Sartre, like Camus, has always been concerned with salvation. Both denied God and both were Catholic renegades. But Camus, seeking participation in life and reconciliation with nature, asserted man's right to happiness here and now. For Sartre, given the condition of the world, Camus' philosophy was merely sentimental or inspirational, an example of what he calls "bad faith." It is only by traveling in "the direction of History" that man's destiny can be realized. And for Sartre that meant the socialist future. Between Existentialism and Marxism, a collection of his most recent essays and interviews, emphasizes the dialectical turning point when existential or subjective awareness is heightened by neo-Marxian analysis, when the purely symbolic act enters the arena of real action, when universal values transcend individual consciousness. "How a man comes to politics, how he is caught by them, and how he is made other by them" — this defines Sartre's rocky journey. He tells us that "the Vietnamese are fighting for all men, and the Americans against all men," that "the machine cannot be repaired; the peoples of Eastern Europe must seize hold of it and destroy it," that the "duty of the Left" is to learn "to unite all the exploited to overthrow the old ossified structures" and thus attain the true revolution. In short, another version of the Absolute which Camus, of course, condemned, as tyranny, but which Sartre insists is the only path to freedom. Sartre's brilliance, however, is not to be seen in these cloudy ideological discussions, but rather in the three essays on Kierkegaard, Mallarme, and Tintoretto, striking and original pieces which inflame an otherwise ponderous book. Here he deals with the "quest for purification," the creative man's eternal task, makes concrete ideas which elsewhere are abstract, and in the celebration of Mallarme, in particular, writes with such power that he produces a sort of prose poem.

Pub Date: March 7, 1975

ISBN: 1844672077

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1975

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.


New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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