Had the great pleasure of shopping for second had books in Cambridge this weekend, and picked up the Verso edition of Sartre’s War Diaries from the terrific G David. And there went the rest of the weekend.
I’ve always bristled about Sartre – I came to him the wrong way. I’d read Being and Time, and therefore saw Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and as kind of tuppenny Heidegger, or, worse, as dragging Heidegger back towards conventional philosophy, with a concomitant narrowing of the philosophical project that crazy Marty had instigated. And while I’d read and enjoyed Nausea in my teens, I’d decided that one could only read and enjoy Nausea in one’s teens, where the lure of existentialism is, for the educated young man, second only to the lure of women.
So the War Diaries have been a revelation. All of the arguments I had built up against Sartre are here investigated by Sartre himself – he battles with his own insecurities, mocks himself, investigates his most base and most lofty motivations. He provides moving but unsentimental pen portraits of his fellows. He investigates his own worries about his weight, his hair falling out; provides recognisable vignettes about the problem of self will regarding not drinking; speaks with great affection for Simone de Beauvoir; talks about art and literature and the self; and provides a startling affective topography of his life and being. All while working out, in often strained fashion, the beginnings of Being and Nothingness. This is an astonishing, witty and gripping portrait of a mind thinking.
So, on to the rest of it I guess. There goes 2015…