16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Richest novel of postwar Paris ever written,
By A Customer
This review is from: Mandarins (Paperback)
De Beauvoir was one of the greatest minds of this century. The sheer force of her intellect is overwhelming, but thankfully she was also an imaginative, honest, and often funny writer. The Mandarins has long been considered her masterpiece, and with good reason. A fictionalized account of a group of intellectuals struggling in postwar Paris, The Mandarins allows us the reader to peer into a world inhabited by fascinating, difficult, confused and life-affirming individuals. The novel deals with issues that still haunt France, indeed all of Western society, today; specifically the choices people made when the world around them became dominated by oppression, fascism, and the suppression of certain freedoms. How does one come to terms with the fact that atrocities occured under one's nose? How much freedom was taken away, and how much was given up voluntarily? Why is responsibility so important? And how does one act responsibly? Though existential in nature, the themes addressed in this book transcend labels. It is a painful struggle to accept one's freedom, and the responsibility it entails. The Mandarins show how different people come to terms with their conditions. The novel becomes all the more juicy because it is based on real people; Anne is de Beauvoir, Henri is Camus, Anne's husband is Sartre, Anne's daughter is de Beauvoir's lover. Apparently, the rich clothes designer who clawed her way to the top and collaberated with the Nazis is based on Coco Channel. De Beauvoir caused quite a stir with the publication of this novel; I imagine she must have ticked off alot of Paris "society"