Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) need no longer be feared as the intensely deep analytic writer of all things existential. His essays show his brilliant ability to explain the unexplainable.
Aronson (History of Ideas/Wayne State Univ.; Camus and Sartre, 2005, etc.) and van den Hoven (Sartre Today, 2006, etc.) exhibit their incredible knowledge of Sartre, right down to tweaking the translations of almost all of the essays included in this collection. The essays have been collected from Situations, Selected Prose and newspaper articles written in 1945 and presented chronologically. His “passing thoughts” cover a wide spectrum, from literary criticism to jazz to Calder and Giacometti. Especially fascinating are his views of America in 1945, particularly New York, “the harshest city in the world.” Sartre’s observation of American workers and their unions are still relevant. The editors clearly explain Sartre’s falling out with Camus, and his “Reply to Camus” is a true joy to read—it makes one wonder what an interesting attorney he might have been, along with all his other talents. Sartre minced no words, and his easy, natural way of writing enabled him to expound on diverse subjects with hardly a moment’s hesitation. Suddenly, existentialism is clear and logical, and the philosopher’s development clearly illustrated. Sartre wrote essays probing every political and social theme of his time, providing not only his own thoughts, but a remarkable view of history. His literary criticism should be the established standard for book reviewing.
The authors have included exceptional pieces from every period in Sartre’s life, giving readers a precise understanding of a talented writer and philosopher.