much less a movement. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“This is the edition Beauvoir herself would have wanted, one so true to the original that we can hear her voice in the text. . . . A triumph.” —Margaret Simons, Distinguished Research Professor Emerita, Southern Illinois University

"[A] long-awaited achievement." --"Book Bench,"

"The effect of the new translation, which should be applauded, is to make Beauvoir more herself. . .still lively, still apropos." --Slate

“[Borde and Malovany-Chevallier’s translation] can be read with confidence, enlightenment, and pleasure. . . . A significant step forward and a remarkable achievement. So if you’re one of those people who always meant to read The Second Sex—why not now?” —Women’s Review of Books
“From Eve’s apple to Virginia Woolf’s room of her own, Beauvoir’s treatise remains an essential rallying point, urging self-sufficiency and offering the fruit of knowledge.”


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679724516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679724513
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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473 of 503 people found the following review helpful By Anton Dolinsky on October 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
I, a young white man, read Second Sex last week. Although it contained almost nothing that I had not read before, it did what was necessary to my head. It somehow made the position of woman as the Other imaginable by me. Reading it, I imagined what it would be like for me to live in a society that had been dominated by women for more than three thousand years, a society where almost all the most renowned people, heroes, and religious icons were women. A society where the United States of America had had nothing but women presidents and every state was predominantly represented by women, though males account for half the population. Where the predominant forms of music for the last fifty years have all treated men as an interesting and occasionally useful, but often annoying or even maddening objects, and us men run around in skimpy calvin klein-style underwear on MTV while hip-hop women constantly call us "dogs" in their raps and the classic rock section of the local used music store overflows with female lyrics that question what is more important in life, men, cars, or booze? and blame us men for breaking their poor girl hearts and for being warlocks, (...), or idiots (while the woman rock stars collect millions of dollars and boy groupies run around ready to have sex with any security guard to get a shot to have sex with the famous women).

A society where families are dominated by mothers and their husbands live in fear of having their allowance terminated, and have to do menial chores around the house to try to feel, or at least look, useful. Where a boy child realizes before he is 10 that he is a failure and, at best, a second-rate human being (if not an object)(...
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96 of 108 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Second Sex is an excellent philosophical work on woman; the English translation is not. Terms are translated poorly, such as "l'experience vecue" (the lived experience similar to Husserl's life-world) being translated as "Woman's Life Today" (a slam), "en-soi" and "pour-soi" being translated interchangeably as in-itself and for-itself (they cannot be used interchangeably-they are not synonyms), etc. In fact, while the original work was published in two volumes, the English translation fits into one...because the translator cut some three-hundred pages that he felt were "boring." The original French is lucid, direct, and quite beautiful. The reason that the book sounds so "dated" in English is because the man who translated it was. (He was a zoology emeritus with no background in philosophy). Thus, a lot is lost in the translation, and, since the publisher will not commence with a new translation for the sake of accuracy while the poor one sells so well (think dollar-signs), one could probably learn French and read the original writings first. "The Second Sex" (or rather "Le Deuxieme Sexe") is a good opening forum into what it is to be the Other, and the philosophical ramifications are just as relevant today as when the book was written.
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65 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Stacey M Jones on August 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
I recently finished THE SECOND SEX by Simone de Beauvoir, which I had been "reading on" for more than a year. I adopted a system of reading chapters of it between other books after starting out great guns the summer of 2004, reading 200 pages and realizing that if I didn't do something to break it up, I would never finish it.

That is not to say that THE SECOND SEX is not a great book. It is. It's valuable. It's interesting. It's educational, not just about views of women in the first part of this century in Western culture, but also about the logical and writerly process that de Beauvoir uses to address such a massive topic: The topic of Woman; the topic, really of Woman as Other.

But there are issues with the translation that can't be ignored. If memory serves me, Parshley had trouble getting de Beauvoir to help him with his translation. Questions he directed to her went unanswered for months, so he not only translated the book, but cut large sections (yes, this 732-page version is abridged!) that he thought were not important, or were redundant. Parshley also was not a philosopher, but was a zoologist, and as such did not understand the depth of such existential and philosophical terms as "immanence." Once the translation was finished and published, de Beauvoir was furious with the results. Though Parshley can hardly be blamed given the situation in which he was working, it does make one wonder how much what one is reading resembles de Beauvoir's original ideas and objectives.

Considering her objectives, this leads me to one of my favorite quotes about THE SECOND SEX.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful By brett on November 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A previous review has noted some weaknesses in this translation, which I think are a bit one sided. Cetainly, Toril Moi raises some valid points in her critique of this translation - however, I think these are stylistic issues and translator's preferences. Indeed, there is rarely a "true" translation of a book, and opinions will always differ as to their quality. What I will say is that this book is infinitely better than the first translation, especially with its use of philosophical/existentialist terminology.

I gave this book five stars because I think it is so much better than the original translation. Even though the translators may have made poor choices in parts, they have also restored a great deal of the book that was previously inaccessible in English editions. As to the criticism about the style of the book, I must disagree. I think the book is extremely readable, and had no trouble reading through in its entirety.

Moving briefly away from the translation on to the content, this is a must have book for anyone interested not only in feminism, but also existentialism more generally. This book is for both men and women seeking to live an authentic (gendered) life. As a piece of history it is also important. Though the ideas presented her may no longer seem revolutionary, they were when this book was written. Of course, parts of the book have not aged well as science has advanced, but it does not detract from the greatness of the book.
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