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on 28 January 2013
In this celebrated work JPS set out his principles of freedom that would become a kind of blueprint for the 1960s. At times a strangely abstract novel that harks back to Zola for an overall feel of a decadent middle class about to make the hyper-jump to a Gallic Counter-Culture with World War 2 applying the brakes for a few years before the 1960s explosion.
I am impressed with Jean-Paul's proto-hippie characters; we know them, we are them, we have been them, we loved them, we hated them. Everyone in this Parisian bubble of bohemian nightclubs, student life and existential selfishness has problems of sorts, but lets be honest, no one here is out of pocket, overworked or wondering where their next meal is coming from. All can indulge themselves in sex, philosophy, introspection, drink and drugs. The Left Bank becomes a sort of late 1930s 1960s San Fransisco, the only thing missing is rock music and flowers...man. Here the music is Jazz and yes, we even have a sex scene with the lady wearing a flower in her hair...uncanny.
I mention the characters because there is little else and there doesn't need to be; the characterization is simply brilliant. Sartre cuts the frills to the bone and at times I wondered what period we were in-the 1930s, the 1870s or the 1960s. Are they selfish early yuppies? Beautiful people? Spoilt brats or pioneers of 20th Century personal freedoms? My own view is that they are all of these.
A great novel that predicted and defined much of the culture of the late 20th Century.