Author: Simone de Beauvoir
“In her most famous novel, The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir takes an unflinching look at Parisian intellectual society at the end of World War II. In fictionally relating the stories of those around her — Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Arthur Koestler, Nelson Algren — de Beauvoir dissects the emotional and philosophical currents of her time. At once an engrossing drama and an intriguing political tale, The Mandarins is the emotional odyssey of a woman torn between her inner desires and her public life.”
The Mandarins was a book I didn’t warm to at all. Despite being 600+ pages, I sped through it. The only reason I continued reading was out of vulgar curiosity. I wanted to see how those vapid, pathetic characters worked themselves into circles over their petty problems and intrinsic neurosis. Like watching a car crash, I wanted to see how many times they could go around before they hit a wall and burst into flames.
The book was written between two POVs. Henri Perron’s and Anne Dubreuilh. I didn’t care about or for either of them. The writing itself wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t remarkable. So the majority of my dislike for the book was based on the characters and the plot.
All of the characters, Henri, Anne, Robert, Paula, Nadine, and the rest of their friends were so self-serving. It was like none of them had any idea how to function in the real world. Their interactions and troubles and thoughts were so insignificant that it reminded me of when I get too lazy to change the channel and end up marveling at the turns taken in the TLC hit show, 90 Day Fiance.
I felt a good deal of pity for the characters when they spoke of the friends and lovers they lost to the Gestapo and the Nazis but other than that, the key emotion that kept bubbling up in between the lines of weepy dialogue was disgust.
The one thing that disgusted me the most was when Henri lied to keep his girlfriend out of prison and in turn let a Gestapo informer that sent people to concentration camps go free. His justification meant nothing to me. It was just a bunch of pseudo-intellectual nonsense so he could sleep at night.
The picture Beauvoir painted of these intellectuals was so dry, so useless, and so utterly void of human sense that I can say that I was disappointed that the book didn’t with them all committing mass suicide just in an effort to spice it up a bit.
I wouldn’t recommend this book. 2 stars. I felt like I wasted my pick for ONTD’s July challenge.