At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others

October 31, 2020
At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others

From the best-selling author of How to Live, a spirited accountof one of the twentieth century’s major intellectual movements andthe revolutionary thinkers who came to shape itParis, 1933: three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails atthe Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are the youngJean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and longtime friend RaymondAron, a fellow philosopher who raves to them about a new conceptualframework from Berlin called Phenomenology. “You see,” he says, “ifyou are a phenomenologist you can talk about this cocktail and makephilosophy out of it!”It was this simple phrase that would ignite a movement,inspiring Sartre to integrate Phenomenology into his own French,humanistic sensibility, thereby creating an entirely newphilosophical approach inspired by themes of radical freedom,authentic being, and political activism. This movement would sweepthrough the jazz clubs and cafés of the Left Bank before making itsway across the world as Existentialism.Featuring not only philosophers, but also playwrights,anthropologists, convicts, and revolutionaries, At theExistentialist Café follows the existentialists’ story, from thefirst rebellious spark through the Second World War, to its role inpostwar liberation movements such as anticolonialism, feminism, andgay rights. Interweaving biography and philosophy, it is the epicaccount of passionate encounters—fights, love affairs, mentorships,rebellions, and long partnerships—and a vital investigation intowhat the existentialists have to offer us today, at a moment whenwe are once again confronting the major questions of freedom,global responsibility, and human authenticity in a fractious andtechnology-driven world.