The Age of Reason (Penguin Modern Classics)

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The Age of Reason (Penguin Modern Classics)

The Age of Reason (Penguin Modern Classics)

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She turned her head, and was looking at Mathieu’s hair, tilting her mouth towards him with a touch of affectionate coquetry. If you hate summer, loathe being touched, are so morbidly self-conscious that other people looking at you hurts you, if you are revolted by your bodily functions and oppressed by a feeling of futility and pointlessness, ‘burdened by events to come’ and prey to ‘an intolerable anguish’ (p. Sartre’s philosophy is contained in the phrase; ‘existence precedes essence’ meaning that man is not born with an intrinsic value but creates a value with his own will and actions. However, despite the tone being set in this first chapter, the abortion element of the story doesn’t dominate proceedings as Delarue finds himself increasingly drawn into, particularly, the lives of young Boris and Ivich.

Critics I’ve read say the novel is a meditation on freedom, in particular Sartre’s convoluted idea of freedom which is not a positive, but a kind of terrifying nothingness into which we’re hurled and from which we have to create our own lives from scratch, with no help or guidance from outworn creeds or dead religions. Next morning Mathieu meets Ivich at the Dome cafe and they start drinking to get rid of their hangovers, when Boris appears completely dazed. A darkly Machiavellian character, his outward acts are often simply foils for devious, open-ended desires. He suggests the pair catch up to discuss the situation further, with a deflated Delarue agreeing to this.Other times it simply never happens, and the person simply ends up drifting around the world living in some sort of dream, never actually defining themselves, and never having a purpose or a point.

Boris had promptly understood: the individual’s duty is to do what he wants to do, to think whatever he likes, to be accountable to no one but himself, to challenege every idea and every person. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. The half-drunk man suggests they head off to wax lyrical in a Parisian café over drinks, but Delarue turns him down (to his immediate regret).

All is going well until it becomes apparent he can’t receive the loan immediately, which leads him to try and chase down Sarah again. This has clearly been going on for a while, but Ivich has grown somewhat bored of the routine and is now resentful towards Delarue. Alternatively, the young student Bruno – who hates being described as Mathieu’s ‘disciple’ – has his own, rather immature definition of freedom. Maybe these ‘freedom’ sections which caused so much debate in 1945, now seem thin and lifeless because we all think like that, talk like that, and have the t-shirt.

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