Journal of Romance Studies

Ontology and politics: the representation of communists in Sartre’s fiction and theatre

Journal of Romance Studies (2006), 6, (1-2), 127–142.

Abstract

How does Sartre represent communist characters in his novels and plays? And how is his imaginative representation of communists related to both his political and artistic evolution in the 1940s and 1950s? After noting the paucity of communist characters in Sartre’s imaginative oeuvre, I examine in detail the communists in Les Mains sales and Les Chemins de la liberté, and argue that there is a fundamental paradox which may explain why there are so few such characters in Sartre’s work: the ontological ‘negativity and anxiety’ that characterized Sartre’s most developed protagonists did not square with his political view of the ideal militant. Once he became a ‘fellow-traveller’ who condemned ‘negativity’ and celebrated the ‘necessities of praxis’, Sartre abandoned the portrayal of communists in his theatre and fiction. Even more radically, he gave up writing theatre and fiction altogether.

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Author details

Suleiman, Susan Rubin