Sarah Richmond's Translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness

in Sartre Studies International
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  • 1 University of Windsor, Canada


Sarah Richmond's translation makes an important contribution to Sartrean scholarship. L'Etre et le néant was first translated by Hazel Barnes in 1956 but it contained various errors. Richmond also had access to the internet and to Sartre's French and German sources. Her edition also contains an Introduction and a ‘Notes on the translation’ section.

Sartre published his work in 1943 and, unable to access all the works he cited, he often did so from memory. He also adopted certain translators’ neologisms: for example, Corbin's translation of Heidegger's Qu'est-ce que la métaphysique? , and when he quoted Nietzsche, he used two different translations, and he quotes Spinoza using a text by Hegel. He quotes a line from the playwright Beaumarchais without clarifying the context.

Sarah Richmond deals with many of these problems and also notes that the French gender system can be problematic. Also, Sartre's neologisms rendered finding English equivalents difficult. This is an excellent translation.

Sartre's L'Etre et le néant was first published in 1943.1 Hazel Barnes's translation, which was, of course, based on the 1943 Gallimard edition, came out twenty-three years later in 1956,2 and then, sixty-two years later, in 2018, Routledge UK published a new translation by Sarah Richmond.3 This represents a huge undertaking, and as such it marks an important milestone in Sartre scholarship.

Translating L'Etre et le néant presents a basic problem, because, as Gregory Cormann, the editor of L'Année sartrienne, stated to me on 1 December 2018 (and I translate): ‘As far as I know, the manuscript of L'Etre et le néant has been lost; therefore, it is impossible to say on what original source any corrections could be based.’ Sarah Richmond bases her translation on Gallimard's Collection Tel paperback edition, first published in 1976 and edited by Arlette Elkaïm-Sartre.

Of course, Sarah Richmond has a huge advantage over Hazel Barnes. She has an Honours BA in French and Philosophy and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford and teaches philosophy at University College London. Hazel Barnes, on the other hand, was neither a French scholar nor, at the time, a philosopher. Her speciality was Classical Studies – and therefore, she was later very much aware of her translation's shortcomings. However, the shabby treatment she received at the hands of her publisher resulted in the fact that, in spite of her efforts, a corrected version never saw the light of day. As a consequence, she was very much upset when, in 1987, Timothy O'Hagan and Jean-Pierre Boulé published A Checklist of Errors in Hazel Barnes English Translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's L'Etre et le néant.4 In it, the authors compiled a list with four categories: (1) errors that changed the meaning, (2) minor errors, (3) errors where the ‘change of meaning’ was unimportant, and (4) misprints and wrong italicisations. In retrospect, it is evident that these two authors simply intended to perform a scholarly task and that their Checklist made it clear that a new translation would eventually become necessary, a fact with which Hazel Barnes fully agreed.

In studying the Checklist, I counted 327 errors ‘that changed the meaning’ of the text. Some of them are indeed significant enough to make certain passages incomprehensible. For example, Barnes translates ‘une forme qui s'imposerait après coup’ (EN, 21) as ‘a form which is imposed by a blow’ (HB, liv) rather than ‘a shape that would be imposed after the event’. Another example is ‘chaque mot saisi d'abord comme carrefour de signification’ (EN, 600), which Barnes translates as ‘each word grasped first as a square of meaning’ (HB, 517), rather than, as the Checklist has it: ‘each word grasped first as a crossroads of meaning’.5 However, in this case, as in many others, Sarah Richmond comes up with her own translation: ‘each word that is apprehended first as the intersection of meanings’ (SR, 673) and hers is clearly the better translation. To conclude this discussion, it is only fair to ask why thirty years time had to pass before these two scholars published their list of corrections. Surely, other scholars must have noticed many of the same mistakes, and scholarly journals have always been open to publishing these kinds of checklists.

Given the time lapse and the rise of the Internet, Sarah Richmond has had access to many more of the French and German sources used by Sartre, both in the original language and in English translation, and, as a result, her translation follows the French text much more closely. In addition, her translation is preceded not only by an excellent Introduction, but also by an extensive ‘Notes on the translation’ section, and her text also contains numerous explanatory footnotes. In particular, Sarah Richmond has paid special attention to Sartre's use of key terms and transliterations from the German.

Initially, I wondered why she decided to have her translation's marginal pagination correspond to that of the Gallimard Collection Tel paperback edition rather than to Hazel Barnes's 1956 translation or, for that matter, the original 1943 Gallimard edition of L'Etre et le néant. I reasoned that she might have taken Arlette Elkaïm-Sartre at her word, because the latter claims on the inside cover page that hers is a ‘corrected edition.’ However, the nineteen errors listed by Sarah Richmond in the Collection Tel edition are exactly the same errors that occur in the original 1943 edition. And, in fact, both repeat a ‘technical’ mistake made by Sartre. After all, it is not the ‘screw’ but the bolt [that] is revealed as too big to be threaded into the nut (EN, 364; SR, 436). I asked Sarah Richmond if she had adopted the Collection Tel edition as her base text because of its editor's claim that hers was a ‘corrected edition’, but she replied that Gallimard had, in fact, insisted on her using the paperback edition.

Of course, even if she had chosen to cross-refer to Hazel Barnes's translation, she would have been faced with a difficult choice, because the pagination differs in its three existing editions. The British version published by Methuen in 1958 features an Introduction by Mary Warnock, and as a result its pagination differs from the original 1956 edition. The paperback's pagination, which was published by Washington Square Press in New York in 1966, is also different, because it starts immediately with the Introduction rather than with part 1.

I have decided to focus mostly on the contextual aspects of this complicated text, and I have done so for several reasons. It has always seemed to me that Sartre wrote with a specific French audience in mind, to wit, all those who, like him, had received a similar philosophical training at the Ecole normale supérieure and therefore had a more or less intuitive grasp of the allusions he made to certain writers and philosophers. Secondly, he wrote L'Etre et le néant during the war, and so he probably did not have access to all the works from which he quoted, and therefore his excellent memory had to be his guide. Finally, Sartre seems to have been more concerned with arguing against certain philosophers, and consequently he felt the need to stake out his own position most forcefully; as a result, sometimes the accuracy of his quotations suffered.

Additionally, Sartre had the habit of quoting the same source material in different contexts in works of approximately the same period. And, of course, since he did not cross-reference these quotes, one is sometimes obliged to scour several texts before one discovers what he really had in mind. This is often the case when he decides to borrow expressions from other philosophers such as Heidegger. Richmond encountered this problem and comments on it in her ‘Notes on the translation’:

Historialiser, s'historialiser. This verb was coined by Corbin […]. It refers to Dasein's basic constitutive capacity to be historical. Although Macquarrie and Robinson in Heidegger's Being and Time, 1980, translate it into English by ‘to historize’, I think it better to map Sartre's term more closely, and I translate it therefore as ‘to historialize’, etc. [and she adds]: Sartre does not use it consistently, sometimes using historiciser which I render as ‘to historicize’ instead. (SR, liv)

In fact, Sartre borrowed the tripartite distinction of: ‘historialisation, historisation, et historicité’, from Corbin's translation of Heidegger's Qu'est-ce que la métaphysique?, and previously discussed one of these concepts in Les Carnets de la drôle de guerre [The War Diaries]. These were incorporated into Les Mots et autres écrits autobiographiques where, in his discussion of Emperor William II of Germany's ‘congenitally atrophied left arm’, he remarked the following:

J'esquisserai donc une autre description historique, qui renverse l'explication qui va de l'homme à la situation et non de la situation à l'homme. [Mon objectif serait] d'instituer une sorte de métaphysique de l'historialité et de montrer comment l'homme historique s'historialise librement dans le cadre de certaines situations.6

[So I shall outline another type of historical description, which reverses the explanation and moves from the man to the situation, rather than from the situation to the man […]. [My] purpose [would be] to create a metaphysics of historiality and to show how a historical person historializes himself within the framework of certain situations.] (War Diaries, 301)7

At a later date he defines all three concepts in Truth and Existence:

Je distinguerai l'historialité et l'historisation. J'appellerai historialité le projet que le Pour-soi fait de lui-même dans l'Histoire : en décidant de faire le coup d'Etat du 18 Brumaire Bonaparte s'historialise. Et j'appellerai historisation le passage à l'objectif de l'historialisation. […] Il est clair que l'historialisation est dépassement objectif de l'époque et que l'historicité est au contraire pure expression de l'époque. L'historialisation est retombée du dépassement du point de vue de l'époque ultérieure, ou passage de l'historialisation à l'historicité.8

[I distinguish historiality from historization. To me historiality is the project that the For-itself makes of itself in History: by deciding the coup d'état of the 18th Brumaire, Napoleon historializes himself. And I call historization the passing of historialization to the objective […] It is evident that historialization is the objective transcendence of an age and that, on the other hand, historicity is pure expression of the age. Historization is the outcome of transcendence from the point of view of a subsequent age, or the passage from historialization to historicity.]9

Sarah Richmond does a very thorough job of checking Sartre's sources. This applies especially to the works of Hegel, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, and Bergson. She is also keenly aware of Sartre's allusions to other French writers. This becomes obvious from the opening page of the Introduction. There she indicates that she decided to translate ‘A la recherche de l'être’ as ‘In search of being’ because, as she clarifies in a footnote: ‘I have been guided […] by the thought that Sartre probably intended to echo Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu’ (SR, 1).

Keeping in mind the fact that, as Richmond also indicates, Sartre regularly refers directly or indirectly to other works written during approximately the same period, I became especially keen on tracking the use of quotations found in Being and Nothingness in his other texts. For example, in the Introduction to L'Etre et le néant Sartre states: ‘Mais si nous nous sommes une fois dépris de ce que Nietzsche appelait “l'illusion des arrière-mondes” et si nous ne croyons plus à l'être-de-derrière-l'apparition celle-ci devient, au contraire, pleine positivité’ (EN, 12). Sarah Richmond translates this as: ‘But once we have freed ourselves from what Nietzsche called “the illusion of backworlds” – if we no longer believe in any being-behind-appearance – the appearance becomes, on the contrary, full positivity’ (SR, 2).

In a footnote, Sarah Richmond comments that ‘Sartre is loosely quoting from a French translation of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra.’ She is right, of course, but, even so, Sartre complicates matters, because some five months later he will again refer to that passage, but use a different French translation, namely that of Henri Albert's Ainsi parlait Zarathustra.10 In his essay ‘ Un nouveau mystique’, Sartre says of Georges Bataille that: ‘Il demeure, en dépit de tout, un halluciné de l'arrière-monde.’11 Christine Daigle, the author of Le Nihilisme est-il un humanisme? Etude sur Nietzsche et Sartre, indicates that the original German statement, ‘Also warf auch ich einst meinen Wahn jenseits des Menschen, gleich allen Hinterweltlern’, was translated by R. J. Hollingdale as follows: ‘Thus I too once cast my deluded fancy beyond mankind, like all afterworldsmen’.12 Then again, Walter Kaufmann translates the phrase as: ‘Thus I too cast my delusion beyond man, like all the afterwordly’.13 In other words, regardless of the differences in the translations, there is no indication whatsoever that Nietzsche had ‘hallucinators’ in mind!

Let us point out some other examples where Sartre uses expressions or ideas from other authors in the period before and after he wrote Being and Nothingness. On 14 September 1939, while in Alsace, Sartre, the frustrated soldier, starts writing The War Diaries and makes a reference to Max Scheler's L'Homme du ressentiment (1913).14

[Une fois sur le front] j'acceptais un avenir dans lequel mes propres possibilités n'existaient plus […]. [L]’essence de cet état impliquait une sorte de docilité admirative pour l'autorité militaire dont je dépendais. Du fait que je me remettais entre ses mains, je lui faisais confiance, je cessais d'être ‘un homme de ressentiment’.15

[[Once at the front] I accepted a future in which my own possibilities no longer existed […]. [T]he essence of that state implied a kind of admiring docility for the military authority on which I was dependent. Given the fact that I put my fate in their hands, I became confident in them and I ceased being a man of resentment. [My translation]]

In Being and Nothingness, Sartre veers away from the autobiographical element and states that: ‘[Those], who bear this “No” within their very subjectivity, are equally constituted in their human person as a constant negation. “No” is the meaning and function of Scheler's “man of resentment”’(SR, 88).

Somewhat later, when discussing homosexuality, Sartre states in Being and Nothingness: ‘The critic only demands one thing – and maybe then he would show some leniency: that the culprit should recognize his guilt, that the homosexual should straightforwardly declare whether in a spirit of humility or assertion hardly matters – “I am a pederast”’ (SR, 108). And in a footnote on the same page the translator remarks: ‘I have used “pederast” in its old-fashioned use to mean (male) homosexual, to match Sartre's use of “pédéraste” which is an outdated French term with the same meaning’ (SR, 108).

On 2 October 1939, Sartre had already made use of that term when he began work on his novel The Age of Reason, and, in a reference to the character Daniel, he remarked in The War Diaries:

Je vois bien que Daniel se hait lui-même et se refuse d'être pédéraste. Mais je ne vois pas pourquoi il s'y refuse. C'est que j'ai vu les contorsions de Zuorro pour échapper à l'étiquette mais je ne connais pas du dedans les raisons de ces contorsions.16

[I see clearly that Daniel hates himself and refuses to be a pederast. But I don't understand why he refuses to accept that. It is because I have seen the contortions Zuorro put himself through to escape from that label but I don't understand the true reasons for these contortions] (The War Diaries, 210).

In this paragraph, Sartre applies the term not only to Daniel, but also to his friend and fellow teacher Zuorro, on whom the character Daniel is based.

When discussing ‘nothingness’, (SR, 48) Sartre refers to Hegel and states: ‘What enables Hegel to make being “pass over into” nothingness is his implicitly introducing negation into the definition of being. This goes without saying, since Hegel has told us – by taking up an expression from Spinoza – that omnis determinatio est negatio.’ In footnote 17, the translator notes quite correctly that: ‘Hegel is slightly misquoting Spinoza here [and] the phrase cannot be found in Spinoza's published work’. It occurs, as is noted by Yitzak Melamud, in a letter that Spinoza wrote on 2 June 1674 to his friend Jarig Jelles in which he discusses ‘several distinct and important issues’ but also ends up making the following comment about the figure:

For he who says that he apprehends a figure, thereby means to indicate simply this, that he apprehends a determinate thing and the manner of its determination. This determination therefore does not pertain to the thing in regard to its being [esse]; on the contrary, it is its non-being [non-esse]. So since figure can be nothing other than determination, and determination is negation [Quia ergo figura non aliud, quam determinatio, et determinatio negatio est], figure can be nothing other than determination, as has been said. [And Melamud adds on an ironic note:] Arguably, what is most notable about this letter is the fate of a single subordinate clause which appears in the last sentence of this paragraph: et determinatio negatio est. That clause was to be adopted by Hegel and transformed into the slogan of his own dialectical method: Omnis determinatio est negatio.17

Sometimes Sartre's allusions proved to be too elusive for me, and I would have liked him to provide more details. For example, when discussing bad faith, Sartre states:

If I was only what I am, I would be able – for example – to think seriously about this reproach that someone has made, to search myself scrupulously – and perhaps I would be obliged to admit its truth. But, precisely, through my transcendence, I escape from everything that I am. I do not even have to discuss the legitimacy of the reproach, in the sense in which Suzanne says to Figaro: ‘To prove that I am right would be to grant that I could be wrong’. (SR, 100)

Clearly there is a whole lot more to Suzanne's reply than is indicated by her initial answer to Figaro. The two of them are about to get married and Figaro asserts that they should be grateful to the Count for having given them a bedroom in his domain. But she has seen through the Count's motives and wants to point out to Figaro that this gift was not the result of pure generosity. The bedroom is strategically located in between the apartments of the Countess and Count Almaviva. Therefore, all Almaviva needs to do after they are married is to send Figaro on a long errand, and he can introduce himself surreptitiously into the room and try to seduce Suzanne!18

In other words, the question is not whether she is right or wrong, something neither she nor Figaro want to find out; she insists on warning her future husband that Count Almaviva apparently has not changed his ways and continues to seduce his female servants and re- assert his right of droits de seigneur, notwithstanding all his promises.

I was able to find some sources of Sartre's quotations that the translator had difficulty uncovering. When dealing with ‘The Dialectical Conception of Nothingness’, Sartre refers back to Laporte's Le Problème de l'abstraction, in which Laporte defines the aim of Hegel's logic on page 25.19 Next, and immediately thereafter, Sartre cites Le Senne's remark about Hamelin's philosophy, to wit: ‘Each of the lower terms depends on the higher term, as the abstract depends on the concrete that is necessary for its actualization’, and states that ‘it can [also] be applied to Hegel’.20 That sentence can be found on the previous page of the work from which Sartre quoted the first sentence! Later, Sartre quotes Leibniz and states that ‘for Leibniz, the monad exists “alone, before God”’. The translator thinks its source may be Kierkegaard's Sickness unto Death (SR, 149 n29). In Discours Paragraph 32, Leibniz also makes that remark.21

Then again, in chapter 3, ‘Transcendence’ (SR, 246), Sartre refers to Descartes's ‘memories of ideas.’ It can be found in Descartes's Méditations métaphysiques,22 where Descartes states: ‘l'existence de Dieu, je la trouve, dans la mémoire qui conserve les souvenirs’ [I find God's existence in [my] memories which conserve them]. Of course, this statement is not exactly identical to what Sartre wrote but, given that he often cites a source from memory, it seems likely.

On one occasion, the translator confuses one of Malraux's novels with another. When Sartre (slightly mis)quotes Malraux's remark: ‘the terrible thing about Death lies in the fact that it transforms life into destiny’, the translator declares, in a footnote, that the phrase can be found in Malraux's 1933 novel La Condition humaine (SR, 170). However, later on, Sartre clearly indicates its source as being Malraux's 1937 novel L'Espoir (see SR, 701–702). And in spite of what Sartre says, it is not Malraux, but one of his characters, Hernandez, and he, in turn, quotes one of his fellow fighters who had told him that: ‘la […] tragédie de la mort est en ceci qu'elle transforme la vie en destin, qu'à partir d'elle rien ne peut plus être compensé’23 [The tragedy of death lies in this; it transforms life into destiny and from that point on nothing can be compensated for it.]

Let us provide a final example of Sartre quoting a philosopher in an incomplete and somewhat misleading manner. He states: ‘C'est en ce sens qu'il faut prendre la célèbre formule d'Auguste Comte: “L'oeil ne peut se voir lui-même”’ (EN, 355). Sarah Richmond translates this formula as follows: ‘It is in this sense that we should take Auguste Comte's famous claim: ‘The eye cannot see itself’ (SR, 425). Sartre's quote is not totally accurate, because an eye can very well see itself in a mirror, and in actual fact Comte says (I italicize): ‘De même qu'un oeil ne peut se regarder en regardant – à moins qu'il ne soit devant un miroir – un esprit ne peut ne peut observer les directement ses propres phénomènes’.24 That is to say (and I italicize again): ‘Just as an eye cannot see itself when it is looking – unless it is in front of a mirror – the mind cannot directly observe its own phenomena’. And as indicated on the same page in footnote 80, in a letter to Valat, 24 September 1917, Auguste Comte added ‘On ne peut se mettre à la fenêtre pour se regarder passer dans la rue’ [One cannot go stand by the window to see oneself passing in the street].25 As is indicated in the opening Exposition, Comte uses the remark in order to demolish psychological theories based on introspection or on the direct observation of the mind by itself.

Of course, as the translator stresses herself, the French gender system can cause real problems when translating into English, and there are also repercussions when dealing with French pronouns and possessive adjectives. As a consequence, she had to determine at all times who or what Sartre was referring back to in order for her to be able to come up with the correct English pronoun or possessive adjective. In addition, the French pronouns il-ils and elle-elles can just as well refer back to humans (be they male or female) as they can to a masculine or a feminine noun that represents an object. Additionally, and this is specific to spoken French, the plurals of most nouns are marked by the article and not, as in spoken English, by adding to the noun a sibilant, that is, the consonant ‘s’ or ‘z’. For example, in English, the plural of table is tables; the plural of boy is boys. But in French, the plural of la table is les tables; the plural of le garcon is les garçons (I italicize). In other words, more often than not the pronunciation of the French noun remains the same and it is the article that is the plural marker. This fact can create some acute problems in English when, for example, one needs to render Sartre's multiple use of: les ceci. Sarah Richmond translated this plural as ‘the thises’ (See, for example, SR, 413). Admittedly, outside of its particular use in Being and Nothingness, I cannot recall seeing ceci being used as a French noun, but when it is pluralised in English it sounds unusual. Then again, she faced quite another problem when she needed to transliterate as in the case of la passéification d'un présent (EN, 210). This is a Sartrean neologism the translator believes Sartre may have derived from Husserl (SR, li). She creates her own neologism ‘pastification’ and, at one time, ‘making past’; (SR, 627) since it is not a neologism, I would have preferred it.

Some of her renditions of French terms left me puzzled. For example, she remarks in a note (SR, 292 n25) that she translated the French verb translater literally as ‘to translate’ and explains that it ‘sounds a little odd’ because it ‘is normally only used in mathematical contexts’. However, in the case of the sentence: ‘Si un ceci doit être translaté d'un lieu en un autre et subir pendant cette translation une altération radicale’ (EN, 245–246) it is perfectly clear that translater in this context means ‘to move from one place to another’. On the same page (and here I am quibbling or, as Oscar Wilde remarked, ‘The Americans and the British are identical in all respects except, of course, their language’), I stumbled over her British usage when she refers to Pascal's famous critique of Descartes because, according to Pascal, in Cartesian ontology, to set the world in motion only required the famous recourse to God using the ‘fillip of the fingers’ (i.e. le fameux recours à la chiquenaude) (EN, 246). The translator renders chiquenaude as ‘fillip’ rather than the North American expression ‘snap’ of the fingers. Similarly, when Sartre speaks of ‘éclairer l'encoignure avec sa lampe de poche’ (EN, 303), she uses the British equivalent ‘torch’ to translate lampe de poche rather than the North American ‘flashlight’ (SR, 361). Unfortunately, in North America a torch is used to set a room on fire and not to light it up!!! Later on, she translates the following: ‘If this fat and ugly passer-by who is approaching me, and skipping, suddenly looks at me: that is the end of his ugliness and obesity and skipping’ (SR, 376). The French verb sautiller (EN, 316) means: ‘moving jerkily’ or ‘hopping about.’ But, admittedly, it is also used metaphorically in the sense of: ‘skipping from one subject to the other’, but in this context one hardly expects a ‘fat’ man to be skipping about!!

On an entirely different note, I have always wondered what the appropriate translation of the last part of the following sentence was: ‘ce n'est plus le grand inconnaissable qui limite l'humain mais c'est le phénomène de ma vie personnelle qui fait de cette vie une vie unique, c'est-à-dire une vie qui ne recommence pas, où l'on ne peut plus reprendre son coup.’ This phrase occurs in different places in L'Etre et le néant (see EN, 577, 583, 591), and I have often referred to it when analysing certain of Sartre's works, for example, the play Huis clos [No Exit] or the scenario Les Jeux sont faits [The Game is Up]. It appears that, in these works of the imagination, Sartre did not hesitate to put this notion to the test. In the case of the play, the three characters are dead and find themselves in hell but, nevertheless all three cannot help but wish that they will be given a ‘second chance’ and be allowed to return to the realm of the living. In the scenario, the two characters are indeed given a second chance, but in the twenty-four-hour span in which they have to make something of this opportunity they end by repeating the same actions they performed before they died. Hazel Barnes translates the phrase as: ‘[it] renders one unable any longer to recover one's stroke’ (HB, 538). Sarah Richmond translates it as: ‘which means we can no longer have another shot’ (SR, 699). Her translation is much better, but I think that Sartre may really have been referring to sport, for example football, where, if you are awarded a penalty kick and you miss the goal, you are not allowed a second chance. And, then again, it may just refer to the doctrine of functus officio because in that context it is often said that ‘litigants only get one kick at the can’.

On other occasions, I would have appreciated a more elaborate commentary. For example, this is the case when Sartre decides to quote the famous statement by Cato the Elder : ‘Carthage est “delenda” pour les Romains, mais “servanda” pour les Carthaginois’ (EN, 362), which Richmond translates as: ‘Carthage is ‘delenda’ [is to be destroyed] for the Romans, but ‘servanda’ [it is to be preserved] for the Carthaginians’ (SR, 433). Perhaps she should have added that Cato the Elder in the second century BC ended every oration in the Roman Senate with the proclamation: Carthago est delenda [Carthage is to be destroyed] or, as Pliny the Elder stated in his Natural History, 15.20: ‘Cato clamaret omni senatu Carthiginem delendam’ [Moreover Cato clamoured throughout the Senate that Carthage is to be destroyed].26 She might also have emphasised that, in the second half, Sartre is playing games with a famous expression and that that part is his own invention.

In conclusion, it is obvious that it is easy to criticise a more than eight-hundred-page translation of such a difficult work as Sartre's L'Etre et le néant. In fact, the author's accomplishments are most impressive, and the excellence of her translation is most remarkable.



Jean-Paul Sartre, L'Etre et le néant (Paris: Gallimard, 1943). All references to L'Etre et le néant are to the 1976 Collection Tel edition, edited by Arlette Al-Kaïm Sartre, are labelled EN and contained in the body of the text.


Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, translated and with Introduction by Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Philosophical Library 1956). All references to Barnes’ translation are labelled HB and contained in the body of the text.


Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Sarah Richmond (London: Routledge, 2018), lxvii +848 pp. All references to Richmond's translation are labelled SR and contained in the body of the text.


Timothy O'Hagan and Jean-Pierre Boulé, A Checklist of Errors in Hazel Barnes’ English Translation of Jean-Paul Sartre's L'Etre et le néant (Norwich: University of East Anglia Press, 1986).


Ibid., 34


Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mots et autres écrits autobiographiques (Paris: Gallimard, Editions de la Pléiade, 2010), 590.


Jean-Paul Sartre, The War Diaries of Jean-Paul Sartre: November 1939–March 1940, trans. Quentin Hoare (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), 210. All references to this translation are labelled War Diaries and contained in the body of the text.


Jean-Paul Sartre, Vérité et existence, Edition d'Arlette Elkaïm Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1980), 135.


Jean-Paul Sartre, Truth and Existence, trans. Adrian van den Hoven (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 79.


Henri Albert, Ainsi parlait Zarathustra (Paris: Mercure de France, 1903).


See Sartre's review ‘Un Nouveau mystique’, in Situations 1: Essais critiques (Paris: Gallimard, 1947), 166.


Christine Daigle, Le Nihilisme est-il un humanisme ? Etude sur Sartre et Nietszche (Québec: Presses de l'Université Laval, 2005); Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), 58.


Walter Kaufmann, The Portable Nietzsche (New York: Penguin, 1982), 143.


See Max Scheler, Resentment, trans. Louis Coser (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1994).


Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mots et autres écrits autobiographiques, 145.


Ibid., 189.


See Forster Eckart and Yitzak Y. Melamud, eds, Spinoza and German Idealism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). One can read Spinoza's letter to Jarig Jellis in Correspondence, Benedict Spinoza, [1883], (accessed 10 May 2020).


Beaumarchais, Le Mariage de Figaro (1784). Acte I, Scène 1, 19–35.


Jean Laporte, Le Problème de l'abstraction (Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1940).


Ibid., 24.


See also Louis Couturat, La Logique de Leibniz : Opuscules et fragments de Leibniz (Paris: Alcan, 1903).


René Descartes, Méditations métaphysiques, III, tome IX, (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2012), 54, 64.


André Malraux, L'Espoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1937), 182.


Auguste Comte, Cours de philosophie positive, Leçons I et II, (Paris: Nathan, 1989), 18.


Ibid., 19.


Pliny the Elder, Natural History, in Twenty-Seven Books, (accessed 10 May 2020).

Contributor Notes

Adrian van den Hoven is Professor Emeritus of French at the University of Windsor. He has just published the following translation (with Basil Kingstone) of On a raison de se révolter: Philippe Gavi, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pierre Victor, It is Right to Rebel (London: Routledge, 2018). He has also published other translations of the works of Sartre and Albert Camus as well as articles on Sartre, Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir.

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture


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