In this paper I am revisiting an old topic of interest, the relation of Sartre to his century. On an earlier occasion I took up the question of whether his life might count as “oracular” in the sense he lends to that term in The Family Idiot, but at that time the century still had fifteen years to go. Now I can aim for closure: between the submission of this text and its publication the millennial moment – the portentous one, whether or not the “real” one to everybody’s satisfaction – will have passed, with whatever upheaval may have been attendant on it. We can imagine at least that it would have presented no problem to Sartre.
On the back cover of the original French edition of Sartre's Le scénario Freud (The Freud Scenario), the promotional blurb poses the question: "Est-ce ici Sartre qui analyse Freud ou Freud qui analyse Sartre?" (Is Sartre analyzing Freud here, or is Freud analyzing Sartre?). We do not, for obvious reasons, have anything of Freud's on Sartre, but we do have quite a lot of Sartre on Freud, and great quantities of Sartre on Sartre. It has sometimes seemed to me that reading through everything that Sartre wrote—not just the autobiographical material but everything, including the carnets and the cahiers and the letters—might be a bit like having him in analysis. The speed and apparent openness with which he produced his texts, page after page in that quick yet legible script that French writers seem to turn out so effortlessly, mimic some of the conditions of free association, and an analytically sensitive eye, like the analyst's ear in therapeutic sessions, could no doubt piece together a plausible account of the Sartrean unconscious.