Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century, Volume 1: Protestant or Protester?

John Gerassi, Author University of Chicago Press $32 (240p) ISBN 978-0-226-28797-3
To Gerassi, political science professor at City University of New York and longtime friend of Sartre, the French philosopher remains the 20th century's ``most unrelenting conscience,'' its greatest intellectual; he charges that many critics and biographers have tried to twist Sartre back into the mainstream. Most remarkable about this brilliantly original biography, the first half of a two-volume opus, is that it is authorized: Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir cooperated with the author from the early 1970s onward. Sartre's life is shown to have been an existential drama--he lived his childhood as a ``fraud,'' fathered by a ``small, sickly Catholic technocrat'' who raised him as a girl; small and physically ugly, the mature Sartre constantly seduced attractive women. He and de Beauvoir presented themselves as the ideal liberated couple, but Gerassi finds jealousy and possessiveness on both sides. Writing with energetic immediacy, the author argues that Sartre ``had never pretended to be a resistant during the war,'' and limns a gutsy intellectual caught between Gaullists and French Communists. Photos. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/23/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
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