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On ne naît pas femme: on le devientThe Life of a Sentence$
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Bonnie Mann and Martina Ferrari

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190608811

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190608811.001.0001

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The Silencing of Simone de Beauvoir

The Silencing of Simone de Beauvoir

Guess What’s Missing from The Second Sex

(p.59) 3 The Silencing of Simone de Beauvoir
On ne naît pas femme: on le devient

Margaret A. Simons

Oxford University Press

This chapter, first published in 1983, initially breaks the news of the scandal of the first English translation of Le deuxième sexe to the English speaking world. Through a painstaking comparative reading of the Parshley translation, published by Knopf, alongside the original French, the chapter reveals the abridgment and editing of the original text with no indication of specific cuts in the text. It shows that Parshley’s version of The Second Sex exhibits a sexist pattern of selection that reduces the impact of Beauvoir’s discussions of women’s history; drastically reduces the number of references to women writers, poets, politicians, military figures, etc.; curtails discussions of women’s oppression; and obscures Beauvoir’s philosophical commitments. This text was the first of those that ignited the flood of contemporary Beauvoir scholarship in the English-speaking world. It was because of Margaret Simon’s work that Beauvoir became aware of the flawed translation shortly before her death in 1986, and expressed her ardent wish for a new translation.

Keywords:   H. M. Parshley, Simone de Beauvoir, Le deuxième sexe, sexism, Knopf

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