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Camus and Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 302 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (January 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226027961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226027968
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,276,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Beginning with Camus's introduction, from pied noir roots, into the Parisian circle dominated by Sartre and his existentialist milieu, Aronson (Sartre's Second Critique) opens this chronological tale with two resistance writers finding differing paths in the violent days of occupied France. Aronson's perceptive grasp of the distinct orientations of Sartre and Camus helps navigate the reader through their fluctuating political positions and oscillations between popularity and ostracism. While the initial divergence saw Camus supporting an activist resistance and Sartre offering a form of disengagement, Aronson documents the dramatic change during the Cold War and the rise of the Algerian resistance, when Sartre shifted toward embracing violence and Camus thoroughly denounced it. Through much of this postwar turmoil, each evolved his thought in an intimate opposition-an opposition that came to a decisive showdown in the pages of Sartre's Les Temps Modernes. Following a review of Camus's The Rebel, which unflinchingly panned the book, the author responded with a livid letter to the editor. Sartre's counterresponse was to be the last conversation the two ever shared. Aronson's evenhanded analysis of the quarrel reveals the frighteningly personal tack taken by these two amid a political debate that decisively ended their friendship. The consistently close reading of the writings of these authors reveals those writings in many places to be utterly personal, casting the other as a rival until the very end. Aronson's literary acuity combined with an entertaining use of anecdotes on social and personal jealousies Sartre and Camus harbored makes the book a useful biographical background to the major works of these authors and a most enjoyable tale of the turmoil of intellectual life in postwar France.
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Review

"With meticulous even-handedness, this internationally renowned Sartre expert has produced a remarkably non-partisan account which also reminds us that it is possible to combine the highest level of scholarship with a lively and readable style of writing. Making judicious use of archive and original interview material, which he combines with literary criticism, political insights and anecdotes, Aronson firmly locates the Camus-Sartre relationship in the political and cultural contexts of early post-War France. This important contribution to twentieth-century intellectual and cultural history reveals as never before the extent to which the two men interacted with each other through their writings both before and, importantly, after the 1952 rupture."
(David Drake Times Literary Supplement 2004-08-20)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Schwartz on December 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Both Camus and Sartre won the Nobel Prize for Literature (Sartre declined it). Both are major figures in twentieth century philosophy and literature. Both were embroiled in central political and world-historical events of the middle years of the last century--World War II and the German occupation of France, the Cold War, and the end of colonialism. Paris, their home, was still the center of the cultural and intellectual world and Parisians lived exciting lives at the center of world events. Aronson captures the sense of these events and Camus' and Sartre's roles in them. I felt that I got a good idea of the context and background of the philosophies and political and personal activities of both men. I enjoyed a vicarious sense of the excitement of post-war intellectual Paris. This is definitely a nostalgia stroll down the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

Aronson, although not presented as a philosopher or historian of philosophy, has a good grasp of the philosophical issues revolving around existentialism, Marxism, and mid-century French philosophy in general. If you are interested in Camus and Sartre, their lives and loves, their quarrels, and politics you could not do better than to read this book.

But are you interested in this? I am because I grew up with this stuff and still find it fascinating. How many readers, though, will want to wade through many pages of arcane Parisian disputes about Marxism, Stalinism, and communism? How many are still gripped by details of the Algerian War? Of course these events are monumental, but not so the fussy ruminations of Parisian intellectuals. When reading this book the phrase "bombination in a tea cup" kept occurring to me.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John C. Landon on January 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The friendship and then the falling out between Sartre and Camus is more than biography and tells the story of the Cold War in story book dialectical form. This account brings this self-reflective history to light, beginning with the period of the War, the Vichy regime and the Resistance, then the postwar euphorias of both authors as they become public intellectuals par excellence. Their friendship and vanguard solidarity conceals hidden differences, and as the Cold War gets into gear the divergence of 'lefts' finds its exemplars. It would seem sad in one way, and yet this encounter and division produced the dialectic needed to confront the legacy of Communism and capitalism in collision, as if a fated broil. Within a few years all the issues, later the stuff of endless discourse, were tabled, and the stakes clear til the end in 1989.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Duncan on June 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
The debate between Camus and Sartre is one that to this day dominates Western social thought. How can I make a better world without destroying the one I am in through mass violence and oppression? Aronson explains each author's answer. Though the two men initially had overlapping answers, the differences ended in a virulent explosion of dissonance and ego-charged insults. The world was not as it should be, they agreed, and Sartre replied that we must try anyway no matter the cost. A good world is worth it. But Camus could not affirm this stance. No, the world may be full of evil, but we cannot become what we fight in order to accomplish what we want. For Camus, the ends do not justify the means. That the crux of the issue.

While this book offers some great facts and information, including very telling stories recorded by Camus, Sartre, and others, it ends up being a masked apology for Sartre and totalitarian thinking though a mixing of Marxist idealism and Postmodernism. 'The facts give us the answers, everything has a political cause, power gets the final word' Aronson implies. 'But there is a truth behind the power that idealism unmasks' he continues.

While he is not unsympathetic to Camus (at times he even goes so far as to being extraordinarily insightful and penetratingly articulate), he ultimately fails to understand the approach implied by Camus. Radical individualism and humble strength--from this ground Camus stands. Aronson makes note of this politically: Camus' ability to stand in the light as the lone dissenter, caught in the middle of a powerful magnet, was unknown to Sartre. But Aronson seems to think that this ability to breath even when the air is thin and Camus' insights into philosophy lack a definitive link.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Matko Vladanovic on August 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Is there anybody out there who, after all these years of marketing, trusts those words written on the back of the cover? Whether it is a CD, DVD, computer game or a book, it all boils down to a single fact - praise and praise alone. I'm yet to see a publisher who will be willing to put a negative comment on his product. But, it doesn't matter. We're used to this practice by now, and it's one of the reasons why there is so much confidence for any kind of review in newspapers and on a specialized web-sites.

Edition that I'm holding, has nothing but the words of praise for Aronson, his writing skills, his research and knowledge of Sartre and Camus. It would be really weird if it weren't like that. There are excerpts from Times Literary Supplement, New York Times, and other less noted sources. Judging the book by it's covers we could think of nothing less than brilliant work, destined to be remembered for all ages to come. Yet, reality is somewhat different. This is not a bad book on any level. Amount of research that Aronson has put in it, qualifies it as a work worth of reading. That is, if you're have a little bit of interest for a subject. If you couldn't care less for Sartre, Camus, existentialism or a Cold War atmosphere in Europe, you will not be magically transformed into an activist willing to sacrifice everything for final judgment on who was right back then. There are number of scholars battling these questions, their works is widely unread and it may seem that they're battling a battled already lost. Whether he is aware of this fact or not, Aronson is writing for them, and general populace of modern times will remain as uninterested in these subjects as it always were. Try imagining some farmer in Alabama reading this, and you'll get the picture.
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