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Fell, J.P. (1968). Sartre's Words: An Existential Self-Analysis. Psychoanal. Rev., 55(3):426-441.

(1968). Psychoanalytic Review, 55(3):426-441

Sartre's Words: An Existential Self-Analysis

Joseph P. Fell

So long as Jean-Paul Sartre continues to move in our midst, any attempt to say what he stands for will be hazardous indeed. His whole life, explains his friend and apologist, Francis Jeanson, is a “flight forward.”1 If we cannot tell what Sartre will be, he himself has now tried, in Words, to tell us what he has been. A confessional autobiography, its every page makes exceptional demands on our attention.

Sartre has devoted his entire career as a writer to exposing our imposture. Now, in Words, he exposes his own. Curiously, his imposture is discovered to have been precisely in his disclosure of our imposture. The great paradox and inconsistency of his life, he explains, is that his message has contradicted its motivation. He had thought it his destiny to write about our lack of a destiny. He had believed he would win salvation by exposing the impossibility of salvation. Now he has swung around full circle. Words resists generic classification. If it is autobiography, it is also a chapter in Sartre's philosophy, of which it is a critique no less than an illustration and application. Further, Words takes its place alongside Sartre's earlier studies ofBaudelaire (1947) andGenet (1952) as his third attempt at existential psychoanalysis. Sartre had long promised an analysis of Flaubert, but this self-analysis reached us first.

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