Yes, break out the smoky jazz and your best beret because existentialism is back. A new book by Sarah Bakewell explores the often caricatured group of writers and thinkers as the powerful influence they’ve become. Focusing on writers like Camus and thinkers like Sartre and De Beauvoir, The Existentialist Cafe says we have a lot to learn from what was once pretty radical positions. The group had a lot more to offer us than turtlenecks, cigarettes, and ennui. They had great sex for one thing! Though Bakewell does reveal in a Guardian article that Sartre seduced women with cheese?
“[Sartre] was a serial seducer: one scurrilous journalist in 1945 chortled over rumours of him tempting women up to his bedroom by offering them a sniff of his Camembert cheese (well, good cheese was hard to get in 1945).”
But both he and his partner, De Bolivar, were well known for their open relationship, but they also paved the way for both the gay and feminist revolutions:
“Thus, if Sartre and De Beauvoir’s attitudes to sexuality led them to behave badly at times, it also led them to feminism and to bold declarations of LGBT rights at a time when few dared even to speak of such things.”
Not bad, Existentialists.