Jean-Paul Sartre was a man of staggering gifts, whose accomplishments as philosopher, novelist, playwright, biographer, and activist still command attention and inspire debate. Sartre’s restless intelligence may have found its most characteristic outlet in the open-ended form of the essay. For Sartre the essay was an essentially dramatic form, the record of an encounter, the framing of a choice. Whether writing about literature, art, politics, or his own life, he seizes our attention and drives us to grapple with the living issues that are at stake.
We Have Only This Life to Live is the first gathering of Sartre’s essays in English to draw on all ten volumes of Situations, the title under which Sartre collected his essays during his life, while also featuring previously uncollected work, including the reports Sartre filed during his 1945 trip to America. Here Sartre writes about Faulkner, Bataille, Giacometti, Fanon, the liberation of France, torture in Algeria, existentialism and Marxism, friends lost and found, and much else. We Have Only This Life to Live provides an indispensable, panoramic view of the world of Jean-Paul Sartre.
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“Nothing disproves the ill-informed criticisms that philosophy is an obscure field better than a philosopher’s writings on allegedly non-philosophical topics. This collection of essays from the existentialist philosopher counters such claims and attests to philosophy’s continued relevance without explicitly setting that goal. Now-commonplace subjects, like New York City and jazz, in Sartre’s hands become telling indications of the differences between American and European metropolitan lifestyles, their solitary versus communal tendencies.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“For my generation [Sartre] has always been one of the great intellectual heroes of the twentieth century, a man whose insight and intellectual gifts were at the service of nearly every progressive cause of our time.” —Edward Said
“One of the most brilliant and versatile writers as well as one of the most original thinkers of the twentieth century.” —Times (London)
“Sartre minced no words, and his easy, natural way of writing enabled him to expound on diverse subjects. [Here] existentialism is clear and logical. Sartre wrote essays probing every political and social theme of his time, providing a remarkable view of history. His literary criticism should be the established standard for book reviewing.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Our teachers are those who bring us something radical and new, finding those ways of thinking that correspond to our modernity, our difficulties as well as our vague enthusiasms. That’s what Sartre was for us twenty-year-olds. Who except Sartre knew how to say anything new?” —Gilles Deleuze
“Jean-Paul Sartre dominated the intellectual life of twentieth-century France to an extraordinary degree.” —Tom Bishop, New York Times