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Existentialism and Excess: The Life and Times of Jean-Paul Sartre

Gary Cox



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27 June 2019
Biography; Biography: literary; Phenomenology & Existentialism
Jean-Paul Sartre is an undisputed giant of twentieth-century philosophy. His intellectual writings popularizing existentialism combined with his creative and artistic flair have made him a legend of French thought. His tumultuous personal life - so inextricably bound up with his philosophical thinking - is a fascinating tale of love and lust, drug abuse, high profile fallings-out and political and cultural rebellion.

This substantial and meticulously researched biography is accessible, fast-paced, often amusing and at times deeply moving. Existentialism and Excess covers all the main events of Sartre's remarkable seventy-five-year life from his early years as a precocious brat devouring his grandfather's library, through his time as a brilliant student in Paris, his wilderness years as a provincial teacher-writer experimenting with mescaline, his World War II adventures as a POW and member of the resistance, his post-war politicization, his immense amphetamine fueled feats of writing productivity, his harem of women, his many travels and his final decline into blindness and old age.

Along the way there are countless intriguing anecdotes, some amusing, some tragic, some controversial: his loathing of crustaceans and his belief that he was being pursued by a giant lobster, his escape from a POW camp, the bombing of his apartment, his influence on the May 1968 uprising and his many love affairs. Cox deftly moves from these episodes to discussing his intellectual development, his famous feuds with Aron, Camus, and Merleau-Ponty, his encounters with other giant figures of his day: Roosevelt, Hemingway, Heidegger, John Huston, Mao, Castro, Che Guevara, Khrushchev and Tito, and, above all, his long, complex and creative relationship with Simone de Beauvoir.

Existentialism and Excess also gives serious consideration to Sartre's ideas and many philosophical works, novels, stories, plays and biographies, revealing their intimate connection with his personal life.

Cox has written an entertaining, thought-provoking and compulsive book, much like the man himself.
By:   Gary Cox
Imprint:   Bloomsbury
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm, 
Weight:   382g
ISBN:   9781350066571
ISBN 10:   1350066575
Pages:   352
Publication Date:   27 June 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Acknowledgements 1 Genius 2 Stowaway Traveller 3 Exile 4 Very Heaven 5 Castor 6 Le Havre 7 Apricot Cocktails 8 Ostraconophobia 9 La Petite Russe 10 The Mighty Gallimard 11 Sex Before War 12 War of Words 13 Occupation 14 Political Animal 15 Differences 16 Crushing Camus and Genet 17 Blood Pressure Rising 18 The Ghost of Stalin 19 Corydrane Creations 20 The Philosopher and the Film Director 21 Explosive Situation 22 Nobel Words 23 Help of the Helpless 24 Revolution in the Air 25 Ultra-Lefty 26 The Long Road Down 27 Immortality 28 A Kind of Conclusion Bibliography Index

Gary Cox has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Birmingham, UK, where he is also an Honorary Research Fellow. He is author of The Sartre Dictionary, Sartre and Fiction, Sartre: A Guide for the Perplexed, How to Be an Existentialist, The Existentialist's Guide, How to Be a Philosopher, The God Confusion and Deep Thought - all published by Bloomsbury.

Reviews for Existentialism and Excess: The Life and Times of Jean-Paul Sartre

This easy to read and thought provoking biography explores all of the key events of the legendary philosopher's life and skillfully examines the close connections between his radical thoughts and philosophical works ... Gary Cox's Existentialism and Excess is a remarkably vivid and intimate biography that shows the existentialist legend had feet of clay, without in any way diminishing his contributions and greatness. If you are a fan of Jean-Paul Sartre, French intellectual life, philosophy, or biography, in particular, this first-rate account is highly recommended as a starting point for any study of this great man. -- Michael Thomas Barry * New York Journal of Books * Yet what is Sartre's legacy? Does anyone - should anyone - read him today? In his brisk, accessible biography, Gary Cox tries to make the case that Sartre's best work provides deep insight into the human condition. * National Review * [An] approachable, chatty biography ... As a pit stop tour of the life of this globetrotting intellectual ... Cox's work thrills, moving breezily from the spoiled provincial bourgeois child to the dissatisfied schoolteacher convinced of his own genius, to the ageing and in-demand literary grandee. * The Australian * Clear, declarative sentences and short yet detailed paragraphs make for a breezy introduction to Sartre's enormous oeuvre. * The Tablet * Cox characterizes the best of Sartre's literary and philosophical output as displaying unquestionable genius, but he does not shy away from criticism of the rather slapdash approach evident in much of Sartre's writing nor does he overlook Sartre's occasionally thoughtless treatment of some who were close to him (notably Simone de Beauvoir) ... The originality of Cox's readable treatment lies in his integration of the details of Sartre's life with his philosophical development. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. * CHOICE *

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