Books: The Elves

THE PRIME OF LIFE (479 pp.)—Simone de Beauvoir—World ($6.95).

"What we have," Jean-Paul Sartre masterfully explained to Simone, ''is an essential love." But, he added prudently, ""it is a good idea for us also to experience contingent love affairs." Many an ordinary girl, even in France, might have missed the philosophical subtlety of this pronouncement and taken it for a brushoff.

But nobody has ever had cause to think of Simone de Beauvoir as ordinary.

At 21, she had just come to live and teach philosophy in Paris, ready to be aggressively free from the grim bourgeois straitjacket she so compellingly described in...

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