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A Disgraceful Affair: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Bianca Lamblin

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1555532512
ISBN-10: 1555532519
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this tell-all memoir, Lamblin evens the score between herself and renowned French thinkers-and lovers-de Beauvoir and Sartre. Their menage a 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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From 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 menage '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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Northeastern (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555532519
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555532512
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,498,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On the surface, A Disgraceful Affair is Bianca Lamblin's account of her brief triangular relationship with Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre and how that affair affected her life long after Sartre's, then Beauvoir's, romantic interest waned. Its carefully guarded sentences reveal a woman who has been deepley hurt by her mentors but who is being painstakingly careful in her effort to be fair as she sets the record straight. Readers looking for juicy tidbits will need to look elsewhere (Lamblin describes Sartre as a charming wooer but an unskilled lover, and does not waste ink elaborating).
If the reader takes the facts as the author presents them--and there is nothing implausible or erractic in what Lamblin relates--what unfolds is a brief, startlingly clear reflection on what it means to evolve one's own workable philosophy of life based on the cards one is dealt and the living examples one has to choose from. After her rejection by her existentalist mentors, Lamblin consciously chose a conventional, slightly leftist, life. Her mentors' narcissism seems to have turned her away from a life focused on pursuing celebrity and getting published (aside from a few academic philosophy articles, A Disgraceful Affair is Lamblin's only published work, one she didn't begin writing until she was in her seventies and all the key figures in the story had died). Unlike her mentors, she chose to marry and have children, decisions that disturbed and disgusted Beauvoir.
Those looking for portraits of Sartre and Beauvoir should know that Beauvoir (unfortunately called "the Beaver" throughout the book, a nickname that might have been better left untranslated) is the more fully realized.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ever since I read last year the book, "A DANGEROUS LIAISON: A Revelatory New Biography of Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre," I have been both intrigued by and very critical of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir because of the way they tended to use or exploit some of their friends and lovers. Bianca Lamblin (nee Bienenfeld) is a case in point. She was a pupil of de Beauvoir (who was a philosophy professor at a lycée for adolescent girls in Paris) when she was in her teens in the late 1930s. Both Bianca and de Beauvoir eventually had a personal (and sexual) relationship. De Beauvoir and Sartre became mentors to Bianca, who was deeply impressed with them and deeply flattered by their interest in her. Bianca became fully aware of the special Sartre-de Beauvoir relationship and came to believe that, as the third person, they could form a strong, loving, and supportive tripartite relationship.

But as war clouds began to gather over Europe in 1939, de Beauvoir began to tire of Bianca and passed her on to Sartre in keeping with the dictates of their special relationship, in which they shared lovers and always told each other the truth.

Rather than be truthful about her desire to end her relationship with Bianca, de Beauvoir tried to make it appear that it was Sartre's decision to sever ties, not hers. Bianca, who confesses to her own naivety in the book, was at an utter loss. By this time, it was early 1940 and France was at war with Germany. Sartre, though recalled to the army, ended his relationship with Bianca by sending her --- after de Beauvoir's prompting --- a hastily written letter. Bianca, who admits to being in love with both Sartre and de Beauvoir, was deeply hurt by their abandonment of her and traumatized by the French defeat in June 1940.
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Format: Hardcover
Bianca Lamblin said in the Introduction to this 1993 book, "I have decided to recount what was a dramatic episode in my life... If my story is out of the ordinary, it is probably because two of the main characters are Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Together we formed a threesome, or at least that is what I was led to believe... The way that Simone de Beauvoir and then Sartre treated me in 1940, the humiliation and suffering they caused me, were so severe that the simple truth I want to tell will, I hope, ring truer and clearer than the lies in Letters to Sartre... I am driven not by a need for revenge but by a simple desire to tell the truth." (Pg. 3-4)

She explains, "I must emphasize that it was not just a matter of distant events that had taken place in my youth; Simone de Beauvoir had remained my friend. Throughout her life, we continued to see each other on a regular basis. I trusted her completely. I thought she could understand everything, and I considered her innately honest. I thought her friendship was sincere, although it was entirely different from the emotional relationship we had had in my youth... Now that I have read 'Letters' and Wartime Diary (Beauvoir Series), I cannot fathom how I could have been so deeply deceived." (Pg. 5)

She adds, "I realize now that I was a victim of Sartre's womanizing and of the ambivalent and dubious way [de Beauvoir) defended his behavior.
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