My dearest not too repellent you

In Chicago in 1947, French writer Simone de Beauvoir met Nelson Algren, the American novelist best known for The Man with the Golden Arm (1949). For years their romance ebbed and flowed, and in 1953 Algren remarried his ex-wife, Amanda Kontowicz, effectively ending the transatlantic affair. However, he and De Beauvoir continued to correspond until 1964, and in 1998 a few hundred of the letters—just hers to him, all of which she wrote in English—were published in Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren.

It’s a great collection, and if you can find a copy (as far as I can tell, it’s long out of print) I’d recommend picking it up. But what I love most are the ever-changing, rarely dull salutations that open her letters to Algren, many of which—but by no means all—I’ve listed below in chronological order, beginning in 1947 with ‘Dear Nelson Algren,’ and ending seventeen years later with ‘My own rat,’ the contours of their evolving love affair visible in between.


1947

23 February:

Dear Nelson Algren…

12 March:

Dear friend…

8 May:

My precious, beloved Chicago man...

21 May:

My beloved husband…

24 June:

Nelson, my love...

8 July:

My own Nelson…

31 July:

My beloved one, my dearest husband…

20 August:

My beloved nice man, my own Nelson…

9 October:

My beloved crocodile…

11 November:

Nelson, my beloved faraway husband…

6 December:

Honey…

1948

20 February:

Darling, dearest Mexico husband…

23 February:

My own local pretty man...

17 July:

Nelson, mon amour…

4 October:

My naughty husband…

1949

5 January:

Dearest naughty you…

25 January:

Dearest lazy you...

16 February:

Dearest silent you…

24 September:

Dearest Division Street Dostoyevsky…

26 September:

Dearest man with the golden arm...

9 November:

My man with the golden brain...

13 November:

Nelson, my dangerous beloved you…

29 November:

Poor dear me’s beloved one…

7 December:

Dearest shameless piece of Wabansia pimp…

21 December:

Dearest lazy crazy pimp of mine…

1950

18 January:

Nelson, my sweet beloved man with the golden heart…

21 January:

Nelson, my beloved poor stupid you…

18 February:

My dearest too busy faraway wonderman…

27 February:

Dearest meanest than ever you…

23 May:

Dearest male-brute…

20 June:

Sweetest beloved local youth of my heart…

7 October:

My dearest not too repellent you...

10 October:

My own dearest piggish pig...

19 October:

Dearest General Inspector…

1951

20 January:

My own beast…

29 January:

My darling own beast…

5 March:

My own beastish beast…

15 April:

Sweetest you, sweetest of all monsters in the world...

15 May:

Darling beast…

24 August:

Dearest monster of my own…

1952

9 January:

My nice faraway wrapped in the blizzard you…

1 February:

Darling disgustingly greedy you...

4 May:

Darling poor old ugly rejected you...

13 October:

Dearest sitting and brooding local beast...

1954

17 January:

My poor dearest American dilemma...

1959

September:

Dearest always-the-same-kind-of-you…

1960

26 August:

Dearest wonderful thing, beautiful flower of the rue Daguerre…

23 September:

Subversive beast of my heart, my faraway love…

December:

Dearest beast of Almeria, beautiful flower of Istanbul…

1961

January:

Dearest nutty king of nothing…

1962

February:

My own old owl…

1963

June:

Dear ape-man…

1964

14 July:

My own rat…


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