WHEN THE COMMUNIST PARTY FOOLED SARTRE INTO THINKING HE HAD FREE WILL. I took great pleasure from a story in John Gray’s review of Sarah Bakewell’s AT THE EXISTENTIALIST CAFE in the Literary Review (link via arts and letters daily). Sartre attached enormous importance to the idea of “bad faith”. Gray says: “Anyone who thought of their lives as being in some way ruled by fate was guilty of the cardinal existentialist sin of inauthenticity – the denial of one’s own freedom.”

Gray retells a story from a book by Carole Seymour-Jones: A DANGEROUS LIAISON: SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR AND JEAN-PAUL SARTRE. On a visit to Moscow the KGB arranged for Sartre to become involved with a KGB agent. Evidently the KGB had read Sartre and knew of the importance he attached to remaining free. The agent, Lina Zonina, wrote in a report that the visit was ‘set up in such a way as to give him a complete illusion that he meets with anyone he wants to meet, that he chooses the subjects for conversation, and that he works out his own programme rather than follows one imposed on him’. It worked. “Sartre was taken in by the deception, proposing marriage to her and visiting the Soviet Union on no fewer than eight occasions within four years in order to be with her.”

Again, you are urged to hit the button marked “Didn’t get the joke” on the existentialcomics post yesterday and on the March 27 post to get the philosophical explanation of the comic.

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