SITUATIONS by Jean-Paul Sartre


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There's no equivalent for Sartre in Anglo-American circles; he is a product of European romanticism, French rationalism, German philosophy (i.e., Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger), and Marxist theorizing. Through him these obviously contradictory elements meet in an uneasy balance, a "bad marriage" enforced by the temper of the times. Exacerbated, dazzling, fiercely inventive, his writings bear down on the reader's consciousness like a guillotine. His enemy- the morality of essence, the kingdom of the "bourgeois"- is treated with an almost paranoid contempt, a self-loathing so final it can do little but breed its inverse, the "mirror image." The Sartrean method is at work on political questions ("The Iron Curtain is only a mirror, where each half of the world reflects the other") or the personal dilemma ("We know today that there is nothing to understand, that everything came about imperceptibly by means of unnoticeable yieldings. And then, when we raised our heads, we saw in the glass a strange, a horrible face: our own"). Collected here are the essays on his late colleagues Camus, Nizan and Merleau-Ponty, which, along with a preface to a novel by the little-known Gorz, are among the most brilliant critical, as well as confessional, writings he has ever done. They all supplement the de Beauvoir memoir, La Force de l'age, as well as present biographical (or en situation) illustrations of bastardy, subjective reflectivity, reciprocity. They project these concepts which seek to cleanse a generation and through which Sartre's puzzling, unique blend of phenomenology and historicism explores the artist's conscience. Included also: commentaries on Gide, Sarraute, the musician Liebnowitz, Giacometti, and a scholarly appreciation of Tintoretto.
Pub Date: April 5th, 1965
Publisher: Braziller
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1965


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