Wednesday, 9 January 2008

French feminism

Today is the centenary of Simone de Beauvoir's birth, and she's long been on my to read list. As a teenager, a French/Ecuadorian friend strongly recommended The Second Sex as a foundational feminist text but I never seem to come across a translation at a point when I've the time or inclination to read it (not helped by the criticisms of English translations of her work). Here's an interesting article in The Independent about how this cultural event is being celebrated in France.

I spent five days in Paris with my beloved over New Year, so found this particularly interesting. I adore Paris, but I do find it a fairly conservative and old-fashioned place compared to London. Perhaps it's the knowledge the beauty of Hausmann's centre is ringed by ghettos I'll probably never see. Still, we had a marvellous time, food and wine and lots of walking and talking, as well as the Louvre (the scrum of tourists snapping the Mona Lisa on their mobile phones was profoundly depressing) and the Arc de Triomphe and the utterly marvellous sewer museum, which was my personal museum highlight. After admiring the majesty of Notre Dame on New Year's Day, we walked to Shakespeare & Co for some much needed book browsing. We had a conversation outside the shop about what we'd study if we had the time and money. My beloved said architecture and I said philosphy, mentioning de Beauvoir and Sartre but expressing a desire to start with the classics, and get to know the foundations of the canon I've grown up with. We had a lively discussion about the merits of both subjects, how much they'd reveal to us about the development of ideas and culture in the world. Maybe we'll get around to it one of these years.

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