Joseph Epstein isn’t impressed:
Simone de Beauvoir is the woman who gets more attention than any other. She and Jean-Paul Sartre were, of course, in Dinerstein’s phrase, “existentialism’s first couple.” But the closer the camera bears in on their lives, the less cool they seem. Dinerstein neglects to mention that Sartre was one of the world’s true savant-idiots: one of those brilliant minds that gets all the important things wrong, in his case the beneficence of the Soviet Union, the cure for anti-Semitism, and much else. He was also, in his spare time, an earnest lecher: 5 feet tall, with a bulging right eye and less than scrupulous about hygiene, with Beauvoir’s help Sartre lured various young women into his untidy bed; some first had lesbian affairs with her. Sartre and Beauvoir, though never married, were thought to have an open arrangement; but in later years her job was to lure young women, students, and others who had fallen under her influence into sexual relations with the troll-like Sartre. They would later recount these adventures in detailed letters to each other. Simone de Beauvoir, in fact, functioned as (in the cant phrase) Sartre’s “enabler.” More precisely, she was his pimp—not cool, not in the least; squalid, rather, sordid in the extreme.