Daniel's Reviews > Camus and Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It

Camus and Sartre by Ronald Aronson
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Jul 08, 11

Read in December, 2010

I am not much of a non-fiction fan, but this work is interesting. It is an investigation into the friendship and eventual split between Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre but is really much more. I am learning a tremendous amount about the history of post WWII France and the complexities of politics and ideology in France. To suggest that the breakup was over Communism is a gross exaggeration. That much I now know, and I am not even halfway through the book.

Those who know me understand how worked up I get when Camus is lumped into the Existentialist camp. He was first and foremost a great writer. Really. The Plague is wholly different from The Stranger, and neither are very much about existentialist ideas—which came after both were published, if you want to be specific. I am learning how much Sartre admired Camus' political determination and how Camus helped Sartre get involved in the French resistance scene. Each man admired the other, and yet each needed to distance himself from the other after a certain time because they were getting too closely associated.

Reading history goes very slowly for me, so this one will take a while. Aronson's style starts off a bit diffuse, with unclear direction at the beginning, but after the first section things begin to get clearer. I like how he progresses by topic and character, but I also am a bit distracted by random, brief first-person commentaries that seem out of place. Luckily this is not a terribly dry statistical account.

More later.

I finished the work back in December and am belatedly finishing the review.

Insofar as insight into the history between Satre and Camus, this is an extremely important work and well worth reading. Aronson clearly sides with Camus, giving him implicit nods of approval far more often than Sartre. This might be justified, but the work is not quite the balanced piece one might hope for. I did learn a great amount about both Sartre and Camus. I started reading "The Rebel" because of this work and am nearly finished with "The Fall." Knowing what I do about both writers helps me get much more from "The Fall," and I can now teach "The Outsider" with greater authority. I will probably re-read "Existentialism is a Humanism" and expect to better appreciate Sartre's intent.

Overall, still three stars. This is a very valuable book for understanding the history of the two writers. As a piece of historical writing, though, its exposition is a bit choppy, authorial intrusion is unexpected and inconsistent, and the writer's biases are a bit of a hindrance to the work as a whole.
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