Satre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century by Bernard-Henri Lévy (trans. Andrew Brown) - review by John Laughland

John Laughland

Existential Angst

Satre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century


Polity Press 536pp £25 order from our bookshop

THERE ARE SOME books which condemn a man more by praising him than by attacking him. Bernard-Henri Livy's biography of Jean-Paul Sartre combines an irritating pseudy style - most of the book is not written in sentences, but in Blairite verbless phrases - with the adolescent multi-culti faddism for which the dandy philosopher and shameless self-promoter BHL is notorious. He plunges in, for instance, with a pompous and improbable story about Bosnian academics gathering in a cellar in Sarajevo to read Sartre's 'The Problem of Method' during the siege of that city - 'they were reading Sartre so as not to die'. But this rambling biography sets itself the task of understanding the man and the philosopher, warts and all - and it is the warts which stick out above all else.

It is when Lévy celebrates Sartre's attachment to ‘freedom' that we are treated to the most harrowing journey through Sartre's depravity. 'Atheism pure and simple', writes BHL, was the 'great adventure' of soul thai loves mankind.' Sartre had admired Gide and Nietzsche for living atheism to the full in their

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