Here, Simone de Beauvoir writes Jean-Paul Sartre from California, where she was staying with screenwriter Ivan Moffat. De Beauvoir lectured and traveled throughout America—a trip that would later become commemorated in her work America Day by Day. She tells him of her encounters with the American landscape, U.S. politics, and the Hollywood social scene.
Thursday 13 March
Here I am, on my own for the afternoon, in the Moffats’ pretty house. I have cigarettes and martinis, books and a magnificent sky. I’ve lain down on the terrace, I can see the sea and I can see the eucalyptus trees—here I am like a real queen. Just one thing saddens me, which is that I no longer quite know where you are—perhaps already on the train to Italy—and you no longer quite know where I am. Have you finally received my letters and telegram? Those signs from you—so close—overwhelmed me. Your last letter was only 4 days old. It’s so strange for me to be as happy and carefree as this for weeks on end, and to know nevertheless that my life is not in my own hands but back there in Paris, and that I depend entirely upon you. It would be almost painful if I didn’t have such a strong feeling, my dear love, that we are as one, and that at the beginning of May you’ll be just as I left you. And I’m so accustomed here to a life entirely on the surface—a life of pure pleasure and indifference—that it shook me to rediscover my love for you in all its intensity; rather as though I’d started thinking, really thinking, about death in the middle of a pleasure outing. And what I felt last Sunday has still not dissipated.
This journey by car has really been marvellous. I adore all the ‘service stations’ and ‘drug stores’, the records, the brief halts, the villages. And the landscapes of cactus and boulders and snowy mountains and desert are magnificently lavish. It breaks your heart not to be able to like as you’d wish the people inhabiting this beautiful stretch of the planet. But only the day before yesterday Truman was proposing his anti-communist crusade, sending planes to Greece, etc. You feel more and more that you’re living under fascism in this country. Well, since yesterday, I’m part of a family again. It’s really agreeable. Sorokine and I did the shopping—in those wonderful grocery-shops they have here—then prepared blinis and pineapple. When Moffat came back from the studio, we spent a long while with him drinking cocktails and eating while we discussed ‘Immortal Man,’ on which he’s working away relentlessly—and very well. I must tell you all about him, and about them both together. He’s very interesting, as an American from England: anti-American and yet so very American in certain ways. We get on amazingly well—I enjoy his company a lot and he enjoys mine. We went to a nightclub full of queers dressed up as women, and to a very nice Hungarian nightclub. But everything closes at midnight in Hollywood, and it’s really dead. After Las Vegas and its dissolute pleasures, we were a bit disappointed. This morning I gave a lecture in English at the University—big success! I’m overjoyed. I can give lectures in English, and that will bring me in some money. It will also allow me to come back here very easily. I want to come back to America, and I want to come back with you, my love. I’ve just been to the village with Sorokine to have my hair done, then I came home while she went off to town till this evening. Moffat’s working at his studio. I’m alone and comfortable. I like the way people leave their houses open here, and the way delivery vans drive right into the garden, and how everything’s easy and relaxed. The evenings are marvelously mild. I’m staying another two days, then on Sunday I’m leaving with Sor. by bus for the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe, Houston and New Orleans, where I have lectures. Write now for 27 March—if there’s still time—c/o Marcel Morand, head of the Romance Languages Dept., Rice Institute, Houston, Texas. Otherwise c/o the Gerassis, 215 E. 57th, for 5 April. My love, I’d like so many letters! I’ll still write to your flat. Keep these letters for me, please. I’d like Bost to have them too, and know that all this time I’m thinking tenderly about him. My love, do whatever you think best, but above all feel me right there with you. I kiss you with all my love.
Your charming Beaver
My Chicago friend has sent me a big parcel of books, and such a nice letter that I was moved by it. I can’t get over the kindness of people on all sides.
From Letters to Sartre. de Beauvoir, Simone, and Quintin Hoare. New York: Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2012.