- Sartre sous l’Occupation et après: nouvelles mises au point by Ingrid Galster
Since the twentieth anniversary of Sartre’s death and the centenary of his birth, there has been a plethora of new publications on his life and work. Beyond the commemorations, however, these new studies may indicate a return to prominence of the twentieth century’s most influential thinker, as Annie Cohen-Solal seems to think (Une renaissance sartrienne (Paris: Gallimard, 2013)). Ingrid Galster’s book could be considered part of this new wave of publications, except that she views many of them as the product of ‘l’industrie éditoriale’ (p. 105), lacking substance and with little new information. Her book’s focus is on Sartre’s conduct and works during the Occupation, a follow-up, as the title indicates, to her previous book, Sartre, Vichy et les intellectuels (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001). The current book, limpidly written and well documented, is a collection of her articles from 2006 to 2013, nearly all of them previously published; its professed aim is to offer a more nuanced portrayal of Sartre during les années noires than previous hagiographies or denunciations. The book has two parts, ‘Études’ and ‘Critique de livres’, followed by a lengthy ‘Annexe’ that constitutes a veritable indictment against Claude Lanzmann and his autobiography Le Lièvre de Patagonie (Paris: Gallimard, 2009), for errors or deformation of facts with selfserving purposes. ‘Études’ comprises articles that critique overly schematic — positive or negative — views of Sartre’s position vis-à-vis the Jews or Nazism that a careful scrutiny of new archival materials would either refute or at least render more ambiguous. In ‘Critique de livres’, Galster is harshly critical, albeit not without insights, of volumes such [End Page 412] as Bernard-Henry Lévy’s Le Siècle de Sartre: enquête philosophique (Paris: Grasset, 2000) or Dictionnaire Sartre, edited by François Noudelmann and Gilles Philippe (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2004). If Galster, professor of literature and history, rightly refrains from pronouncing on Sartre’s philosophical work and acknowledges fleetingly its ‘qualité esthétique, littéraire indéniable’ (p. 103), her judgement on Sartre’s literary work is globally severe. She finds most of his theatre works (including Les Mouches and Huis clos), as well as his narratives (from Les Chemins de la liberté to Les Mots), dated because of their irrelevance to today’s situation. To support her claims, Galster profusely self-references rather than using other references, which renders them somewhat solipsistic. As to the ‘new’ archival evidence that Galster states bolstered her to write the current book, it consists principally of ‘l’affaire du lycée Condorcet’, which is no longer really new. And an observation such as ‘[d]u champion de l’engagement, Sartre s’est transformé en symbole de l’erreur politique’ (p. 99) was already current half a century ago, and hence adds nothing new or edifying to Sartre studies. While Galster is right in insisting that Sartre’s work be read in the context of his epoch, she seems to wish at the same time to relegate his vast literary opus to a thing of the past, irrelevant to the present. The relentlessly negative tone of her book eventually makes it closed rather than open to the future generation of potential Sartre readers and researchers.