Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sarah Bakewell: 'At the Existentialist Café' (2016): Part One

Sarah Bakewell's At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and others (New York: Other Press, 2016) delivers a masterful blend of biographical details and ideas. Fantastic! This is already my favorite ever book on the Existentialists and their "fellow travelers" -- and I haven't even finished reading it yet.

You want just a little bit of Søren Kierkegaard or Friedrich Nietzsche to get you in the mood? Check out Chapter 1: "SIR, WHAT A HORROR, EXISTENTIALISM!"

Additional teasers: "The topic of philosophy is whatever you experience, as you experience it" (page 16). You think about things, don't ya? You do live beyond making pitter patter, right? 

Sarah Bakewell: "I think philosophy becomes more interesting when it is cast into the form of a life. Likewise, I think personal experience is more interesting when thought about philosophically" (page 32).

And how about that time when Jean-Paul Sartre wanted to experience the effects of mescaline in the 1930s?  "The results were dramatic. While [Aldous] Huxley's drug adventure would be mystical and ecstatic . . . Sartre's brain threw up a hellish crew of snakes, fish, vultures, toads, beetles, and crustaceans . . . For months, lobster-like beings followed him just out of his field of vision, and the facades of houses on the street stared at him with human eyes . . . (page 99).

Seriously, comrades, anyone seriously interested in these folks and their experiences and ideas would, or will, love this book. 


Today's Rune: Defense.    


Charles Gramlich said...

Strange, Nietsche came up in Lana and my conversation yesterday.

the walking man said...

We all live a life of experience but few can follow the breadcrumbs of knowledge gained from a to b. Must of had the wrong and right chemist for their mescaline, not that I would know anything about trippin'.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I appreciate the chatty feel of the excerpts. It makes me want to grab the copy of The Plague that I carried around in high school and go for a cuppa at the cafe!

jodi said...

Erik, mescaline was a popular drug during my high school days-but not for me. I hate anything even close to a hallucinogenic. Wine for this chick!