“Very few people know that Sartre also wrote a fairy tale,” commented
Michel Rybalka when he suggested that we translate chapter
IV, “Le conte de fées,” from Sartre’s unfinished novel “Une Défaite”,
published as part of Ecrits de jeunesse. This story is at once an ironic
self-portrait of the young man in his early twenties and, no less
important, a first attempt to deal with such concepts as “being-for-others,”
“existence” and “consciousness.” Even if the story is part of
Sartre’s “juvenalia,” it shows a surprisingly sophisticated grasp of literary
technique. Cosima’s role is much more than that of a typical
interlocutor, she plays an active role in guiding the narrator along so
that the story is transformed into a commentary about psychological
interaction and the creative process.
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