Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No Exit, Indeed

In his Cultural Amnesia, Clive James paints Jean-Paul Sartre as a coward and a fraud.

Not just name-calling, but an examination of Sartre's philosophy and its avoidance of facing the true 'existential' matter of its own time:  Nazi atrocity, racism, and -- locally for Sartre's daily world -- the Occupation and French collaboration.

Sartre isn't accused of collaboration, nor does James believe he should be.  But the moral jostling in Huis Clos, a seminal literary play dealing with the anxiety of working through unresolvable situational dilemmas, stays miles distant from the Third Reich officials in charge of Paris and some sitting in the theater audience.

If the real dilemma is in foreign uniform outside the local boulangerie, outlining the boundaries of mauvaise foi in human personal interactions is myopic.

To add insult to injury, Sartre, per James, came near posturing his resistance heroism once France was back in French hands.  No claim to it, his.  Others 'walked the walk'.


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