I have a VERY Francophile Friend, and once in awhile. when I’m in a snit, I take her on. I’ll admit that I took a sadistic pleasure several years ago when there was so much anti-French feeling that we were eating Liberty Fries. At the same time, however, when a woman at the deli counter loudly announced, “I don’t buy anything French!” I, almost as loudly, ordered a pound of French Ham.
But, getting to the point, last week, I told my friend about a Blog I had just read on Colette and one of her books and she, right away, ordered the book and even a CD of it in French. At the time. I was in one of my snits so I announced, “I don’t like French women writers!” She responded, “You haven’t read any!” She had me!
So, I googled French Women Writers. Can you believe how many there are? I was amazed too! However, before I got there, I realized that I knew three, two intimately. The first, George Sand, I had met because of the composer Frederic Chopin–she was his lover and she liked to walk around in fancy men’s clothes. I’ve never read her so I don’t think she counts.
The second, Christine de Pisan, I have already written about in my work, Daughters of Eve, a Herstory Book, but Christine was actually born in Italy to Italian parents, who moved to France when her father was appointed astrologer to King Charles the Wise. I look at her as a moot point.
The third, Simone de Beauvoir, was pure French, born in Paris and educated in French schools, including the Sorbonne. I met her in a graduate course in Existentialism, where I was required to write a paper on her book/essay “The Ethics of Ambiguity“. In it, she develops an Ethics for Existential thought which she shared with her lifetime lover and intellectual companion, Jean Paul Sartre. (Did you know that Sartre was not quite five feet tall? Obviously, height has nothing to do with intellect.)
She is probably best known for her feminist writing; especially The Second Sex which is a foundation for modern feminism. In its introduction she writes, “woman has always been man’s dependent, if not his slave; the two sexes have never shared the world in equality.” That was a strong statement for 1949.
It struck me while writing this, that of the two French Women Writers I know–the pseudo-Christine and the bona-fide Simone–both were feminists. Christine de Pisan/Pizan/Pissano) is considered the first feminist writer for her contribution to women of her day in The City of Ladies , and Simone de Beauvoir is considered the pre-cursor to major feminist writers of the last half of the 20th century. Not bad for French women writers–and that’s only the two I know.Oh, by the way, I got an A+ on that graduate paper–even got it published. So I say, . . . . Viva La France! Leave me a comment–I’d love to hear from you!
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Catherine (Lussen) Howard