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2005 | 14 | 4(56) | 123-153
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What It Means to Be Engaged?

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The literary texts in which J.-P. Sartre displays his political involvement are a very curious piece of work. On the one hand, his plays have been criticized as containing a clear political message. On the other hand, he has been accused, on account of his autobiography, of pretending only to be politically involved when presumably his real motives were connected with the desire to draw more attention to his person. Philippe Lejeune, for instance, saw in Sartre's politics nothing more than a narcissistic involvement with himself. Both of these opinions, however, are partial and proceed from the misunderstanding of the sense of Sartre's involvement. An inquisitive critic must note that Sartre's theater is deeply ambiguous (cf. Jean-François Louette: Jean-Paul Sartre, Hachette 1993) At the same time, his autobiography, 'Les Mots', is undoubtedly politically charged. The author focuses on the last work and highlights its leading themes that all have grown from reminiscences of life in the thirties in France. In developing these themes, Sartre reflects - and this is the first aspect of his involvement - on the status of the intellectual, referring to such authors as Guéhenno, Berl, Nizam. Moreover - and this is the second aspect of his involvement - Sartre uses in his book of a dialectical method emphasizing the correlation between the subject and history as particularly important. He makes use, sometimes seriously and sometimes in ridicule, of the style of research conducted in social sciences. But deepest worries are expressed in a language that has been adopted to dazzle the reader. The book is spiced with self-irony that marks his distance from the purely literary preoccupations, and also from the strong political involvement, thereby expressing his 'engagement' and 'désengagement' at the same time.
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  • J.-F. Louette, Redaction des 'Les Temps Modernes', 26, rue de Conde, Paris 6e, France
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