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  • Crazy Couplings: Koestler and de Beauvoir October 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    koestler beauvoir

    Here is part of an occasional series on crazy couplings: sexual encounters between individuals who, by rights, should never have had anything to do with each other, let alone undress in one another’s presence. To kick start the series two rather unpleasant people whose intimacy is thankfully beyond this blogger’s imagining: Simone de Beauvoir and Arthur Koestler. Simone de Beauvoir was, of course, the partner in crime, muse and nursemaid of Jean-Paul Sartre. Koestler was an anti-communist intellectual who became famous for Darkness at Noon, the picture of the God that Failed from within the movement (a book that ultimately would fund para-psychological experiments in Scotland). Simone and Arthur seem to have got each other’s measure really rather well. The single greatest sentence about SdB is surely Koestler’s bitchy ‘A planet shining with reflected light’ (Sartre being the sun of course); while SdB nailed Koestler down in The Mandarins as Scriassine (though she later insisted that Scriassine was a composite character including Koestler but others, too). Both Koestler and Simone de Beauvoir were sexual predators. Koestler has been labeled (with slight but worrying proof) a ‘serial rapist’, and there is plenty of very definite evidence that he treated his many sexual partners abominably. Simone de Beauvoir, meanwhile, used her authority as a teacher to seduce female students in their late teens who she would sometimes share with Sartre: Beach shudders to think of some poor seventeen year old who wakes up to find Sartre on one side of the bed and Simone on the other… In short, Arthur and Simone deserved each other.

    The flirtation began after the Second World War when Sartre, SdB and Koestler frequently attended the same dinner parties and frequently argued: both Sartre and SdB were, it must be remembered, Stalinists and Soviet apologists; Koestler had outgrown his earlier association with the German Communist Party and had become a violent dissenter. In fact, ‘violence’, a word much loved by Sartre, is the keynote of the relationship between the three. Koestler, often drunk, would abuse Sartre (he once threw a wine glass) and Sartre would defend himself with infuriating self assurance. SdB, who was happy to play the second sex here, became a territory for a proxy war. The ‘inevitable’ event was described by SdB to her biographer. Simone and Arthur would talk alone, she defending Sartre’s indefensible positions, Koestler doing his best to grind them to pieces.

    He never knew when to stop. Always pushing, pushing, pushing – arguing until I agreed with anything he said, just to shut him up.’ ‘One night [October 1946, perhaps 23-26] I got so drunk I let him come home with me. We slept together. It wasn’t any good. It didn’t mean anything. He was too drunk, so was I. It never happened again. Only that night was real, the rest is how I loathed him. I really detested him that arrogant fool.

    There is something to be said for the erotic calisthenics of mutual rancour, but this seems to have been a cow pat of an experience. Too bad Koestler never wrote about it.

    Beach is interested in any other crazy couplings: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com