While the World Congress of People for Peace 1952 in Vienna is generally viewed as Soviet propaganda, Jean-Paul Sartre counted it among the most important experiences of his life. His participation marks a major turning point in his evolution, insofar as it publicly confirms his status as a fellow traveler of the Communist Party. In the weeks leading up to the Congress, which was met by an extensive press boycott, Sartre had already caused a stir in the Viennese media by calling off the premiere of Les Mains sales, one of several theater scandals connected to this controversial and allegedly anti-Communist play. By examining the news coverage of these events, this article reveals the impact of Sartre’s interventions and shows how they changed the reception of existentialism in Austria.
Juliane Werner is Lecturer in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Vienna, Austria. Her principle areas of research are concerned with cultural transfer in Franco-, Anglo-, and Germanophone literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, philosophical fiction, and intermediality. Her most recent publication is Thomas Bernhard und Jean-Paul Sartre (Weidler, 2016).