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L ’E sprit C réateur Charles G. Hill. J e a n - P a u l S a r t r e — F r e e d o m a n d C o m m itm e n t. American University Studies, Series II, Romance Languages and Literature. Vol. 87. New York: Peter Lang, 1992. Jean-Paul Sartre often claimed that he wrote only for his contemporaries. Does this assertion prevent one from evaluating his work from a historical perspective? Surely not, especially if one heeds Bakhtin’s admonition that the sense of a life can only be understood after he who has lived it has sunk into the grave. It is the great merit of Charles Hill to have followed Bakhtin’s injunction by offering an analysis of Sartre’s works interpreted less in the light of the philosophe-écrivain's reliance on, and debt to, German and Viennese ideol­ ogy than in the light of the works themselves which, as it were, grow out o f one another. To state the matter squarely: Hill’s reading represents a phenomenological analysis of Sartre’s writing. A n den Sartre selbst, an seine Schriften selbst\ such is, I believe, the originality of Hill’s undertaking. Thus, each chapter analyzes in a forthright manner one of Sartre’s literary works. Part I, “ Freedom Revealed,” is made up of four chapters: Chapter I, "The Flies or Freedom Committed” ; Chapter II, “ Nausea or Freedom Unveiled” ; Chapter III, “ The Wall or Freedom Eluded” ; Chapter IV, “N o Exit or Freedom Refused.” Part II, “ The Roads to Freedom: The Fictional Quest for Authentic Action,” focuses on Sartre’s fictional trilogy and its sequels. Again, the chapter headings tell the story: Chapter I, “ Irony and Stagna­ tion: The Age o f R e a s o n Chapter II, “ The Individual and History: The Reprieve” ; Chapter III, “ Death and Transfiguration I: Troubled Sleep” ', Chapter IV, “ Death and Transfiguration II: Strange Friendship and The Last Chance.” Part III of Hill’s book dissects “ The Ambiguities of Commitment” and is divided into two chapters: “ Morality and Praxis I: Dirty Hands,” and “ Morality and Praxis II: The Devil and the Good Lord.” Part IV is entitled “ Totalized Freedom.” It contains an introduction, followed by two chapters: “ Limited Freedom and Responsibility: The Condemned o f Altona” and “ Con­ clusion: The Totalization of Flaubert.” A selective bibliography completes the book. I have outlined the table of contents to stress that Hill’s careful reading, commentary and analysis follow the progression of Sartre’s dialectical thought so that the reader may gain an introductory overview of his literary, philosophical and political development. Moreover, Hill takes great care to delineate the often contradictory strands in Sartre’s creative and critical ideas, never yielding to the temptation to simplify matters by cutting the Sartrian Knot. As a result of this patient separation of Sartre’s sundry intellectual and moral views, the last chapter of the book, “ The Totalization of Flaubert,” is tantamount to a totalization of Sartre himself. I should add that Hill’s sympathetic reading of our philosophe does not fail to suggest the author’s shortcomings. He does so by means of an approach characteristic of New Englanders who somehow manage to convey what they cen­ sure without ever saying it—an art yet to be mastered by the French. Call it irony, call it courtesy, call it what you will, Hill’s implicit critique is fair in that it always takes into account the author’s intentions—a humanistic respect without which literary criticism can all too easily become a pretext for self-aggrandizement by the critic. M a r c J . T e m m e r Professor Emeritus University o f California, Santa Barbara VOL. XXXIV, NO. 1 110 ...


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