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John Ireland

Sartre's conflicted relationship with his theatrical audience is explained by showing how Sartre's initial theatrical venture, Bariona, created in a POW camp in December 1940, sparked an idealized conception of the audience. The particular context in which the play was produced brought its performers and audience together into an almost mystical fusion. But these virtues, derived from pre-textual “oral“ culture, lost much of their luster with Sartre's second play, The Flies. Like its predecessor, The Flies used myth to counter German censorship, but in occupied Paris in front of a much more heterogeneous audience. The resulting comparative failure complicated Sartre's relationship to the mass audiences he sought in the post-war years. Theater audiences became emblematic of a wider public Sartre never fully trusted to accept or understand his ideas. Furthermore, Sartre's decision to stage almost all his plays between 1946 and 1959 at the “bourgeois“ Théâtre Antoine only made him even more mistrustful of audiences he often found himself writing “against.“

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John Ireland

Yan Hamel, L’Amérique selon Sartre : littérature, philosophie, politique. Montreal : Presses Universitaires de Montréal, 2013, 267 pages.

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Edited by David Detmer and John Ireland

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David Detmer and John Ireland

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John Ireland and Constance Mui

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John Ireland and Constance Mui

The fortieth anniversary of Sartre’s death, on April 15 of this year, found much of the world in lockdown in response to a new virus, Covid-19, which has changed humanity’s situation on this planet in ways we will be struggling to elucidate for years to come. In these unprecedented circumstances, Sartre’s thought has been an obvious resource to help us understand the impact and ramifications of this pandemic. The virus has been an unsparing indicator in itself of social injustice, unmasking the pious platitudes of our advanced, modern democracies. In the United States in particular, the reality is truly ugly. Covid-19 has shed pitiless light on the disparity between affluent white communities, able to “shelter in place” and avoid putting their members at risk of infection, and less affluent black and brown districts, where workers on subsistence salaries, often without health-care benefits, have been forced to work in unsafe conditions, with terrible consequences for them and their families. Living in the “richest” country on earth, we can imagine only too easily Sartre’s vitriolic assessment of America in its present crisis. And it is just as easy to imagine the fervor with which he would have embraced the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted all over the world, provoked by the 8 minute 46 second video clip that showed the matter-of-fact murder by asphyxiation of George Floyd by white police officers in Minneapolis.

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John Ireland and Constance Mui

We are thrilled, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Sartre Studies International, to publish for the first time in English (thanks to Dennis Gilbert’s initiative and perseverance) two interviews on theater given by Sartre to Russia’s oldest continually running theater journal, Teatr, whose first issues date from the 1930s. Six years apart, these two interviews give us the flavor of Sartre addressing a Soviet audience, in early 1956, just before Russian tanks rolled into Hungary and then again in early 1962, as France negotiated its exit out of the disastrous Algerian War. While these interviews intersect at times with remarks made by Sartre in interviews and lectures during the same period in France (the need for theater to become a truly popular forum, the importance of Brecht as a model of politically engaged theater, etc.), the tone of the two interviews (the first in particular) is different, as Sartre seeks to connect with a socialist audience. These interviews also break new ground. Discussing contemporary playwrights, Sartre demonstrates, for example, his familiarity with Kateb Yacine and Algerian theater. More unexpectedly, addressing Russian readers, Sartre offers a much more positive assessment of Jean Vilar’s Théâtre National Populaire than he ever formulated in France. In short, beyond their content, these interviews help us appreciate even more the importance of the situation shaping Sartre’s pronouncements at any given moment.

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Marie Cartier, Tad Shull, and John Ireland

Marie Cartier La Dactylographie et l’expéditionnaire: Histoire des employés de bureau (1890-1930) by Dephine Gardey

Tad Shull Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde by Bernard Gendron

John Ireland La Naissance du phénomène Sartre: Raisons d’un success 1938-1945 by Ingrid Galster

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David Drake, John Ireland, and Stuart Z. Charme

Jean-Francois Sirinelli, Deux intellectuels dans le siècle, Sartre et Aron, Fayard, 1995, 395 pp. ISBN 2-213-59200-4. 140 FF. Review by David Drake

Jean-Paul Sartre and Benny Levy, Hope Now. The 1980 Interviews, translated by Adrian van den Hoven with an Introduction by Ronald Aronson, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1996, 135 pp. ISBN 0-226-47630-8 $19.95 Review by John Ireland

Lewis R. Gordon, Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, Humanities Press, 1995, 240 pp. ISBN 0-391- 03872-9 $17.50 Review by Stuart Z. Charme