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Published 14 June 2023
Fitzcarraldo Editions Classics No.2 | French paperback with flaps, 114 pages
Long considered one of Simone de Beauvoir’s masterpieces, A Very Easy Death is a profoundly affecting, day-by-day recounting of her mother’s final days after she is hospitalized following a fall. Though a devout Catholic, her faith is subsumed by her terror of death, and as her body fails, she clings to life with fierce, primal desperation. In depicting her mother’s refusal to ‘go gentle’ while her autonomy and dignity are taken from her, Simone de Beauvoir ‘shows the power of compassion when it is allied with acute intelligence’ (Sunday Telegraph). Powerful, touching and sometimes shocking, this is an end-of-life account that no reader is likely to forget.
‘True and deeply moving.’
— Annie Ernaux, winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature
‘The mother of 20th-century feminism.’
— Joanna Biggs, London Review of Books
‘In every decade of my life since my 20s, I have been awed, confused, intrigued and inspired by Simone de Beauvoir’s attempt to live with meaning, pleasure and purpose.’
— Deborah Levy, author of Real Estate
‘It was Alice Walker, Hélène Cixous, Angela Davis, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, and Simone Weil and de Beauvoir who mattered most to me.’
— Zadie Smith, author of NW
‘Nowhere is de Beauvoir’s rigorous honesty more visible than in this haunting account of the death of her mother... As she charts her last weeks and her abasement at the hands of doctors and illness, both hostility and unexpected love play themselves out on the page.’
— Lisa Appignanesi, author of Everyday Madness
‘It would be hard to think that Simone de Beauvoir who flaunted so many strictures of life, would accept death.... And the intention of this memoir, which is in part a requiem and in part an exorcism, is its disturbing, defiant insistence on the fact that this can only be an utterly lonely experience.’
‘Beauvoir’s graciously written memoirs carry distinct appeal in recording the emotional and intellectual birth pangs of a fascinating woman.’
‘This book is written with restrained emotion and a literalness, a faithfulness to fact, that is very moving coming from a woman whom we have known as dedicated to abstractions. ... it illustrates the general tragedy of the human condition through a particularized instance. A book of near despair, yet dignified.
— Library Journal
Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris in 1908. In 1929 she became the youngest person ever to obtain the agrégation in philosophy at the Sorbonne, placing second to Jean-Paul Sartre. She taught at lycées in Marseille and Rouen from 1931-1937, and in Paris from 1938-1943. After the war, she emerged as one of the leaders of the existentialist movement, working with Sartre on Les Temps Modernes. The author of several books including The Mandarins (1957) which was awarded the Prix Goncourt, and The Second Sex, a foundational book for contemporary feminism, de Beauvoir was one of the most influential philosophers and novelists of her generation. She died in 1986.
Patrick O’Brian (1914-2000), born Richard Patrick Russ, was an English novelist, biographer and translator from French. His translations include Henri Charrière’s Papillon, Jean Lacouture’s biography of Charles de Gaulle and many of Simone de Beauvoir’s later works, including Les Belles Images, All Said and Done and A Very Easy Death.
Ali Smith was born in Inverness, and now lives in Cambridge. She has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize four times and twice for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which she won in 2015 for How to Be Both. That novel also won the Goldsmiths Prize and the Costa Novel Award. In 2022, she was awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.
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