Monday, February 13, 1995


by Jean-Paul Sartre
translated by Lloyd Alexander

A volume containing five stories. Each of these is repugnant in its own way, coming a little too close to the characters' personalities for the reader's comfort. The protagonists in the stories all deal with existentialist crises, much like Roquentin in Nausea does (in fact, some passages contain identical phrasing to describe these feelings). The stories:

"Intimacy." A fairly straightforward account of a wife who almost leaves her impotent husband. She suffers in that, like Roquentin, the essence of people is stripped away for her, and she sees nothing but their rather disgusting existence.

"Erostratus." A portrait of a serial killer (predating Henry). He can't handle humans existing all around him either, and fires off a diatribe against humanists, just like you-know-who again.

"The Wall." The agony of men who know they will die (they are to be shot the next day). An amazing excursion into this mindframe, with an oddly rote ironical ending.

"The Childhood of a Leader." How a boy grows disenchanted and turns to anti-semitism, believing he can find the reason for existence in power. Hard to read, the same way Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold is.

"The Room." An insane man, and his wife who wants to live as he does, see what he sees. ...Er, didn't quite get this one.

four stars

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