SARTRE by Ronald Hayman


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Prolific biographer tries his hand at the most complex and compelling French thinker of the century and doesn't make a match. Hayman's previous efforts, while not of the first rank, were clear and straightforward presentations of life data and publication dates. With Sartre, this approach does not work at all. The French philosopher was willfully contradictory, over-productive to an almost alarming degree, and vehement in his insistence on writing books so long and long-winded that they almost destroyed the subjects they were addressed to. Given this biographee, Hayman's method of tidying little bits of a life together cannot be called a success. He is obviously familiar with the works of Sartre, yet how much he has gleaned by reading them is debatable. He is given to snap judgments out of context which seem the very antithesis of the Sartreian method; nothing was more foreign to Sartre than the aphorism. Naturally, Englishman Hayman cannot be expected to have read everything of importance published in France during Sartre's years of productivity. However, many French writers have, and it is to their memoirs and reflections on Sartre that the interested should turn. Otherwise, the walleyed existentialist can seem like a solitary goldfish in a bowl, or perhaps one with a guppy named Beauvoir as companion. Dutiful job, but biographer and subject are ill-suited: there's no read evid-dence of any penetration into the often murky, incomplete, overbearing, but eventually compelling thought and life of Sartre.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Simon & Schuster