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The Age of Reason (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Jean-Paul Sartre , E. Sutton
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jun 1969 Penguin Modern Classics

The first volume in his Roads to Freedom trilogy, Jean-Paul Sartre's The Age of Reason is a philosophical novel exploring existentialist notions of freedom, translated by Eric Sutton with an introduction by David Caute in Penguin Modern Classics.

Set in the volatile Paris summer of 1938, The Age of Reason follows two days in the life of Mathieu Delarue, a philosophy teacher, and his circle in the cafés and bars of Montparnasse. Mathieu has so far managed to contain sex and personal freedom in conveniently separate compartments. But now he is in trouble, urgently trying to raise 4,000 francs to procure a safe abortion for his mistress, Marcelle. Beyond all this, filtering an uneasy light on his predicament, rises the distant threat of the coming of the Second World War.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was an iconoclastic French philosopher, novelist, playwright and, widely regarded as the central figure in post-war European culture and political thinking. Sartre famously refused the Nobel Prize for literature in 1964 on the grounds that 'a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution'. His most well-known works, all of which are published by Penguin, include The Age of Reason, Nausea and Iron in the Soul.

If you enjoyed The Age of Reason, you might like Sartre's Nausea, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'For my money ... the greatest novel of the post-war period'

Philip Kerr, author of the Berlin Noir trilogy

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New impression edition (Jun 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140015213
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140015218
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.4 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Entertaining...the characters are well observed and conscientiously and intelligently studied."-- Edmund Wilson, The New Yorker --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Philosopher, novelist, playwright and polemicist, Jean-Paul Sartre is thought to have been the central figure in post-war European culture and political thinking. His most well-known works, all of which are published by Penguin, include THE AGE OF REASON, NAUSEA and IRON IN THE SOUL. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The Age of Reason puts Mathieu Delarue's character on trial. We find him in a moral quandary over his mistress of seven years, recently pregnant; does he marry her, or does he try to maintain his `freedom'? The first option is seen by Mathieu as something of a dreaded defeat, the latter... well that develops into more of a problem as it dawns on him that he has absolutely no firm idea of what freedom means. The more the issue is explored the more obscure it becomes, the less assured Mathieu feels in his life, and so the more fateful his choice of marriage or abortion becomes.

The novel's really a fictional presentation of Being and Nothingness and what is mainly explored through Mathieu's character here is issue of bad faith. He criticises bourgeois life but, as the crisis of Marcelle's pregnancy proves, he is only one decision away from the traditional water-torture of career and family. He approves of his friend Brunet, a Communist, but at the same time admits to himself:
"...I don't want any change. I enjoy railing against capitalism, and I don't want it suppressed because I should no longer have any reasons for railing, I enjoy feeling fastidious and aloof. I enjoy saying no, always no, and I should be afraid of any attempt to construct a finally habitable world, because I should merely have to say - Yes; and act like other people."
In his attempt to conform to a youthfully misconceived ideal of freedom Mathieu finds himself beholden to emptiness and ugliness, ultimately he has achieved nothing with his life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you enjoy reading philosophical, metaphysical works of fiction you will love this book. As popular culture reduces everything to the lowest common denominator (violence, sex, profanity, instant gratification) and treats the reader or viewer as a moron with the attention span of a dog, Sartre does the opposite. Every sentence by every character is given equal serious interpretation by every other character. Every mood and motivation is analysed, every act is considered and reconsidered. Existentialism is everywhere. And the writing is sublime. The language is beautiful. I can't wait to read the next two novels in the trilogy.
Perhaps the only negative is that I concurrently read the excellent 'Tete a tete' about Sartre's life and his relationship with Simone de Beauvoir. It is clear from reading this biography that the characters in the Roads to Freedom trilogy are almost exact replicas of Sartre's friends and lovers. And of course the pricipal character is a Professor of Philosophy! as was Sartre of course.
However this does not detract from what, in this modern age of vacuous nonsense, is a breath of fresh air from a high mountain of stratospheric genius.
JP :O)
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Age of Reason 4 Sep 2003
The Age of Reason is a narrative fiction parallel of (parts of) Sartre's philosophical work 'Being and Nothingness.' The latter is supposed to be a bit difficult to read, but the former is a joy. If it suits you.
You don't have to get into the heavy stuff about personal freedom, bad faith and the death of God etc to enjoy this, because it is written so well that you can just take it as a story at face value.
The difference for me is, however, the underlying idea. I think a novel with a great central idea is a great thing. See Catch 22 for a similar example. Here, Sartre presents to us the situation where you find tourself unable to make the next move because it will go against your principles. But that very move will preserve your freedom, which is in fact your guiding principle. So do you break your own rules to allow yourself to carry on living by them, or just chuck everything away and start over?
I don't know about you, but I think that's a pretty base to build a story on. I'm afraid I can't explain it as well as it should be, but I hope you get the drift. The setting, characters and events are all presented in a very colloquial style and manner - don't expect anything really heavy here - he saves that for the 2nd and 3rd installments of the trilogy.
I liked it. Top 5 book of all time. Read it while you're young enough to appreciate the challenge. Go on! Eh? Go on....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very French 2 Feb 2000
By A Customer
Our hero Maurice is philisophical man big questions and a very straight forward man with personal questions. However when his misstress falls pregnant, our hero is in a quandry about how his actions and principles can be resolved. Not a new premise for a story, but well handled as we see our hero wander through a salacious Paris with an avant-garde swagger that becomes an anxious rushing. It all finishes with a final desicion and the result is a certain humility and compromise. Easy to read (for Satre at least) it is recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Age of Resignation... 11 May 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is the first volume of the trilogy entitled "Roads to Freedom." The other two volumes, in English, are entitled The Reprieve (Penguin Modern Classics) and Troubled Sleep (Chemins de la Liberte = The Roads To Freedom). The trilogy concerns the lives of a variety of French people over a period of two years, 1938-40, which covered the lead up to, and France's disastrous defeat at the hands of Germany in the Second World War. I first read the trilogy some 40 years ago, and was exceedingly impressed with Sartre's power as a novelist, and a chronicler of the human condition. I was most impressed with the middle volume, started with it on this re-read, and was not disappointed. I'd advise the first time reader to tackle them in order. Although they can be read independently, there will be a much deeper understanding of the characters if one "begins at the beginning."

And the beginning in this case is the summer of 1938. The novel's motive force is a wanted/unwanted pregnancy, which precipitates a "mid-life crisis," in both principal characters: Professor of Philosophy, Mathieu Delarue and his long-term "partner," Marcelle Duffet. There are several other major characters, including two young Russian émigrés, the brother and sister, Boris and Ivich. Boris has a significant relationship with a woman roughly twice his age, a nightclub singer, Lola. Ivich fears that she has just failed her exams, which will necessitate a return to her home in the detested provincial town of Laon, and seeks solace from Mathieu, with results that are not necessarily predictable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars dreadful translation
apparently they slapped this on from his handwritten manuscripts with no editing
I don't know who Eric Sutton is he seems a Dutch (or French) guy who uses the dictionary quite... Read more
Published 9 months ago by George Paschos
5.0 out of 5 stars Roads To Freedom
Excellent condition speedy delivery the book itself is excellent I remember a tv series based on the trilogy "The Roads To Freedom" this is the first in that series.
Published 15 months ago by Debra Maye
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought as a present
Unable to give any direct feedback as this was bought as a present. Unable to say anymore about this item although I head read Sartre and he is a good writer.
Published 15 months ago by A. John Chubb
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book...
or those that dabble with nihilsm or find meaning in a lack of meaning, it's comforting to know that these issues were being pondered with intelligence a hundred years ago. Read more
Published 16 months ago by J. Craven
4.0 out of 5 stars Sartre's Blueprint
In this celebrated work JPS set out his principles of freedom that would become a kind of blueprint for the 1960s. Read more
Published 19 months ago by P. Ronayne
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read, well written characters, brilliant plot and just written...
Essential piece of fiction for people who like cynical plots and motives. The characters are perfectly written : Mathieu the teacher/washout, Daniel the smooth-featured homosexual... Read more
Published 19 months ago by osian gruffudd
3.0 out of 5 stars Free To Reason
This first book in Sartre's trilogy documents several interlocking lives in and around WWII and explores a central theme in existentialism: what kind of decisions can we make as... Read more
Published on 15 May 2012 by demola
2.0 out of 5 stars sartre doesnt really have a talent for fiction
i have read several of sartres fiction works and it seems they are all equally grey and boring in their style and arrangement. Read more
Published on 31 Jan 2012 by sanyata
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious
The "hero" of this novel is supposedly in pursuit of freedom but does nothing but defeat himself in the most inane ways. Read more
Published on 26 Jan 2012 by William Shardlow
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining introduction to existentialism
The Age of Reason: Jean-Paul Sartre, 1945; trans. Eric Sutton, Penguin, London, 2001.

An entertaining introduction to existentialism
By Howard Jones

This... Read more
Published on 26 Nov 2010 by Dr. H. A. Jones
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