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Iron in the Soul

(Les Chemins de la Liberté #3)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,805 ratings  ·  87 reviews
June 1940 was the summer of defeat for the French soldiers, deserted by their officers, utterly demoralized, awaiting the Armistice. Day by day, hour by hour, Iron in the Soul unfolds what men thought and felt and did as France fell. Men who shrugged, men who ran, men who fought and tragic men like Mathieu, who had dedicated his life to finding personal freedom, now overwh ...more
Paperback, 348 pages
Published September 26th 2002 by Penguin Classics (first published 1949)
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Shawn Brugmans I have never read this novel, but I have read the first book in the series, The Age of Reason. The Roads To Freedom, a trilogy, contains the novels…moreI have never read this novel, but I have read the first book in the series, The Age of Reason. The Roads To Freedom, a trilogy, contains the novels The Age of Reason, The Reprieve, and Troubled Sleep (also translated as Iron in the Soul). I do not know if you have already read the book since you asked this question two years ago, but I will answer anyway. As I mentioned, I have read the first novel in the series. The main themes or points to note is that we, as humans, are free to make choices. We are ultimately responsible for what happens, and we cannot escape this. There are so many possibilities, but we must choose and face the consequences. Having this immense freedom can bring a lot of stress, anxiety, angst, and dread. Anyone familiar with Kierkegaard's philosophy will see the influence that he had on Sartre. I liked the first novel in the series, and I have heard that it was the best within the series, and I have also heard that the last one is the the worst among the three, so I would highly suggest that you read the first novel at least if you want to see where Sartre was going with this series. If you enjoyed reading the third novel, then you will probably enjoy the first two. I believe that each novel has a slight variation in themes, but the overall gist has to do with responsibility, commitment, and freedom. You will find some of Sartre's concepts and ideas pertaining to existentialism within these novels. With that being said, I would highly suggest that you take a look at Sartre's first novel, Nausea. Nausea is widely regarded as one of the best philosophical novels of all time, especially within existential fiction. It is one of Sartre's best works in my opinion. Sartre also believe that it was one of his best work, too. 5 years before his death, when he was asked what he would love to be remembered by, the first thing that he mentioned was Nausea. I love this novel thoroughly. Compared to the novel that I read within his Roads to Freedom series, Nausea is more difficult to understand and it is more complex. You may be a bit confused about the plot at times and the novel may appear as quite odd at times. It's a good mix of phenomenology and ontology, in my opinion. Nausea is fairly short -- a mere 178 pages -- so it is not long to read. If you are serious about Sartre's literature and existential fiction in general, then you have to read this novel. Feel free to check out my review on both Nausea and The Age of Reason if you would like to know more about them. Beware of spoilers though. (less)

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Best Eggs
One day, aged nearly 16 I was an observant, Orthodox Jew. I enjoyed the ritual, I enjoyed the scholarship, I submerged myself in the study of Rashi, the Ramban, Talmud and Torah (view spoiler). Then I read Iron in the Soul and the next day I started to think for myself. I've been an existentialist ever since.

I remember that day. It was a Shabbat and I was walking home from the synagogue, nearly three miles, looking for four leaf clovers in the hedgerows. (I have a small
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it

--Iron in the Soul
One of the core messages of Les Chemins de la Liberté is that you are, more than anything, defined by your actions. Often you do things you didn't expect you'd do, and this can force you to reevaluate your self-image.

In the first volume, Mathieu ends up doing something quite extraordinarily despicable. He doesn't have a high opinion of himself (when we get to listen in on his mental sound-track, he's often thinking je suis un salaud), but he'd never expected that he'd steal a large amount of mon
Thomas Strömquist
In the third and what was to be the final book of the "Roads to freedom" series, Sartre explores and elaborates on his philosophy of what it means to be human and his central concepts of freedom and responsibility are here set in the context of war and politics. The setting is world war II and the fall of France.

The book follows a number of people in and out of France, but focuses on a number of soldiers, one group choosing to fight against all chances of success and another being captured. It
Mεδ Rεδħα
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophie
"They are alive but death has touched them: something is finished; the defeat made the shelf fall from the wall to values. While Daniel, in Paris, celebrates the triumph of the bad conscience, Mathieu, in a village of Lorraine, makes an inventory of the damage: Peace, Progress, Reason, Right, Democracy, Fatherland, everything is in crumbs, we will not be able never pick up the pieces.

But something also begins: without a road, without references or letters of introduction, without even having und
Nov 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This is the third book of Sartre's Roads to Freedom, and sadly, the last. He did begin on a fourth, but passed away before it could be completed.
These novels are harrowing and full of despair yet they are fascinating to read and one can easily become entranced by Sartres writing.
The novels rotate around a group of French men and women who are all linked by some way or another amist World War II and showcases how they think, feel and are affected by the knowledge of the approaching Nazi reign.
It has been a number of years since I read this series, so i will have to be rather general about it even though it has stuck with me all these years.

I am a fan of Sartre's and his existentialist contemporaries, but this series was an amazing display of Sartre's skill as a fiction writer. While I am generally more fond of Camus' fiction, every book in the "The Roads to Freedom" trilogy stands out as my favorite fictional work by that group. Make no mistake, this trilogy is a masterpiece of exis
Abhishek Ganguly
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The only thing more horrifying than defeat is its aftermath.

That is the tale that Jean Paul Sartre has woven in 'Iron In The Soul'. Heart wrenching stories of the men who had lost the War for France; a war that they did not choose to fight, did not even know much about.

'Iron In The Soul' is a tale of the fall of heroes and humans. People portray themselves as worms and corpses; sometimes out of shame, sometimes out of necessity. Here and there, flashes of human dignity sting the reader (and the
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Definitely the least interesting of the series. It seemed like Sartre got bored writing about these characters and really just wanted to finish the series. The only character that reached some sort of conclusion was Mathieu. All I can say about Mathieu is... yes, he found his freedom. I could have lived without Burnet and his story. No mention of Marcelle, which I thought was unfortunate because I wanted to see where she would go. Same with Gomez, he just sort of falls out of the picture. Boris, ...more
Heather Fineisen
Nov 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I picked this book up for a buck yesterday and I can't put it down--that is a good thing--too bad it's not raining.
Next Day--
Beautiful day and finished beautiful story. I will be mulling this one over for a while.
Komal Raja
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
'Iron in the Soul' is third part of Jean-Paul Sartre's trilogy. The narration starts when the war broke between Germany and France in 1939-40. Sartre threw light on what happens after defeat in a war. How people face it? How they live defeat hour after hour and day after day. what it means to loose in a war for soldiers, government workers, intellectuals and civilians. Sartre portrait a tragicomedy picture of aftermath as France fell . With a blend of poetic wit and artistic sarcasm he describes ...more
It's got Sartre's kind of characters that others don't like to use (communists, homosexuals, etc.), and it's got that existential feel that, mixed with feelings of French patriotism gone sour after WWII defeat, seems rather strange. It is fresh in the context of the war, having been written at the turn of the 50's after Sartre himself was a prisoner of war and was involved in the underground. But Troubled Sleep is one of his weaker novels, simply because he chose to follow the trajectories of se ...more
Dec 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, classic
The final book of sartre's roads to freedom trilogy is the best, in my opinion. This book relates French consciousness during the Nazi occupation / fall of France. In the face of defeat, a country's people struggle for dignity and meaning. In the context of war, Sartre explores what it is to be human.
One Flew
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good end to the trilogy. I didn't care for 'The Reprieve', which was too dis-jointed to get into. Iron in the Soul was a much smoother and interesting read. Particularly the scenes in the POW camp and Matheiu's transformation. Even then, I wonder about the necessity of certain characters minimal story lines, such as Daniel, who didn't need resolution. All in all, well worth the read.
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Final installment in the "Roads to Freedom" trilogy.
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: european-novel
The third volume of the Roads trilogy and Sartre changes tone once again. Age of Reason was about the ways in which its key characters interacted with one another, to create an effect like a group of mixed, random group of people lost in an elegant maze on a hot summer’s day. Looking for the right direction they shoot off in many, only to find themselves back with the clusters of similarly lost souls, with only the fact there are a few new faces and few less of the old, to mark the difference. B ...more
John Lucy
Not as fantastic as the second book of the series, The Reprieve, but still worthwhile. For the most part this book returns you to only the characters from the first novel, The Age of Reason, and shows you the path that each will be on for the duration of World War II. That alone is great because for only one character do you feel some sense of conclusion or closure with their story, which plays into one of Sartre's main themes for the series: war is extremely disorienting. If you really wanted t ...more
Rachel Stevenson
Apr 09, 2014 rated it liked it
This third part of the Roads to Freedom trilogy follows the stories of the characters from the first two novels, The Age Of Reason and The Reprieve: Matheiu, the Sartre stand-in, trying to be free, trying to act deliberately, hooking up with the last squadron resisting the Nazi invasion, which leads to his presumed death; Odette, in love with Mathieu but married to his bullying brother, who demands that she be the perfect little wife in order for him to feel like a man, fleeing Paris as the Germ ...more
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recs
It is hard to write about Sartre, I think, lacking his scope of ideas as I do. My philosophical knowledge is not as great as I would like. Thus, I am responding to this as a work of fiction rather than engaging more with its ideas.

This, the third book of the trilogy, returns us to several characters from the previous two novels, each struggling to come to terms with the meaning of defeat. Most of Part One is spent with Mathieu, and in these sections there is perhaps an overload of characters, ne
Alex Milledge
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A cool, World War II-setting novel based on the Fall of France.

In the beginning, there was a part when there were a few frenchmen in new york talking about how it's a shame that no one cares that France is falling to the Germans, but then after that there is no mention of those characters or setting again. I thought that was weird, but i think it had to do with how the world was indifferent to France's fall to the Germans.

The book was also somewhat existential coming from Sartre. I picked up th
Alexander Lawson
Jun 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
The novel, composed of several slightly related stories, describes the angst felt by the soldiers and civilians following the fall of France in 1940. It is slow going at first but is worthwhile for those interested in Sartre, anguish or the fall of France.

The various protagonists respond to defeat with: boredom; passivity; denial of responsibility; sensual indulgence; drunkenness; and anger leading to suicidal resistance. The soldiers deny any compliance in the political policies (appeasement) t
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, fiction
(Translated by Gerard Hopkins from La Mort Dans L'Ame --- a somewhat different title.) This series was apparently supposed to continue beyond three books, and although I get the sense of transition in this book, there's also completion: Mathieu makes a final decision for freedom, Brunet finds out that the mindset he wants his fellows to share does not come about so easily. It is sad that we never find out what happens to Odette & Jacques, Daniel & Philippe, or Gomez, lost in America... H ...more
Jeffrey Franklin Barken
That was a heavy dose of Sartre... I think the Reprieve was the most interesting in the series language-wise. I liked the entangled story lines, and the sense of impending disaster that underlined the entire plot. Troubled Sleep starts excellently with Gomez in New York trying to register American emotions as Paris falls to the Nazis... Throughout this trilogy you get a sense of the French people, desperate to close their eyes and sleep forever, or to awake from the nightmare of their times. The ...more
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Tomorrow the black birds would come...The haunting, foreboding line that finishes this book, which though brilliant is I think the weakest of the trilogy. It focuses on less characters than the previous two instalments, though dwells on them for longer stretches of time. Time with Brunet in the prison camp dragged on a little too long for me and I would have liked to have found out what was happening with the others: Marcelle, Daniel, Boris and Ivich etc. Only Mathieu really achieves closure: 'C ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading the Roads to Freedom trilogy with nothing in between for the last couple weeks. And what a road it is! I find it difficult to say one book is better than the other. They all stand on their own merit, and I only regret that Sartre didn't complete La Derniere Chance. I really want to know what happened, especially to Daniel, Brunet, and Schneider. Well, NEED to know! Alas! as life, we cannot tie up the loose ends, and doubt Sartre would have either.

The entire series is very relev
Kapil Yadav
Freedom when unknown sounds so appealing but when it shows itself in naked, crude form is not digestible . While the pursuit seems so worthy and noble to make life turn into an ideal - it is only the one who reaches it knows it . Others who read and see are yet to make anything out of the final summit to freedom , as for them it lies on a higher summit, a more noble summit .

If being able to release the trigger was freedom was Mathieu, then so be it . Brunet walks away unfinished but yes still o
Holly Ennis
Aug 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
I haven't reviewed a book since secondary school and this is probably the worst one to start with, especially because I haven't read the other 'roads to freedom' books. Overall, I wasn't sure what to make of this; some sections felt a bit awkward but perhaps this was down to the translation and I wasn't always sure how well it all sat together. I liked the way characters didn't know how to make sense of stuff, changed their minds, overall grubbiness of how they felt - but other ones seemed a bit ...more
John Gillis
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Troubled Sleep, a novel; also called Iron in the Soul (UK version). The third of three novels grouped as "The Roads to Freedom" by Jean-Paul Sartre. The Age of Reason (1947), The Reprieve (1947), Troubled Sleep (1951). All three are centered on the fall of Paris in 1940.

I read all three back-to-back. Like oil paintings in the Louvre. Timeless. Iconic characters woven through the three: Mathieu, Brunet, Boris, Ivich, Daniel, Lola, Marcelle, Odette. Existentialism (though the term is never used) i
Mike Keane
Jul 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
so far 50 pages in or so its of course well written and dark. - finished it a few weeks later. this book had a really interesting fragmented narrative. The first was made up of several groups of people, with a main narrator of each group whose internal monologue we hear. the second half was entirely different than the first made up of only one group with only one main character's inner workings exposed. the storyline is also atypical and manages to weave Sartre's ideas and characterizations into ...more
Sep 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So that's me finished Sartre's "Ways To Freedom" trilogy covering the period from the build up to WW2 to France's surrender to Germany. What I thought would be an endurance test turned out to be a great adventure. These novels never feel like a promo for his philosophy, and the main word that comes to mind is "humanist". He looks at the impact of war from the perspective of a huge number of people, from Daladier to conscripted teachers to communist newspaper editors to pacifists, and on and on a ...more
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Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre, was a French existentialist philosopher and pioneer, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic. He was a leading figure in 20th century French philosophy.

He declined the award of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has ex

Other books in the series

Les Chemins de la Liberté (3 books)
  • The Age of Reason
  • The Reprieve
“Men get the war they deserve.” 5 likes
“Nu sunt atât de laș ca să îmi fie teamă că fac pe cineva să sufere atunci când trebuie s-o fac.” 0 likes
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