Simone de Beauvoir, known for books like The Second Sex, was also an attentive listener with whom many shared their life secrets. According to a report in The Guardian, as many as 20,000 letters have been found which further reveal that many readers wrote to her, seeking advice on various aspects of life.
The report quotes a letter in 1962 where a 36-year-old British woman wrote, “I am what is called a pervert, a lesbian. My friend and I have loved each other for years. Could you give me the name of a doctor who could perform a surgical operation on me to change me into a man?”
“I have never felt either love or voluptuous feeling. I am not really pretty, though my body is attractive enough. No one has given me a moment to quiver with desire,” was written by another in 1952.
These are being explored by Judith Coffin, associate professor of history at the University of Texas. The report states that Coffin chanced upon them in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris while researching on The Second Sex.
“Nothing prepared me for the drama I found,” she recalled. “An outpouring of projection, identification, expectation, disappointment and passion. “Authors get letters, but they don’t always save them. This was a revelation, how much she cared about her readers, why she saved all these letters,” she was quoted as saying.
Many men too wrote to her. “A reminder about the range of De Beauvoir’s topics and also that personal life, selfhood and women’s search for equality and freedom implicated and interested men,” Coffin was quoted as saying in the report.
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