Tuesday, July 19, 1994


by Jean-Paul Sartre
translated by Paul Aster & Lydia Davis

A collection of philosophical essays. I came away with a split opinion: either I was awed by Sartre's brilliance & clear vision, or turned off by his faux "arguments" (simply laying down a few comments & then pretending the issue had been established). And then, there's the fact that most of the references went over my head. It contained:

"Self Portrait at Seventy," an interview, taking up almost half the volume. What I understood, I really liked.

"Simone de Beauvoir Interviews Sartre," a conversation about feminism & the struggle.

"On The Idiot Of the Family," a good academic analysis of his work on Flaubert.

"The Burgos Trial," a strong argument for Basque independence.

"The Maoists in France," just what it says.

"Justice and the State," an essay repeating much of the previous one, on Marxist, or popular, justice, what he calls the only true justice. Here, he says he's a contradiction because he writes bourgeois books but urges Marxist revolution. I think one sees a contradiction only if one sees everything in such black and white, bourgeois-popular, either-or terms. There are gems of brilliance in this essay.

"Elections: A Trap for Fools," in which he argues that universal suffrage serializes us and gives us a false sense of power. It is true, voting delegates no authority: we are choosing people with authority, but we have no power to give (we couldn't represent ourselves, for example). This was the feeblest essay, in my opinion: anyone can work for any case he wants, and if he can't convince others to vote his way, that means they have their own causes. I just don't think voting is as serialized as he says.

three stars

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