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We Have Only This Life to Live: The Selected Essays of Jean-Paul Sartre 1939-1975 (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 5 Jul 2013

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Review

'a marvellously healing coherence in the mix of the personal and the philosophical.'

(Sunday Herald)

About the Author

JEAN-PAUL SARTRE (1905-1980) was a hugely influential French philosopher, novelist, playwright, and pamphleteer. In 1964 he declined the Nobel Prize for Literature. Among his most well-known works available in English are Nausea, Being and Nothingness, No Exit, Critique of Dialectical Reason, and The Words.
RONALD ARONSON is the author of The Dialectics of Disaster, After Marxism, Camus and Sartre and Living Without God. He teaches at Wayne State University.
ADRIAN VAN DEN HOVEN is Professor Emeritus at the University of Windsor and founding Executive Editor of Sartre Studies International. He has translated Sartre, Camus, and other French writers, and is the author of several books about Sartre. He was twice elected President of the North American Sartre Society.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bright Mind 26 Nov. 2013
By Arturo V. Vacano - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bright mind.
Funny thinking.
Never boring.
Good teacher.
As Amazon knows, Hell are other people.
I do not know what else to write.
8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Classic Sartre 21 July 2013
By Dr. William V. Ofman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is classic Sartre. Anyone interested in Humanistic Existentialism should have and read this collection. This book is an anchor for Existential thought and criticism.
5.0 out of 5 stars like Faulkner’s, Kafka’s 25 Mar. 2017
By Glenn Russell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
“Dos Passos’s world, like Faulkner’s, Kafka’s, or Stendhal’s, is impossible because it is contradictory. But therein lies its beauty. Beauty is a veiled contradiction. I regard Dos Passos as the greatest writer of our time.” - Jean-Paul Sartre, On John Dos Passos and 1919

Thirty Jean-Paul Satre essays collected here, addressing topics ranging from a clarification of existentialism, Husserl’s phenomenology, Kierkegaard’s philosophy, the American working class, Vietnam war crimes to reflections on artists and literary writers such as Faulkner, Camus, Bataille, Calder and Giacometti. As philosophy/scholar Ronald Aronson so aptly states in his illuminating Introduction to this New York Review Books (NYRB) edition, “Sartre writes with remarkable freedom, never settling into a single, predictable tone. He engages issues with extreme, attention-getting statements, vividly and forcefully taking a position on the question at hand.” Rather than making more general statements, in the very spirit of Jean-Paul Sartre and his existential philosophy, I will be as specific as possible, commenting on direct quotes from one of his essays I find particularly vivid and forceful: On John Dos Passos and 1919.

“A novel is a mirror. Everyone says so. But what is it to read a novel? I believe that it is to jump into the mirror. Suddenly you find yourself through the looking glass, among people and objects that seem familiar.” ---------- ---------- Ha! A novel is a powerful world we leap into, as if Alice through the looking glass, a complete world into itself, familiar yet unique. How many worlds have you leaped into and thus have expanded your sense of people and objects, expanded your entire sense of life? Sartre goes on to convey the power a novel can have on a reader when written by a first-rate author like John Dos Passos.

“This is not narrative: it is the jerky unwinding of a raw memory full of holes, which sums up a period of several years in a few words, then lingers languidly over some tiny fact. In this it is just like our real memories, a jumble of frescoes and miniatures.” ---------- By Sartre’s reckoning, Dos Passos magically treats time in a way that parallels much of our own very human sense of time and memory. Even more effectively than Faulkner’s treatment of time - now that’s a real accomplishment!

“Nowhere, however, do we have the sense of novelistic freedom. Rather Dos Passos forces on us the unpleasant impression of an indeterminacy of detail. Acts, emotions, and ideas settle suddenly upon a character, make their nests, and then fly off, without the character himself having much to do with it.” ---------- So, for Sartre, John Dos Passos has created a world where actions, feelings, sensations and even ideas become forces pressing against our more internal existential freedom. And for an author who famously wrote “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does,” it really is a tribute to John Dos Passos that Sartre judged him the finest living novelist.

“In his storytelling Dos Passos deliberately chose the perspective of history: he wants to make us feel that the die is cast. In Man’s Hope, Malraux says, more or less, that the tragic thing about death is that it “transforms life into fate.” From the first lines of his book, Dos Passos has settled into death. All the existence he retraces have closed upon themselves. They are like those Bergsonian memories that float around, after the death of the body, full of shouts and smells and light, in some sort of limbo.” ---------- By these words, Sartre conveys his admiration for Dos Passos and his ability to deal with death face-to-face. Personally, it never occurred to me that John Dos Passos was a key existentialist. On the strength of Sartre’s words I now plan to read his U.S.A. trilogy.

“Dos Passos reports all his character’ words in the style of press releases. They are, as a result, immediately cut off from thought; they are pure words, simple reactions to be registered as such, after the fasion of the behaviorists, from whom Dos Passos takes occasional inspiration. But at the same time utterances assume a social importance: they are sacred, they become maxims.” ---------- What’s fascinating is how words in the style of a press release can then take on a dimension of the sacred. For me, a novelistic turn worth exploring since never in my life have I read a press release that I discerned having even a shred of commonality with the sacred. Or, for that matter, ever becoming a universal maxim.

“Yesterday you saw your best friend and told him of your passionate hatred of the war. Now try to tell yourself that story in the style of Dos Passos.” ---------- Thank you, Jean-Paul Sartre! This is a challenge for all of us – to recast and transform our passion into a story we can tell ourselves in the style of this John Dos Passos novel. And I would even go further – what Sartre asks us to do with 1919, we can attempt with any novel having a profound effect on us.
5.0 out of 5 stars The death of Kierkegaard is extrapolated for the centuries in which we live and die sappy as words have ever been 22 April 2017
By epic phlegm Hooha - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Having been chosen for a part in the deathly ratline after I reached the age of 21 years old, received a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Engineering Mechanics with student work done in fluid dynamics of convection currents at a cold liquid water temperature with a parabolic density set of partial differential equations involved in the flow pattern, I expected to schlepp through my military service quickly by clinging to the most polymorphously perverse incentives, I find now at the age of 70 that I deserve a death by wisecrack, and philosophy is the field which comes closest to the experimental existential psychology in which death has the most significance for people who are trying to avoid the modern miracle of technological life support when a stroke has erased vital brain functions. I hardly appreciated Sartre before, but the intensity of my interest in Sartre and Kierkegaard grew when Sartre revealed the date of the death of Kierkegaard, November 11, 1855, a mere 53 years before the end of the world's great war in November, 1911. On page 426, Sartre observed:

Kierkegaard made regressive use of objective
and objectifying ensembles in such a way
that the self-destruction of the language
necessarily unmasks he who employs it.

Walter Kaufmann had chosen Mind and Mask as a combined topic to reveal triumphs of atheism in a trilogy, Discovering the Mind, which was being published in 1980, when Walter Kaufmann died on September 4 in a glorious end of his free demo of what piffle people hardly understand. The trilogy was about the intellectual life of dead European males who did not fall back on Kierkegaard when death came lurking in the events they chose to expand. Zarathustra became a clown of die at the right time, bit Nietzsche lingered until 1900 in the care of his mother and his sister, who was overly impressed with what Germans could do if you wanted something cosmic.

Sartre love Kierkegaard like a refutation of Hegel who killed himself by clinging to aristocratic attitudes when Christendom was split right up the middle on how big a miracle could money become. What Sartre liked is so obvious now:

Kierkegaard by contrast constructed his language
in such away as to reveal within his false knowledge
certain lines of force which allowed the possibility
of a return from the pseudo-object to the subject, (p. 426).

I love the such away, which reminds me of pointing out a typographical error in a text by Walter Kaufmann quoting the poem by Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach on vast edges near which were really drear. (Man's Lot, Life At The Limits, p. 77).

Death can be such away relief from the social slime which Jesus shaves my own attitudes about you are going to die unless you kill someone else first.
1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sartre 9 Feb. 2014
By Barbara Ames - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are a philosophy nut this one is for you! If you are not then pass on this one
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