Yesterday, I stumbled across a reference to Simone de Beauvoir's funeral in April 1986. Film director Claude Lanzmann read the eulogy and opted to read a text from de Beauvoir's The Force of Circumstance (1963):
“I loathe the thought of annihilating myself quite as much now as I ever did. I think with sadness of all the books I’ve read, all the places I’ve seen, all the knowledge I’ve amassed and that will be no more. All the music, all the paintings, all the culture, so many places: and suddenly nothing. They made no honey, those things, they can provide no one with any nourishment. At the most, if my books are still read, the reader will think: There wasn’t much she didn’t see! But that unique sum of things, the experience that I lived, with all its order and all its randomness – the Opera of Peking, the arena of Huelva, the candomblé in Bahia, the dunes of El-Oued, Wabansia Avenue, the dawns in Provence, Tiryns, Castro talking to five thousand Cubans, a sulphur sky over a sea of clouds, the purple holly, the white nights of Leningrad, the bells of the Liberation, an orange moon over Piraeus, a red sun rising over the desert, Torcello, Rome, all the things I’ve talked about, others I have left unspoken – there is no place where it will all live again.”
Joanna Biggs in a recent LRB piece describes this text as a celebration of a life lived without feeling the need to constantly worry about being an example to others, a "crashing together of moments." What do we live for and how does this manifest itself in our priorities?