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A previously unpublished novel by famed feminist and theorist Simone de Beauvoir that was hailed as "too intimate" during her lifetime is set to be released in France in the fall and the U.S. and U.K. next year, according to The Guardian.
Five years before Beauvoir's benchmark feminist work The Second Sex was published, she penned a more personal story in Les Inseparables, based on a "passionate and tragic" friendship she had when she was young with Elisabeth "Zaza" Lacoin, who died of encephalitis at age 21.
Deemed a coming-of-age story, Les Inseparables tells the story of the intense friendship that develops when teen girls Andree (Lacoin) and Sylvie (Beauvoir) become classmates.
The synopsis from 2 Seas Agency reads:
"This captivating unpublished novel, dating from 1954, tells the first passionate and tragic friendship between two rebellious young girls, Simone de Beauvoir and Zaza of which Simone de Beauvoir gives a short testimony in Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter.
"Written in first person, Simone de Beauvoir tells the beginning of this passionate and true friendship. By chance, it happens that Andree (Zaza) joined the same class as Sylvie (Simone). Sylvie is instantly charmed by her new classmate. She admires her, she cherishes her, she does everything in order to make Andree loving her back. Quickly they became inseparables until high school and Andree's tragic death."
The literary agency goes on to say, "This novel outlines Simone de Beauvoir's personal battle against the conventional expectations and draws her intellectual and existential ambition."
"Too intimate to be published in her lifetime by Simone de Beauvoir, this long unpublished text was recently found in her archives by her adopted daughter, Sylvie Le Bon-de Beauvoir, who wrote the preface."
Editions de l'Herne will publish the novel in France in October, with Vintage in the U.K. and Ecco in North America to release English translations of Les Inseparables in 2021, The Guardian reports.
Vintage writes that the novel tackles notions of "friendship between two young women struggling against conventional ideas of what a woman should be in early 20th-century Paris: chaste, devout, obedient and obliged from a young age to set aside her own interests and passions."
"Beauvoir's real-life intense, formative relationship with her friend Zaza shaped, in many ways, the woman Beauvoir was to become -- while Beauvoir broke free, Zaza never found a way out," the publisher notes.
Le Bon-de Beauvoir is Beauvoir's literary executor and said after Beauvoir's death in 1986 that she intended to publish the novel. But after Beauvoir's partner Jean-Paul Sartre "held his nose" at it, the famous feminist said, "I couldn't have agreed more: the story seemed to have no inner necessity and failed to hold the reader's interest."
However, Le Bon-de Beauvoir found the framework for Beauvoir's craft was embedded in the piece.
"When she wrote it, in 1954, she had already honed her craft as a writer," said Le Bon-de Beauvoir. "She destroyed some works that she was unhappy with. She didn't destroy this one. About her papers, she told me, 'You'll do as you think is right.'"
Le Bon-de Beauvoir intends to bring out other previously unpublished work of Beauvoir's.