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At the Existentialist Café: Freedom,…
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At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails… (original 2016; edition 2017)

by Sarah Bakewell (Author)

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7211719,553 (4.1)56
Member:Rigour
Title:At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others
Authors:Sarah Bakewell (Author)
Info:Other Press (2017), 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others by Sarah Bakewell (2016)

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Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Quite a humane portrait of the grand and not so grand figures in the Existentialist philosophy movement, especially Jean-Paul Sartre, and his life time partner Simone de Beauvoir. Also has a lot of material on the roots of existentialism in Phenomenology, and takes in Friedrich Neitzsche, Martin Heidegger, Albert Camus, Edmund Husserl, Karl Jaspers and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. ( )
  Matt_B | Nov 27, 2018 |
A biographical history of phenomenology and existentialism. We follow Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and Camus; we see the philosophy emerge from their lives. ( )
  stonecrops | Nov 26, 2018 |
Excellent

Whether you already think you know Existentialism and Phenomenology or think you do not care, this is an excellent and readable work. Part philosophical history, part multiple biographies, part personal and ideational autobiography, part history, part sociology, this is a Cafe worth sitting in and experiencing for a good while. ( )
  dasam | Jun 21, 2018 |
Whew. I decided to listen to this personal but informed survey of the rise and fall of existentialism as a philosophy, and I finally finished. The reader is wonderful, and that helped a lot, because I am not that conversant with philosophical questions to begin with.

The book starts with a thorough exploration of phenomenology (which is tough enough for me) and the personalities and histories of the men (mostly) whose work it was. Heidegger towers in this group, of course, but the course of his life is quite problematic. He championed and then discarded several students who were, perhaps, a challenge to him, was too involved in the Nazi mission and madness for anyone to forgive, including Hannah Arendt, his student and lover. But his impressive work in the field ricocheted through the intellectual world of Europe, and his seminal work Being and Time let to Sartre's own masterpiece Being and Nothingness

Along the way, the author provides many biographical details, such as Sartre's experience in a prisoner-of-war camp, and how it changed him. He and Simone de Beauvior were intellectually inseparable (not identical, however), however they played out their sexually independent lives. Sartre also enticed and discarded students and compatriots, and at times the story feels like gossip about crotchetey old intellectuals arguing over the meaning of 'is'. de Beauvior eventually turned their philosophical frame on how women were raised, taught, inculcated with that double vision of themselves as 'other' to men, and that of course ricocheted in its own way to our time. (The author mentions that the first translations into English were awful, and bowderized, but there is a newer one I might try to read.)

The author is especially fond of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, whom she finds calm, pleasant, and more realistic than other French phenomenologists (if I understood her correctly!). And she relates the impact of existentialist though on Iris Murdoch, another author I don't know enough about.

All in all, a really compelling history of the philosophers, mostly French and German, whose ideas so influenced Western thought in the last century. ( )
  ffortsa | May 17, 2018 |
church office
  rklonowski | Feb 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
"near the turn of 1932-3 when three young philosophers were sitting in the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue du Montparnasse in Paris, catching up on gossip and drinking the house specialty, apricot cocktails." De Beauvoir was 25, her boyfriend Sartre was 27 and his school chum Raymond Aron was describing a new train of thought, "phenomenology," which demands a close scrutiny of the elements of everyday life, "the things themselves." As Beauvoir recounted it, Aron — just back from Berlin — exclaimed, "If you are a phenomenologist, you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!" Sartre reportedly went pale — intoxicated by the potential in wedding philosophy to normal, lived experience instead of dusty, dead tomes.
 
Towards the end of this absorbing and enjoyable book, Bakewell writes: ‘Ideas are interesting, but people are vastly more so.’ She presents a cast of characters who are undeniably diverting. Simone de Beauvoir, in particular, emerges as a highly complex individual, far more interesting than her egotistical and gullible partner. Karl Jaspers, frail in health but resolute in his determination to remain untainted by Nazism; Emmanuel Levinas, who withstood Nazi oppression and clearly perceived Heidegger’s culpability; Albert Camus, much given to high-flown rhetoric but with a sense of reality that kept him from Sartre’s political follies: these were substantial figures.
added by smasler | editLiterary Review, John Gray (Mar 1, 2016)
 
The author offers fascinating insights into the cultural impact of existentialism on the English-speaking world. In his influential 1957 essay The White Negro, for example, Norman Mailer predicts much of what would become the counterculture, saying that this is the making of what he calls “the hipster” or “the American existentialist”. English existentialists included the young Iris Murdoch, who got Sartre to sign her copy of Being and Nothingness and wrote to a friend of “the excitement – I remember nothing like it since the days of discovering Keats and Shelley and Coleridge”.
added by smasler | editThe Guardian, Andrew Hussey (Feb 28, 2016)
 
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It is sometimes said that existentialism is more of a mood than a philosophy, and that it can be traced back to anguished novelists of the nineteenth century, and beyond that to Blaise Pascal, who was terrified by the silence of empty spaces, and beyond that to the soul-searching St. Augustine, and beyond that to the Old Tetsament's weary Ecclesiastes and to Job, the man who dared to question the game God was playing with him and was intimidated into submission.
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Paris, 1933: three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are the young Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and longtime friend Raymond Aron, a fellow philosopher who raves to them about a new conceptual framework from Berlin called Phenomenology. “You see,” he says, “if you are a phenomenologist you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!”

It was this simple phrase that would ignite a movement, inspiring Sartre to integrate Phenomenology into his own French, humanistic sensibility, thereby creating an entirely new philosophical approach inspired by themes of radical freedom, authentic being, and political activism. This movement would sweep through the jazz clubs and cafés of the Left Bank before making its way across the world as Existentialism.

Featuring not only philosophers, but also playwrights, anthropologists, convicts, and revolutionaries, At the Existentialist Café follows the existentialists’ story, from the first rebellious spark through the Second World War, to its role in postwar liberation movements such as anticolonialism, feminism, and gay rights. Interweaving biography and philosophy, it is the epic account of passionate encounters—fights, love affairs, mentorships, rebellions, and long partnerships—and a vital investigation into what the existentialists have to offer us today, at a moment when we are once again confronting the major questions of freedom, global responsibility, and human authenticity in a fractious and technology-driven world.
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Paris, 1933. Three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse-- and ignite a movement, creating an entirely new philosophical approach inspired by themes of radical freedom, authentic being, and political activism: Existentialism. Interweaving biography and philosophy, Bakewell provides an investigation into what the existentialists have to offer us today, at a moment when we are once again confronting the major questions of freedom, global responsibility, and human authenticity in a fractious and technology-driven world.… (more)

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