Second Sex and Death
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Magnum Photos
Simone de Beauvoir, Paris, 1945
A good article titled “The Second ‘Second Sex'” about translation, specifically of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, in The Chronicle of Higher Ed. Have you translated? What are your problems/concerns with translating?
Another interesting one in The Chronicle about vampires and dead people in general: “All the Dead Are Vampires.”
A + B = C. de Beauvoir plus dead people = A Very Easy Death. I haven’t read this memoir of de Beauvoir’s mother’s death in a long time, but I remember it being a powerful meditation on death. Describing her mother’s fears after a fall in the bathroom that breaks her femur, de Beauvoir writes,
Would she have been able to shout loud enough to make herself heard? No, surely not. I pictured her in distress. She believed in heaven, but in spite of her age, her feebleness, and her poor health, she clung ferociously to this world, and she had an animal dread of death. She had told my sister of a nightmare that she often had. ‘I am being chased: I run, I run, and I come up against a wall; I have to jump over this wall, and I do not know what there is behind it: it terrifies me.’ She also said to her, ‘Death itself does not frighten me; it is the jump I am afraid of.’ When she was creeping along the floor, she thought that the moment for the jump had come.
I like two things about this. One is the jump, the hovering at the threshold. I obsess on threshold spaces, the duende loving the lip of the wound, the leaps of faith we choose to take in love, in creative acts, in childbearing, in sports, in dying. But do we choose to take the jump into dying? I guess not.
Second, what’s it like to be old and live alone? How scary must it be to know that if you fall, you might be stuck for hours or days without help? Which, of course, reminds me of the rap we used to sing in elementary school based on the Life Call commercials:
Fallen and I can’t get up
Stuck to the ground like a peanut butter cup
Life Call wrapped around my neck
Pushin’ that button, screamin’ like heck.
Go granny, go granny, go.