Simone de Beauvoir : a literary apprenticeship
Simone de Beauvoir, a major figure in French intellectual life of the Twentieth Century, decided at a young age to be a creative writer. She did not publish her first work until the age of thirty five. During the years between 1929, when her academic studies were completed, and 1939 when she was engaged in writing L'invitée, a novel of whose value she was confident, she served in a conscious and determined manner a literary apprenticeship. Literature was to remain the dominant source of material, being more significant to her throughout most of this period than experience or imagination. Non-fiction informed about what was felt to be the 'real' world and fiction supplied literary models. During these years she wrote much, often in styles derived from current reading. In spite of the fact that she had received from family and school a thorough grounding in the literature of her own country, she ultimately rejected many of the examples or lessons which French texts proposed. It is possible that a dislike for literature by writers deemed 'bourgeois' was motivated by her repugnance for the values of her family and class. As a child Simone de Beauvoir had responded wholeheartedly to certain foreign books which offered possibilities of identification with heroines and situations. Throughout her apprentice years the same process of recognition was to be essential before she could derive sustenance from her reading. Much contemporary literature from abroad was published in French translation and it was to texts investigating new methods of narration or techniques of representing consciousness which she turned. By the time Simone de Beauvoir began L'invitée she had absorbed much from certain French authors, from detective fiction, from English novelists, from Kafka, but particularly from current American writers. She had assimilated the lessons derived from her literary preparation and was strong enough to write at last with a personal and independent voice.