Manny's Reviews > L'âge de raison

L'âge de raison by Jean-Paul Sartre
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Mar 11, 11

it was amazing
bookshelves: french, strongly-recommended, too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts
Read in January, 2000 , read count: 2

This is an excellent novel about unpleasant people, with some unforgettable scenes. Here's one of the ones I liked most. Daniel, a strange character who has never managed to establish a normal connection with the world, has been hovering on the edge of suicide for some time. He's finally decided he's going to do it. But he can't just leave his three cats to starve to death, so he puts them in a wicker basket and takes them down to the river to drown them. The basket is too small, and he can hear them fighting and complaining inside. But of course it doesn't matter any more.

When he gets there, he suddenly realises it's impossible. He trudges back home with his heavy basket and opens it. The cats emerge, looking very much the worse for wear. His favourite has a nasty scatch over her eye. In the middle of all the commotion, he's also managed to get himself scatched, and it hurts. He feels utterly miserable.

It's one of the most effective passages I know on the subject of why it generally isn't a good idea to want to kill yourself.
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03/01 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris I'm certainly not meaning to make light of what you took from this passage, but how would the novel have been different if Daniel had realized that cats, best of creatures though they are, are nothing if not unsentimental and would not have starved to death because they would have eaten him? Would it change from a Sartre novel to a Stephen King novella?

Manny Being eaten by your cats doesn't sound quite right for a Sartre novel... I think it's too overtly dramatic. He prefers the understated approach. But I can definitely see Daniel thinking about the possibility.

Unfortunately, I don't think this novel translated well to English. I looked at the translation once and was surprised to see how dull it was. In the French, his language is lively and amusing most of the time, which makes horrifying scenes like this one all the more effective.

message 3: by Donna (new)

Donna you make it tempting. I wonder if I could handle this in French? Only one way to find out.

Manny Donna wrote: "you make it tempting. I wonder if I could handle this in French? Only one way to find out."

Have you read any other Sartre in French? If not, I would start with one of the plays. Les Mains Sales is the one I like best, then Huis Clos.

Manny Austin wrote: "So the title "Age of Reason", I take it this is an ironic reference to Thomas Paine's sincere tract by the same name?"

I am not sure about that. The obvious reference is a speech his more conventional brother gives him, where he says that Mathieu (the main character) has reached "the age of reason" and should act responsibly.

This is ironic, given that Europe stands on the brink of WW II. Quite likely the irony has more than one dimension as well.

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