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Camus and Sartre

The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It

Until now it has been impossible to read the full story of the relationship between Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Their dramatic rupture at the height of the Cold War, like that conflict itself, demanded those caught in its wake to take sides rather than to appreciate its tragic complexity. Now, using newly available sources, Ronald Aronson offers the first book-length account of the twentieth century’s most famous friendship and its end.

Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre first met in 1943, during the German occupation of France. The two became fast friends. Intellectual as well as political allies, they grew famous overnight after Paris was liberated. As playwrights, novelists, philosophers, journalists, and editors, the two seemed to be everywhere and in command of every medium in post-war France. East-West tensions would put a strain on their friendship, however, as they evolved in opposing directions and began to disagree over philosophy, the responsibilities of intellectuals, and what sorts of political changes were necessary or possible.

As Camus, then Sartre adopted the mantle of public spokesperson for his side, a historic showdown seemed inevitable. Sartre embraced violence as a path to change and Camus sharply opposed it, leading to a bitter and very public falling out in 1952. They never spoke again, although they continued to disagree, in code, until Camus’s death in 1960.

In a remarkably nuanced and balanced account, Aronson chronicles this riveting story while demonstrating how Camus and Sartre developed first in connection with and then against each other, each keeping the other in his sights long after their break. Combining biography and intellectual history, philosophical and political passion, Camus and Sartre will fascinate anyone interested in these great writers or the world-historical issues that tore them apart.

Read an excerpt.

302 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2004

Biography and Letters

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages

Philosophy: General Philosophy


"With meticulous even-handedness, this internationally renowned Sartre expert has produced a remarkably non-partisan account which also reminds us that it is possible to combine the highest level of scholarship with a lively and readable style of writing. Making judicious use of archive and original interview material, which he combines with literary criticism, political insights and anecdotes, Aronson firmly locates the Camus-Sartre relationship in the political and cultural contexts of early post-War France. This important contribution to twentieth-century intellectual and cultural history reveals as never before the extent to which the two men interacted with each other through their writings both before and, importantly, after the 1952 rupture."

David Drake | Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents

1. First Encounters
2. Occupation, Resistance, Liberation
3. Postwar Commitments
4. Camus’s Turning-Point
5. Sartre’s Turning-Point
6. Violence and Communism
7. The Explosion
8. Arranging Many Things, Performing Real Acts
9. Recovering Their Voices
10. No Exit

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