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Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century / Edition 1

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Overview

'A whole man, made of all men, worth all of them, and any one of them worth him.' This was how Jean-Paul Sartre characterized himself at the end of his autobiographical study, Words. And Bernard-Henri Levy shows how Sartre cannot be understood without taking into account his relations with the intellectual forebears and contemporaries, the lovers and friends, with whom he conducted a lifelong debate. His thinking was essentially a tumultuous dialogue with his whole age and himself. He learned from Gide the art of freedom, and how to experiment with inherited fictional forms. He was a fellow-traveller of communism, and yet his relations with the Party were deeply ambiguous. He was fascinated by Freud but trenchantly critical of psychoanalysis. Beneath Sartre's complex and ever-mutating political commitments, Levy detects a polarity between anarchic individualism on the one hand, and a longing for absolute community that brought him close to totalitarianism on the other. Levy depicts Sartre as a man who could succumb to the twentieth century's catastrophic attraction to violence and the false messianism of its total political solutions, while also being one of the fiercest critics of its illusions and shortcomings.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The book's enthusiasm is infectious. It delves sympathetically into Sartre's ideas and makes a strong case for their importance."

The Economist

"This biography of the French guru is brilliant."

George Walden, The Sunday Telegraph

"Enthralling, absolutely enthralling."

Christian Sauvage, Le Journal du Dimanche

"Bernard-Henri Lévy wonderfully resurrects Jean-Paul as a colossus bestriding the age...It would be hard to imagine a better translation of BHL oracular French. Andrew Brown succeeds in bringing Lévy so flamingly to life as a passionately engaged and combative speaker that you can hear him holding forth on the other side of the table in the Flore or the Deux Magots"

Andy Martin, Daily Telegraph

"Sartre, who had refused all kinds of introspection, is here thoroughly revisited in both his life and work. In this journey through the century in which Sartre lived, one learns as much about the twentieth century as one does about Sartre. This is Bernard Henri Lévy at his very best."

Marcel Neusch, La Croix

"Levy is seldom a less than engaging guide to the drama of the rise and fall of one of the last century's most prominent writers and thinkers"

Aengus Collins, Irish Times

Publishers Weekly
In this impenetrable rhapsody to the apotheosis of French intellectualism, Sartre emerges as a force of nature: a novelist comparable to Faulkner and Joyce; a thinker whose existentialism rivaled Marxism and Freudianism for sway over the modern mind; a political activist whose mistakes are grander than others' successes; a great (though technically lousy) lover whose countless betrayals of Simone de Beauvoir only cemented their soul bond; "a tremor, a torrent, a tidal wave." Levy, a French philosopher and writer, assumes readers are as steeped in Sartriana as he is and so dispenses with biographical context and narrative thread in favor of a hop-scotching thematic treatment, full of obscure references. He avoids any systematic development of Sartre's philosophy, indulging instead in vapid color-commentary (Sartre's philosophical writings were "a series of raids, offensives, commando operations") and opaque ruminations ("[Truth] is a very long and complex movement in which a 'true' which is no longer 'subject' but 'substance' emerges from itself..."). His denunciations of Sartre's "Stalinist cretinism" are more coherent, but his insights into Sartre's politics ("there were two Sartre's...almost at war") remain banal. Essentially a 450-page love letter, the book overflows with fawning endearments, petulant reproaches and intimate allusions to epiphanies and quarrels that outsiders will not be able to grasp. Unfortunately, in the haze of grandiloquent verbiage with which Levy surrounds every facet of Sartre's life ("[i]t was in order to have big ideas, to create huge colossal things, that...he had to drug himself") the man and his ideas are lost. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745630090
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/15/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 9.86 (h) x 1.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard-Henri Levy is a philosopher and a writer. He is a member of the Selection Committee of the Editions Grasset, and he runs La Regle du Jeu magazine. He writes a weekly column in the magazine, Point and chairs the Conseil de Surveillance of La Sept-Arte.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
Pt. I 'The man, a century' 7
1 Sartre's Fame 9
2 Stendhal and Spinoza 42
3 Taking Leave of Gide 74
4 A 'German' Philosopher 102
5 Note on the Heidegger Question 134
Pt. II Justice for Jean-Paul Sartre 163
1 Existentialism is an Anti-humanism 165
2 What is a Monster? (biographical fragments) 202
3 Anti-Fascist from Beginning to End 238
4 Note on the Vichy Question: Sartre in the Resistance 269
5 Sartre, Now 295
Pt. III The Madness of the Age 321
1 Another Sartre (snapshots) 323
2 On the Workings of Error in the Life of an Intellectual 355
3 The Confession 381
4 Sartre's Failure 412
5 Requiem for Literature 445
Epilogue (The Blind Philosopher) 476
Notes 503
Index 527
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