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The Mandarins (Norton Paperback Fiction) Paperback – July 17, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Much more than a roman clef . . . a moving and engrossing novel. -- New York Times

Salty, frank, and realistic. -- San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Simone de Beauvoir is the author of The Second Sex and the winner of the Prix Goncourt, France's highest honor, for The Mandarins.
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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Paperback Fiction
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393318834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393318838
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are plenty of great books and films about the squalor of life during wartime, and even more about shellshocked soldiers coming to grips with life during peacetime. But surprisingly few novels deal with civilians faced with the task of rebuilding the devastated world around them. The Mandarins would have to be at the top of that very short list. Most critics, here and elsewhere, have tended to focus on the book as Beauvoir's record of her affair with Nelson Algren, but like all great artists, Beauvoir transforms the raw material of her life into something far more profound and encompassing, especially as it is played out against the grand, ruined backdrop of postwar Paris. The resulting book succeeds on so many levels: as roman a clef (Camus, Sartre, Koestler, and obviously Algren all feature prominently), as novel of ideas (of the "where do we go from here?" variety), as a love story (really two love stories--we can't forget Henri/Camus, whose story takes up half the book!), as a Jamesian exploration of brash New World vs. exhausted Old World culture, and finally as a portrait of an intelligent, civilized woman wrestling with her darkest impulses in the wake of Europe's darkest moment.
Is the book overly long? Probably. Melodramatic? At times. Too cluttered with phrases of the "smiled knowingly" variety? Without a doubt. But it's redeemed time and again by the keen intelligence Beauvoir brings to bear on her characters and herself. For days after I put the book down, I found myself literally pining for the company of Anne, Lewis and Henri. Is there any greater testament to a novel than that?
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Format: Paperback
The reason that I love Simone so much is defined in this book. What happens when you live with atrocities? What happens when you have to see lives terribly torn apart by evil? What can a person do?
DeBeauvior takes these questions and makes them human, and gives hope to our world. But, with any great existentialist thinker, makes the point that living is hard. To exist well we must make choices and be able to live with them. All of the characters in this book show the angst and chaos of war. How they are able to live with each other and themselves is displayed with amazing depth and insight. The complexities of women are shown vividly - especially if you have read The Second Sex. Each of the woman characters are shown struggling with their societial place as Other, yet, show this trancendence that is even more important to her gender.
This is also an incredible demonstration of the power and pain of love. I read this book as a teenager and found that I reread it at least once a year to remind me of the beauty and pain of life. It is a wonderful book about being a woman, and a thinker. I recommend it to anyone who is disturbed about events in this world and how to deal with them.
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Format: 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"
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Format: Paperback
I will allow the reader an oppurtunity to read through some quotes within The Mandarins, so that s/he will decide whether the book is worthwhile or not...

" [...] to be no one, all things considered, is sthg of a privilege [...]"

" No I shan't meet death today. Not today or any other day. I'll be dead for others and yet I'll never have known death "

" If you think you're nothing, that you can do nothing, that you have rights to nothing, what can you expect to make of yourself ? "

"... its unhealthy to insist on living in the past, but you can't be very proud of yourself when you realize you've more or less disowned it. That's why they invented that dreadful compromise: commemoration"

" To survive is, after all, perpetually to begin to live again "

"... is it that I really believe in a dream, or is it stubborness due to pride, defiance or a sense of self-satisfaction ? "

"... a habit is never bad, despite what they say..."

"... it's strange to lose yourself absolutely in another. But, how rewarding it is when you find the other in yourself..."

"... the right moment is immediately..."

"... to live is to die a little..."

"... becoming aware of my skin is the act of sex..."
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