Sartre-Camus dispute (and Beauvoir’s come-on to Camus) remembered

Ronald Aranson’s Camus and Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel That Ended It is reviewed by Richard Polt in the current Village Voice. Polt summarizes the salient facts of the dispute:

In 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre, the privileged, amphibian-faced philosopher, befriended Albert Camus, the Bogart-esque, working-class novelist who shared his “gritty humanism.” But the friendship went up in smoke in a notorious dispute in 1952. Sartre converted to Communism and insisted that revolution meant getting your hands dirty, while Camus wanted to be “neither victim nor executioner” and denounced the Soviets. For Camus, Sartre’s insistence on political “commitment” was an attempt to shanghai artists onto a “slave galley.”

While the decades-old argument fails to captivate the reviewer, the sexual configurations of Sartre and de Beauvoir’s famille gained his full attention:

all the heterosexual combinations were eventually exhausted—providing fodder for Beauvoir’s roman à clef The Mandarins. Well, all the combinations but one: Camus rebuffed Beauvoir’s overtures. As he explained to Arthur Koestler, “Imagine what she would be saying on the pillow afterwards. How awful—such a chatterbox.” It’s not the only point in this history where Camus shows good judgment.


Comments are closed.