Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

JEAN-PAUL SARTRE: THE NOVELIST AND THE EXISTENTIALIST

The Age of Reason is the first novel of Jean-Paul Sartre's to be translated into English. It is the first installment of a trilogy under the general title The Roads to Freedom, of which the second installment in translation has been announced for the fall. The Age of Reason deals with a group of young people in Paris--lycée teachers and students, Bohemians and night-club entertainers--in the summer of 1938. The second novel, The Reprieve, which has already appeared in French, carries the same characters along but works them into a more populous picture of what was going on in France during the days of the Munich Conference. The third volume, The Last Chance,* has not yet been published in French, so it is impossible at the present time to judge the work as a whole or even to know precisely what the author is aiming at.

The Age of Reason, however, stands by itself as a story. Sartre displays here the same skill at creating suspense and at manipulating the interactions of characters that we have already seen in his plays. His main theme is simply the odyssey of an ill-paid lycée teacher

____________________
*
There are now to be four volumes instead of three. The third, La Mort dans L'Âme, has appeared in French. 1950.

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