Books: The Mandarin and the Thief Simone de Beauvoir: 1908-1986; Jean Genet: 1910-1986

Simone de Beauvoir: 1908-1986; Jean Genet: 1910-1986

During the last months of the German Occupation in 1944, the young man who was to become France's most controversial contemporary philosopher and the woman who was to become its most controversial feminist met the professional criminal who was to become its most controversial playwright. "The conversation was most agreeable," said Jean-Paul Sartre. Last week, nearly six years after Sartre's death, his longtime companion Simone de Beauvoir, 78, died of a lung ailment. The next day Jean Genet, 75, succumbed to throat ! cancer. Said Premier Jacques Chirac, inarguably: "The end of an era."

It was a trio of soloists. De...

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