A Group of Readers

>>> Every other week, we meet and talk about what we're reading.
>> Reading: The Collected Tales, by Nikolai Gogol
> Meeting: LOCATION TBD; DATE TBD, 2 p.m.

I was an anarchist without knowing it when I wrote La Nausée: I did not realize that what I was writing there could have an anarchist interpretation; I saw only the relation with the metaphysical idea of “nausea,” the metaphysical idea of existence.

— 

The above comes from an interview with a 70-year-old Jean-Paul Sartre in the New York Review of Books. The 1975 interview opens with a somber inquiry regarding Sartre’s health, to which he replies “It is difficult to say that I am feeling well, but I can’t say that I’m feeling bad either…” He dies in 1980. In full, the question and answer read:

Q. After May 1968 you said to me: “If one rereads all my books, one will realize that I have not changed profoundly, and that I have always remained an anarchist.”

A. That is very true. And it will be evident in the television broadcasts I am preparing. Still, I have changed in the sense that I was an anarchist without knowing it when I wrote La Nausée: I did not realize that what I was writing there could have an anarchist interpretation; I saw only the relation with the metaphysical idea of “nausea,” the metaphysical idea of existence. Then, by way of philosophy, I discovered the anarchist being in me. But when I discovered it I did not call it that, because today’s anarchy no longer has anything to do with the anarchy of 1890.

As an added bonus, this interview was translated by a young Lydia Davis and Paul Auster, both 28 at the time and recently married. The two would become staples of contemporary American fiction beginning in the 1980s, though by then they had divorced (1978).

-Michael