ADIEUX

A FAREWELL TO SARTRE

Two documentary additions—prosaic, unformed, but substantial—to the Jean-Paul Sartre biography, to the understanding of his oeuvre, to the history of the Beauvoir/Sartre relationship. First comes a fairly brief, inadequately annotated memoir of Sartre, 1970-1980, "based on the diary I kept during those ten years, and on the many testimonies I have gathered." De Beauvoir, a sometime companion in this period, mostly records the ups and downs in Sartre's health: diabetes, slight strokes, dizziness, teeth problems, incontinence, and—worst of all—near-blindness. (In one of the few emotional moments here: "Then he looked at me with a look of anxiety and almost of shame. 'Shall I never get my eyes back?' I said I was afraid he would not. It was so heartrending that I wept all night long."):' Even amid weakness and pain, however, Sartre continued to work on his Flaubert studies, to take on editing assignments for the Maoist magazines, to address workers' groups—in his desire to be "the new intellectual who endeavors to become integrated with the masses so as to bring about the triumph of true universality." (A subtle, curious undercurrent here is De Beauvoir's muted ambivalence about Sartre's final political allegiances—not to mention "his various young women" who kept him supplied with forbidden whiskey.) And the memoir ends with De Beauvoir's musings on the semi-serenity which Sartre achieved in the face of death, on the quasi-suicidal nature of his last illnesses, on the lack of philosophical comfort at the end: "His death does separate us. My death will not bring us together again. That is how things are. It was in itself splendid enough that we could live our lives in harmony so long." The bulk of this thick volume, however, consists of transcripts from 1974 taped conversations between De Beauvoir and Sartre—which "do not reveal any unexpected aspects of him, but. . . do allow one to follow the winding course of his thought and to hear his living voice." Responding to De Beauvoir's often-leading questions, then, an unenthusiastic Sartre talks about: his petit-bourgeois childhood (the hated stepfather, the boarding-school violence); his sometimes-conflicting roles as writer and philosopher (intriguing comments on varying approaches to fiction, criticism, philosophy); individual novels, plays, essays; the influence of Proust, Kafka, Giraudoux; soured friendships with Camus, Koestler, Giacometti, Genet; attitudes toward food, money, and sex—with his attraction to youth ("I find the adult male deeply disgusting"), his relationships with women, his small, ugly self-image. And the conversations turn finally to freedom and socialism (the dual crux of Sartre's politics), death, and God—"a prefabricated image of man, man multiplied by infinity." Repetitious, rarely surprising, enlivened here and there by the often-amusing De Beauvoir/Sartre subtext (e.g., her vain efforts to get him to endorse her version of shared memories): unscintillating but required reading—for students, followers, and other Sartre-watchers.

Pub Date: April 30, 1984

ISBN: 039472898X

Page Count: 453

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1984

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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