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Fairy Tale (from "Une Défaite”)

Jean-Paul Sartre

This is an extract from “Une défaite,” an unfinished novel which, according to Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre wrote in 1927. Apparently, Sartre was inspired by Charles Andler's biography of Nietzsche and the triangular relationship of Nietzsche, Wagner and Cosima Wagner. The latter, Franz Liszt's daughter, was initially married to Hans von Bülow with whom she had two daughters, and then she married Wagner with whom she had two more daughters. Nietzsche admired her greatly. Sartre became fascinated by this ambiguous, complex and conflictual triangle. Sartre also identified with Nietzsche and “the destiny of the solitary man.” The protagonist, Frédéric, who is one year older than Sartre, is also an ironic self-portrait of Sartre, while Cosima is a prototype for Anny in Nausea; both are modelled on Simone Jollivet. Cosima plays both mother and sister to Frédéric. The triangular relationship is often repeated in Sartre's affective existence. The fairy tale is the best written chapter in the novel.

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