Anticommunist capers in a pièce à clefs: Sartre takes aim at Beckett and Camus, rivals the Marx brothers and the Keystone cops, and pokes fun at his own philosophy

in Volume 13 (2007): Issue 2 (Dec 2007)

In this hilarious satire Sartre takes aim at the French bourgeois press, pokes fun at Beckett, Camus and especially his own philosophy. He creates a fictitious swindler Georges de Valera who assumes the identity of a so-called defector Nekrassov. Together with Sibilot, who is in charge of the anticommunist page at Soir à Paris, they bamboozle the editor Palotin (based on Pierre Lazareff) and the entire board into beleiving that Nekrassov is the Soviet Minister of the Interior who has just defected. The bourgeois are portrayed as gullible mediocrities who in the name of anticommunism are willing to believe “anything” Nekrassov tells them. In the end the “genius” Nekrassov absconds with Sibilot's daughter and the paper is forced to print yet more lies to explain his disappearance. The play is composed of eight tableaux that illustrate Sartre's talents as a comic writer. The play was not a commercial success. The critics panned it and the public was unwilling to believe that all defectors from the U.S.S.R. were fakes. Also, soon after the play was produced the anticommunist hysteria began to diminish and the Hungarian uprising put paid to any notion of a benign Soviet union.