Living in the Shoes of the Ghosts of Sartre and de Beauvoir
Imagine the surprise when the November issues of International Living Magazine hit my mailbox only to discover on the cover a large stylized cartoon-like drawing of Café Le Bonaparte and our clients’ apartment windows just above their red, white and blue striped awning.
New Yorkers Lulu Lolo and Dan (nytimes.com) are soon to move into the apartment just over the café, aware of the sounds and smells that are sure to waft up, but also aware of the beautiful view from the apartment of Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Café Les Deux Magots and the Place, not to mention the important history of the building.
Jean-Paul Sartre lived at 42 rue Bonaparte from 1945-1962 with, not Simone de Beauvoir, but his mother and during which time the building was bombed…twice…in retaliation to his political stance on Algeria.
From is.wayne.edu/: “Early one July morning in 1961, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were at the latter’s apartment packing for a summer holiday in Rome when Sartre’s mother phoned to tell them that a plastic bomb had exploded in the entrance hall of his apartment building. As a leading public supporter of Algerian self-determination, Sartre had become a target of the right-wing campaign of terror that mounted as the colonists’ position deteriorated. The damage was not serious, and Sartre and de Beauvoir were able to go on their way to Italy. However, returning to Paris in the autumn, they discovered that assassination attempts had spread, and Sartre began to receive threatening letters from Oran. For safety they moved temporarily into a furnished apartment rented in his secretary’s name. When, in early January 1962, a shop on the corner was blown up, Sartre and his friends immediately - but mistakenly - concluded that the attack had been aimed at him. As de Beauvoir remembers, ‘most of the left-wing journalists, political figures, writers and university teachers had by now been the target of a bomb attack.’ It was no surprise, then, that on January 7 a second bomb exploded at Sartre’s apartment, this one more effective than the first. It blew up the entire floor above, tearing off the door of Sartre’s apartment and destroying a cupboard on the landing. A wall collapsed on the upper floors, leaving staircase hanging in space. The courtyard was strewn with rubble. ‘We went up the service stairs,’ de Beauvoir wrote, ‘passing tenants coming down with suitcases in their hands. The vanished cupboard, the staircase open to the sky even though I’d been told, I couldn’t believe my eyes; inside the apartment, there were papers all over the floor, doors torn off, walls, ceilings and floors covered with a sort of soot.'”
As an aside, Benedict O’Donohoe wrote in July of 2006 in Sens-Public.org that “Michel Contat, Sartres bibliographer and the foremost authority on his work, has pointed out that Sartres mother was the most important woman in his life: its not Simone de Beauvoir, like people think – no, no, it was actually Mummy – he lived with Mummy, you know… In the same interview, citing Freud, Contat attributes Sartres genius to the love of a beautiful young mother, the conviction that she has a genius […] and the very strong relationship between mother and child.'”
O’Donohoe wrote that “there are those who might object to this succinct psychoanalysis that it is rather Simone de Beauvoir who was the key female figure of Sartres adult life, becoming the mentor and guardian of his mature genius.” Old friend and biographer, Hazel Rowley, who died suddenly and too young at the age of 60 in March of 2011, might be one of those, too. She left behind her for our pleasure the amazing tale, “Tête-à-Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre” — a biography of their lives of extraordinary depth (adrianleeds.com/books/). If it’s not on your bedside table, it should be.
When I think of 42 rue Bonaparte, I think of Sartre and de Beauvoir, of their ghosts as free thinkers, of Hazel Rowley’s ghost as a teller of true tales and of the real lives of Lulu Lolo and Dan that will fill their shoes in the apartment overlooking Le Bonaparte on the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
A la prochaine…
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
P.S. The name “Bonaparte” has popped up as big as life the past couple of weeks because we now have four clients on rue Bonaparte. The second one is one of our rental apartments called appropriately “Le Bonaparte,” another is under renovation/redecoration by architect Martine di Mattéo designed in honor of the cafés of the district to become a rental apartment and the fourth one is the apartment in Nice we recently told you about that is on the market as a great investment (adrianleeds.com/).
P.P.S. For anyone who dreams of moving overseas, France always makes sense, offering top-notch culture, excellent food, affordable real estate, and, of course, the romance of Paris. Learn all the information you need to make the move to the world’s favorite destination with France: The Owner’s Manual, edited by me and Schuyler Hoffman. Get your copy today!