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Sartre in Austria

Boycott, Scandals, and the Fight for Peace

Juliane Werner

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.