cover image Sartre: A Life

Sartre: A Life

Annie Cohen-Solal. Pantheon Books, $24.95 (591pp) ISBN 978-0-394-52525-9

In telling Sartre's life story as a sweeping adventure in the present tense, Cohen-Solal recreates the existentialist crises that made up his life. She delves into the ""profound mutation'' he underwent after two months in a German prison camp, from which he emerged a militant. She candidly portrays his seduction by Stalinism; his relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, the ``linchpin'' of his social circle; his political flip-flops and growing isolation in the 1960s and '70s. One of her findings is that Sartre was fearful of direct confrontations with movements or voices that conflicted with his own; another is that he desperately sought approval from younger women. The author's approach enables her to take the full measure of her complex subject. A bestseller in the original French edition, this remarkable, intimate biography shows that the existentialist idol had feet of clay, without in any way diminishing his greatness. (June 22)