Paul Johnson

Slaying the Monstre Sacré

Tête-à-Tête: The Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre

By

Chatto & Windus 429pp £20 order from our bookshop

The fuss the French are making about the centenary of Sartre’s birth is a sad commentary on the present state of French letters. It is not for want of money. They spend more state cash per capita on culture than any other country. There are over 3,000 literary prizes to be had every year – and no literature. Sartre was their last world figure of any importance, a monstre sacré in the tradition of Rabelais, Molière, Voltaire and Victor Hugo. So they make the most of his still-recent reverberations. But he has had no successor (any more than Bertrand Russell, a comparable figure, has had in England). Nor is there anyone on the horizon.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,