The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir
The Mandarins (French: Les Mandarins) is a 1954 roman à clef by Simone de Beauvoir, for which she won the Prix Goncourt, awarded to the best and most imaginative prose work of the year, in 1954. The Mandarins was first published in English in 1956 (in a translation by Leonard M. Friedman). The book follows the personal lives of a close-knit group of French intellectuals from the end of World War II to the mid-1950s. The title refers to the scholar-bureaucrats of imperial China. The characters at times see themselves as ineffectual "mandarins" as they attempt to discern what role, if any, intellectuals will have in influencing the political landscape of the world after World War II. As in de Beauvoir's other works, themes of feminism, existentialism, and personal morality are explored as the characters navigate not only the intellectual and political landscape but also their shifting relationships with each other. The British novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch (in the Sunday Times) described The Mandarins as "a remarkable book, a novel on the grand scale, courageous in its exactitude and endearing because of its persistent seriousness".