The Skyline was Really Somethin’ in those Days

Simone de Beauvoir, the French novelist and feminist philosopher, visited New York City post-WWII. At night she discussed politics at parties with tipsy and testy American intellectuals. During the day, she gave her hosts the slip and made day trips around the city. This diary snapshot? So stark it hurts.

The sun is so beautiful, the waters of the Hudson so green that I take the boat that brings midwestern tourists to the Statue of Liberty. But I don’t get out at the little island that looks like a small fort. I just want to see a view of [sic] Battery as I’ve so often seen it in the movies. I do see it. In the distance, its towers seem fragile. They rest so precisely on their vertical lines that the slightest shudder would knock them down like a house of cards. When the boat draws closer, their foundations seem firmer, but the fall line remains indelibly traced. What a field day a bomber would have!

Simone de Beauvoir
January 26, 1947

(New York Diaries: 1609-2009. p. 37)