Ever since I read last year the book, A DANGEROUS LIAISON: A Revelatory New Biography of Simone De Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, I have been both intrigued by and very critical of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir because of the way they tended to use or exploit some of their friends and lovers. Bianca Lamblin (nee Bienenfeld) is a case in point. She was a pupil of de Beauvoir (who was a philosophy professor at a lycée for adolescent girls in Paris) when she was in her teens in the late 1930s. Both Bianca and de Beauvoir eventually had a personal (and sexual) relationship. De Beauvoir and Sartre became mentors to Bianca, who was deeply impressed with them and deeply flattered by their interest in her. Bianca became fully aware of the special Sartre-de Beauvoir relationship and came to believe that, as the third person, they could form a strong, loving, and supportive tripartite relationship.
But as war clouds gathered over Europe in 1939, de Beauvoir began to tire of Bianca and passed her on to Sartre in keeping with the dictates of their special relationship, in which they shared lovers and always told each other the truth.
Rather than be truthful about her desire to end her relationship with Bianca, de Beauvoir tried to make it appear that it was Sartre's decision to sever ties, not hers. Bianca, who confesses to her own naivety in the book, was at an utter loss. By this time, it was early 1940 and France was at war with Germany. Sartre, though recalled to the army, ended his relationship with Bianca by sending her --- after de Beauvoir's prompting --- a hastily written letter. Bianca, who admits to being in love with both Sartre and de Beauvoir, was deeply hurt by their abandonment of her and traumatized by the French defeat in June 1940.
The German Occupation put Bianca, a Jew, in grave danger. A danger which only intensified as the war went on and the Germans (with the aid of the French collaborationists) went about rounding up Jews in France and transporting them East to the concentration camps. Bianca and her family had to leave Paris for Southern France, where they were fortunate to survive the war.
This is a very compelling book and I cannot help but feel deeply sympathetic about Bianca Lamblin in light of her experiences with Sartre & de Beauvoir. I recommend it for anyone interested in memoirs and the interwar era in Europe.