Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were the most famous literary couple of our time. Their relationship took on the quality of legend and served as a model of openness and honesty for countless men and women. In his own lifetime, Sartre was revered as the paradigm of the modern philosophe and intellectual, but since her death de Beauvoir's figure has loomed increasingly larger, and her literary reputation threatens to eclipse that of her partner. Her The Second Sex is, by any standard, one of the most important and influential books of the twentieth century. The publication of these letters in France in January 1990 caused a storm of controversy, as de Beauvoir, the feminist and existential heroine par excellence, was revealed in her most unguarded moments as manipulative, dependent, and often hurtful. The erotic and intellectual union that had inspired generations of free spirits suddenly displayed a darker side than the world had ever imagined. But if these letters chip off some of the gilt from the legendary de Beauvoir, they restore her to us as a real person with human flaws and weaknesses, and their appearance is a literary event in its own right. Sartre's letters to de Beauvoir were censored before publication; hers to him were not. Unavailable to Deirdre Bair when she wrote her recent biography of de Beauvoir, they are absolutely essential to a full understanding of the writer. They reveal, with disarming frankness, a woman experimenting with her freedom. She tells Sartre everything - including the disagreeable details of his lovers after she has seduced them. In addition to tracing the extraordinary triangular complications of her life with Sartre - which inspired one French reviewer to compare the two to the sinister couple at the center of Les Liaisons Dangereuses - the letters give us a vivid sense of everyday life in Montparnasse and Saint-Germain-des-Pres, and among the French intellectual and literary elite, from the 1930s to the 1960s.