Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Age of Reason, his first novel in the Roads to Freedom trilogy, is one of our favourite novels and, by heck, we’re reviewing it as a result.
Sartre was a fan of this thing called existentialism, which is about existing within an “ism”. No one knows what this means other than Sartre and Albert Einstein, but they’re dead. Consequently we’re not going to elucidate the matter, as we can’t. We would apologise, but we can’t be bothered.
Sartre’s The Age Of Reason
Before we continue, a note on the text. It IS NOT to be confused with the The Age of Raisins. Raisins are fundamental food stuffs, but not the topic of choice for literary giants.
The plot deals with 34-year-old Mathieu Delarue, who deems it necessary to raise 4,000 Francs in order to fund his mistresses’ abortion. Although this is introduced early in the story, it becomes secondary as Delarue pursues other interests.
As a philosophy lecturer at a Parisian University, he lusts after the extremely pretty, but emotionally stunted, student Ivich. Whilst this is going on her awesome brother, Boris, worships him, yet he fails to comprehend why Boris should bother and what exactly he should do about it. This is in contrast to his intelligence, which is like a flower drenched in marmite: awesome, but covered in smudge.
Continuously dithering on morality grounds, especially when offered a position in the local communist party, Delarue becomes increasingly distant. Added on top of this, he ponders over his lack of aesthetic appeal (i.e. he looks like shit), not aided when he compares himself to his extremely good looking gay friend Daniel.
In keeping with his ideals, Sartre deals (idealistically) with the ideal of freedom, in its purest form, as the ultimate, and ideal, human goal. The philosophical nature the Age of Reason doesn’t deter from the fact it’s a remarkable piece of writing, however.
The characterisation is what makes this one a winner, particularly with the idealisation of youth in the form of siblings Boris and Ivich. Boris believes youth is all that matters and intends to blow his brains out upon reaching 30, whilst Ivich is dithering and unpleasant, but unusually intriguing.
We could enthuse further, but the only way to do justice to this novel is to read it. Do so, or face the consequences!