Sartre and Camus in New York

Albert Camus / Jean-Paul Sartre

“In December 1944, Albert Camus, then editor of Combat, the main newspaper of the French Resistance, made Jean-Paul Sartre an offer he couldn’t refuse: the job of American correspondent. Perhaps, in light of the perpetual tension and subsequent acrimonious split between the two men, he was glad to get him out of Paris. What is certain is that Sartre was delighted to go. He’d had enough of the austerities and hypocrisies of post-liberation France and had long fantasized about the United States. Camus himself would make the trip soon after, only to return with a characteristically different set of political, philosophical and personal impressions. In some sense, existentialism was going home. The ‘roots’ of 20th-century French philosophy are canonically located on mainland Europe, in the fertile terrain of Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl and Heidegger. But it was not entirely immune to the metaphysical turmoil of the United States at the end of the 19th century. French philosophy retained elements of the pragmatism of C.S. Peirce and the psychologism of William James (each receives an honorable mention in Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness’). More significantly, both Camus and Sartre had learned and borrowed from 20th-century writers like Faulkner, Hemingway and dos Passos —and, of course, from the films of Humphrey Bogart. Camus, in particular, cultivated the trench coat with the upturned collar and described himself as a mix of Bogart, Fernandel and a samurai. When Sartre stepped off the plane in New York in January 1945, only months after the liberation of Paris, his head full of American movies, architecture and jazz, he might have expected to feel in his natural habitat — the pre-eminent philosopher of liberté setting foot in the land of freedom, a nation temperamentally and constitutionally addicted to liberty. Was there not already something of the existential cowboy and intellectual gunslinger in Sartre’s take-no-hostages attitude? Camus must have thought so in dispatching him to the United States. …”
NY Times: By Andy Martin
Guardian – The Boxer and the Goalkeeper: Sartre vs Camus by Andy Martin – review
Books & Boots
The Boxer and The Goal Keeper – Simon & Schuster

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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