The Age of Reason: Overview

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Editor: Lesley Henderson
Date: 1995
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Work overview; Critical essay
Length: 997 words

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The Age of Reason is the first volume the series Paths of Freedom. Other volumes, The Reprieve (Le Sursis) and Iron in the Soul (La Mort dans l'âme), appeared in 1945 and 1949. One fragment of the final unfinished part appeared in Les Temps Modernes in 1949; another was published posthumously in Oeuvres romanesques (1981). As the collective title suggests, the series deals with the consequences of absolute freedom as examined in Sartre's Being and Nothingness whereby an individual realizes that, in the absence of universal values and human essence, he faces the painful obligation to create his own morality. But to discover ontological freedom, Sartre shows in the novels, one must pass through the struggle for freedom from political oppression, since, although Sartre began the novel from an non-political perspective before 1939, by the end he had become convinced that to see personal freedom without the political and social contexts that condition and restrict it was contradictory.

Involving multiple characters and plots, The Age of Reason is divided into chapters each focusing on one or two story lines; subsequent chapters take up others. The result is a sense of simultaneous action among several personae, whose stories are connected but who receive alternately the narrative focus, allowing Sartre to present reality from their point of view, following his phenomenological emphasis upon perspective. History and politics intrude little, although in the background is the Spanish Civil War, prefiguring the European conflict to come, and suggesting an oppressive historical destiny....

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420007098