As an attempt to formulate epistemological boundaries (“que peut-on savoir d'un homme, aujourd'hui?”), for which Gustave Flaubert becomes a test-case, L'Idiot de la famille (1971-1972) can be seen simultaneously as the exemplification of a method and as a re-assertion and further development of Sartre's theory of subjectivity. This article proposes to approach the issue of Sartre's notion of human subjectivity in L'Idiot from the particular angle of the idea of “destiny.” It will be argued that the term “destin” provides a focal point for multiple visions of subjectivity as it contains at least three layers of meaning: firstly, Sartre's representation of Flaubert's idea of his life as predetermined destiny; secondly, Sartre's analysis of destiny as a situation created by others; and finally, an understanding of destiny which is close to the notion of the project. It will be argued that precisely the mutual interdependence of these terms is an expression of Sartre's conception of alienation and the possibility of freedom.
‘What can one know about a man, today?’ When Sartre poses this question on the opening page of the first volume of L’Idiot de la famille, he encapsulates a huge project with teasing casualness. He brings together two of the four fundamental questions of philosophy formulated by Kant, ‘What can I know’ and ‘What is the human being’; and whilst the final word, today, indicates that our knowledge of others is bound to our own historical moment, for Sartre understanding others also necessarily entails attempting to under- stand their relation to history.
Guillermine De Lacoste
In their 1971 interview with Sartre concerning L’Idiot de la famille, Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka asked him: ‘Aren’t you a little afraid of the idea that someone might try to elucidate you as you did Flaubert?’ Sartre answered calmly, ‘On the contrary, I would be happy. Like all writers, I hide. But I am also a public man and people can think what they like about me, even if it is severe.’1 My project of ‘elucidation’ thus has his complete approval.
To talk about Sartre and literature in the 1960s is to talk about a range of disparate things: at the beginning of the decade stands the farewell to Literature, the myth of literature, enshrined in the autobiographical Les Mots. At the end is the critical dissection of the myth of literature as an absolute in the third volume of L’Idiot de la famille, in a farewell of another kind. As far as Sartre is concerned, then, this was a decade framed by highly public, but also highly ambiguous, statements about literature, ambiguous by their very literariness. Statements which are undoubtedly intensified by the ideological role of literature in the constitution of the figure of the intellectual.
Guillermine D.E. Lacoste
The theory of the gaze elaborated in L’Etre et le Néant has long been a classic, used, quoted and criticised by a plethora of writers, Lacan among them. There are at least ten references to Sartre’s gaze in Lacan’s Séminaires from 1954 to 1964. In an essay entitled ‘A Lacanian Elucidation of Sartre’, in which I used Lacan’s terminology on neurosis, I called the gaze the first phobia of the neurotic. I viewed it and the other two phobias I discerned in L’Etre et le Néant (le trouble and the viscous) as forming a link in the chain of Sartre’s autoanalytical writings (from La Nausée through L’Etre et le Néant, Baudelaire, Saint Genet, to L’Idiot de la famille).
In , Sartre elevates the premature death of his father to the rank of a providential event which, by depriving him of a Super-Ego and relieving him of any legacy, consigned him to contingency and condemned him to be free. In this way, Sartre derives his uniqueness from this happy lack, this salutary void, i.e. a negated father, and casts himself in the role of an Aeneas liberated from the weight of his Anchises. Fatherless son, Sartre was nonetheless condemned to return incessantly to a father who was destined to remain imaginary. The omnipresence of paternal figures in his oeuvre, from “Childhood of a Leader” to by way of and , is the expression of a double project, as systematic as it is paradoxical: to incarnate the Father, interrogate him and place him centre-stage—as he does with Flaubert's father—in order to eliminate all the better, through an unrelenting prosecution, that of which the Father is, in Sartre's view, the crystallization: the past, inheritance, the temptation of inauthenticity, the alienation of freedom by a foreign power. The Sartrean Father reveals in a privileged way the heart-rending paradoxes of freedom.
French Dans Les Mots, J.-P. Sartre hisse la mort précoce de son père à la hauteur d'un événement providentiel qui, le privant de Surmoi et le délestant de tout héritage, le livra à la contingence et le condamna à être libre. Ainsi Sartre tire sa singularité de ce manque heureux, de ce vide salutaire, un père nié, et se dépeint en Enée libéré du poids de son Anchise. Fils sans père, Sartre n'en fut pas moins condamné à revenir sans fin à ce père voué à demeurer imaginaire : l'omniprésence des figures paternelles dans son œuvre, de L'Enfance d'un chef à L'Idiot de la famille, en passant par Le Scénario Freud et Les Séquestrés d'Altona, est l'expression d'un double projet, aussi systématique que paradoxal : incarner le Père, l'interroger et le mettre en scène - ainsi du père de Flaubert -, pour mieux liquider, par une mise en procès permanente, ce dont la figure du Père est, à ses yeux, la cristallisation : le passé, l'héritage, la tentation de l'inauthenticité, l'aliénation de la liberté par une puissance étrangère. Le Père sartrien se révèle dès lors comme le révélateur privilégié des paradoxes déchirants de la liberté.
Translator : Ârash Aminian Tabrizi
how much Sartre assimilates belief and neurosis. In Les Mots and L’Idiot de la famille , neurosis is basically one’s belief one is in command ( une croyance de commande ), a shelter in illusion against the only logical consequence of freedom
’animal domestique ne vit pas à côté de l’homme, il se situe plutôt au milieu ; en d’autres termes, il ne reconnaît plus son propre monde et encore moins celui de son compagnon. Idée qui peut se lire dans L’Idiot de la famille où Sartre décrit un chien assis au
besoin de rappeler que Sartre ne s’est jamais abaissé à la résignation. Même après l’« adieu à la littérature », il n’a cessé d’écrire L’Idiot de la famille , malgré les maoïstes qui lui conseillaient d’écrire plutôt un roman populaire. Il a écrit contre
Sartrean Ethics in History, 1938–1948 – From Kantian Universalism to Derision
Translator : Ârash Aminian Tabrizi
one’s self’ 69 ]. The old ‘self’ to which Sartre resigns as one would to an incurable illness, the self that makes him write L’Idiot de la famille while he is preaching this ruthless militantism, the self in which, one must add, he secretly delights