We Have Only This Life to Live: The Selected Essays of Jean-Paul Sartre, 1939-1975

Overview

Jean-Paul Sartre was a man of staggering gifts, whose accomplishments as philosopher, novelist, playwright, biographer, and activist still command attention and inspire debate. Sartre’s restless intelligence may have found its most characteristic outlet in the open-ended form of the essay. For Sartre the essay was an essentially dramatic form, the record of an encounter, the framing of a choice. Whether writing about literature, art, politics, or his own life, he seizes our attention and drives us to grapple with...
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Overview

Jean-Paul Sartre was a man of staggering gifts, whose accomplishments as philosopher, novelist, playwright, biographer, and activist still command attention and inspire debate. Sartre’s restless intelligence may have found its most characteristic outlet in the open-ended form of the essay. For Sartre the essay was an essentially dramatic form, the record of an encounter, the framing of a choice. Whether writing about literature, art, politics, or his own life, he seizes our attention and drives us to grapple with the living issues that are at stake.

We Have Only This Life to Live is the first gathering of Sartre’s essays in English to draw on all ten volumes of Situations, the title under which Sartre collected his essays during his life, while also featuring previously uncollected work, including the reports Sartre filed during his 1945 trip to America. Here Sartre writes about Faulkner, Bataille, Giacometti, Fanon, the liberation of France, torture in Algeria, existentialism and Marxism, friends lost and found, and much else. We Have Only This Life to Live provides an indispensable, panoramic view of the world of Jean-Paul Sartre.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Nothing disproves the ill-informed criticisms that philosophy is an obscure field better than a philosopher's writings on allegedly non-philosophical topics. This collection of essays from the existentialist philosopher counters such claims and attests to philosophy's continued relevance without explicitly setting that goal. Now-commonplace subjects, like New York City and jazz, in Sartre's hands become telling indications of the differences between American and European metropolitan lifestyles, their solitary versus communal tendencies. A few essays delve into significant literary works, like Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Camus's The Stranger, from which Sartre, with his self-proclaimed appreciation for literary ambiguity, gleans assessments on the human relation to time and the absurdity of the human experience in the world, respectively. Art, poetry, politics, war, oppression and racism, Americanization, the atomizing of soldiers, the serialization of votes, the future of France, and, of course, existentialism also receive Sartre's keen analysis. As with most collections, there's little reason to read the essays linearly, although they are arranged chronologically. Regardless of the topic, Sartre relates everything back to the human condition and our obligation to fully create the self: it's the only chance we'll get.
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From the Publisher
"Nothing disproves the ill-informed criticisms that philosophy is an obscure field better than a philosopher's writings on allegedly non-philosophical topics. This collection of essays from the existentialist philosopher counters such claims and attests to philosophy's continued relevance without explicitly setting that goal. Now-commonplace subjects, like New York City and jazz, in Sartre's hands become telling indications of the differences between American and European metropolitan lifestyles, their solitary versus communal tendencies."  —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"For my generation [Sartre] has always been one of the great intellectual heroes of the twentieth century, a man whose insight and intellectual gifts were at the service of nearly every progressive cause of our time." —Edward Said
 
"One of the most brilliant and versatile writers as well as one of the most original thinkers of the twentieth century." —Times (London)
 
“Sartre minced no words, and his easy, natural way of writing enabled him to expound on diverse subjects. [Here] existentialism is clear and logical. Sartre wrote essays probing every political and social theme of his time, providing a remarkable view of history. His literary criticism should be the established standard for book reviewing.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Our teachers are those who bring us something radical and new, finding those ways of thinking that correspond to our modernity, our difficulties as well as our vague enthusiasms. That’s what Sartre was for us twenty-year-olds. Who except Sartre knew how to say anything new?” —Gilles Deleuze

"Jean-Paul Sartre dominated the intellectual life of twentieth-century France to an extraordinary degree." —Tom Bishop, New York Times

From the Publisher
"For my generation [Sartre] has always been one of the great intellectual heroes of the twentieth century, a man whose insight and intellectual gifts were at the service of nearly every progressive cause of our time." —Edward Said
 
"One of the most brilliant and versatile writers as well as one of the most original thinkers of the twentieth century." —Times (London)
 
"Jean-Paul Sartre dominated the intellectual life of twentieth-century France to an extraordinary degree." —Tom Bishop, New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590174937
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 457,899
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was a hugely influential French philosopher, novelist, playwright, and pamphleteer. In 1964 he declined the Nobel Prize for Literature. Among his most well-known works available in English are Nausea, Being and Nothingness, No Exit, Critique of Dialectical Reason, and The Words.

Ronald Aronson is the author of The Dialectics of Disaster, After Marxism, Camus and Sartre and  Living Without God. He teaches at Wayne State University.

Adrian van den Hoven is Professor Emeritus at the University of Windsor and founding Executive Editor of Sartre Studies International. He has translated Sartre, Camus, and other French writers, and is the author of several books about Sartre. He was twice elected President of the North American Sartre Society.

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