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The Words: The Autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre Mass Market Paperback – April 12, 1981
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When Sartre's French naval officer father died very young, his mother, Anne Marie Schweitzer (cousin of Albert), took her baby home to her parents. In her parents' home, Anne Marie functioned more like Sartre's sister or playmate. Her father, Charles, was a stern academician who loved the child. For the first ten years of his life, Sartre did not know other children; the trio of adults was his world. The book, an extended essay really, is divided into two sections, "Reading" and "Writing." He taught himself to read early and at a young age began writing what he enjoyed reading: adventure books. Charles tried to turn off the adventure spigot and turn the child to writing about serious literature, which did not go over well. For the most part, Sartre portrays the life of a precocious boy who, by age 10, was beginning to get a sense of the tension between the past, present and future and the question of existence. Sartre concludes the book as his young self enters preadolescence, with a foot out in the world, in the society of other boys at school.
The voice of this book is surprisingly spritely, honest, 20th century modern and European. It comes out of a time when autobiography and memoir could be exercises in authentic learning, not mere navel-gazing.
My impression of Sartre as a child is that of a clever, manipulative actor. As someone who was always trying to please the adults, and be admired by them, Sartre as a child came across to me as an annoying and spoiled kid, created by his circumstances and reading, but also a self-creating identity that writes. An example of this characterization in writing is a sentence in which Sartre proves how his virtuosity and views of equality are merely an act, befitting his view of human life as a ceremony: "I treat inferiors as equals: this is a pious lie which I tell them in order to make them happy and by which it is right and proper that they be taken in, up to a certain point" (p.33).
Like the case with Rousseau however, I did appreciate the author's honesty, but I also wonder whether this self-portrait in writing is another manipulative trick in order to create an image through words.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderful book, beautifully written. I have it next to my bed and dip into it, just a page or two is enough to inspire.Published 14 months ago by Charlene Smith
Like Nausea, The Words gives life to it's title from the playful beginning, to the end, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote himself as a story book character in his own life. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Andrew Olsen
Interesting read and brutally honest. From Sartre's opinion on noncoital incest to his bourgeoisie grandfather's melodramatic displays, the book delivers for all the reasons that... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Razor
i saw the movie and cried. i always like to read the books to a good movie. LOVE JEREMY RIMES(?)Published on January 16, 2014 by samantha
Having only been exposed to Sartre's political and philosophical thought I wanted to explore the other side of his work. Read morePublished on April 7, 2012 by S. J. Boatwright
A year after the publication of this book, Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize, which he refused, and it is said that this book is what granted him this recognition. Read morePublished on April 1, 2012 by Stefanos Tsimey
He wanted us to read about his life, to discover how he turned himself into a genius, to find the turn that made him conclude earnestly, "God does not exist. Read morePublished on August 6, 2011 by Albarelli
Everyone's life is unique - the result of events, circumstances and particular sequences of incidents. George Sand in her novella 'The Devil's Pool' says `..... Read morePublished on November 19, 2006 by A. G. Plumb
Sartre's world and life are dense with words. His books are dense with words. He is the kind of writer who seems to crowd the page with more and more words, so many words that... Read morePublished on March 17, 2005 by Shalom Freedman