"What is Literature?" and Other Essays

"What is Literature?" and Other Essays

Jean-Paul Sartre

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0674950844

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"What is Literature?" remains the most significant critical landmark of French literature since World War II. Neither abstract nor abstruse, it is a brilliant, provocative performance by a writer more inspired than cautious. "What is Literature?" challenges anyone who writes as if literature could be extricated from history or society. But Sartre does more than indict. He offers a definitive statement about the phenomenology of reading, and he goes on to provide a dashing example of how to write a history of literature that takes ideology and institutions into account. This new edition of "What is Literature?" also collects three other crucial essays of Sartre's for the first time in a volume of his. The essays presenting Sartre's monthly, Les Temps modernes, and on the peculiarly French manner of nationalizing literature do much to create a context for Sartre's treatise. "Black Orpheus" has been for many years a key text for the study of black and third-world literatures.

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assorting of the shades, if it is willed, can only be something thrown into the bargain; it meeting of two causal series, that is to say, at first is the sight, a fact of chance. At best, the finality remains problematic. All the relations we establish remain hypotheses; no end proposed to us in the manner of an imperative, since none is expressly revealed as having been willed by a creator. Thus, our freedom is never called forth by is natural beauty. Or rather, there 52 is an

which one paints the world, he paints it only so that free men may feel their freedom as they face it. Thus, there are only good and bad novels. The bad novel aims to please by flattering, whereas the good one is an exigence and an act of faith. But above all, the unique point of view from which the author can present the world to those freedoms whose concurrence he wishes to bring about is that of a world to be impregnated always with more freedom. It would be inconceiv- which is that there

of remunerating so unproductive and dangerous an activity, and if they do so, it is a matter both of tactics and of misapprehension. Misapprehension for the most part: free from material cares, the members of the governing are sufficiently detached to want to have a reflective knowledge of themselves. They want to retrieve them- elite and they charge the artist with presenting them with their image without realizing that he will then make selves, 81 WHAT them assume it. LITERATURE? IS A

individual peace, like the hero of the Acharnians, its country was at war, the writer's mission was to its prove his autonomy by delivering himself to the exclusive contemplation of the Eternal. He incessantly affirmed the 85 WHAT IS LITERATURE? and demonstrated it only concern was to regard Eternal's existence precisely fact that his it. In by the this sense, he realized, in effect, the ideal of Benda, but one can see under what conditions spirituality and literature had to be

behavior, once said to me, "Is there any madder wager than conjugal fidelity? Isn't Show me a madder and more magnificent blasphemy. You can see the trick; it's a matter of beating the great destroyers on their own ground. You name Don Juan and I answer by Orgon; it braving the Devil and even God? 35 more and more despair in raising a family than in seducing a thousand and one women. You offer Rimbaud, I come back with Chrysale; there's more pride and Satanism in assuming that the there's

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