The Claudel appears to be a masterpiece. It is very cleverly written, with an astonishing atmosphere; and I have had to read it rather warily—it is full of emotional pitfalls and (as I told you) my visceral reaction is liable to be almost physically painful. But Claudel's presuppositions are wholly repugnant to me: I can by no means accept the view that a man's love for a woman (or hers for him) is of ethical value—that is, that it can lead him to salvation, which, however we may look at it, must surely be defined as eternal peace of heart. And this is precisely what love is not—and least of all when (as in Claudel) the woman insists upon keeping herself and the man on the rack. C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la paix.
If you have the time you might find the Beauvoir worth reading. It is her autobiography, in considerable detail, up to the time she met Sartre (when they were both completing their degrees in philosophy). I was interested enough to read it straight through in a couple of days. How unfeminine (I do not say masculine) is she? I think she is a woman, but she is also a philosopher (but does she do much more than interpret Sartre?), and I do not manage to reconcile the two. But perhaps she is more successful than I am. Would one want (or have wanted—she is fifty-seven, and must be something of a battle-axe) to sleep with her? And would she want it? She wants equal rights for men and women, but how does that work out in bed?
[140.1] Claudel: Le Soulier de Satin. [Back to text]
[140.2] C'est magnifique...: 'It's magnificent, but it's not peace': the allusion is to a French comment ('It's magnificent, but it's not war') on the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. [Back to text]