In my Existentialism class we are reading The Reprieve by Sartre. It follows multiple characters who all live in France during the week before the singing of the Munich Agreement and the takeover of Czechoslovakia in September 1938. The novel was eventually published in 1945. While Sartre doesn’t deal with the first World War, I was surprised to see a lot of the same themes and issues that we discuss in class that are very apparent in Sartre. Here are some quotes I found interesting while reading.
Charles (a man with syphilis) sees a solider who can take care of himself: “Something is going to happen to him. Tomorrow there will be war, and something is going to happen to all these people. But not to me. I am an object” (Sartre, 35).
Mathieu has a conversation with a woman who knows nothing about the war: “’I shall say to her: ‘So, you want peace at any price?’ I shall speak gently, looking straight into her eyes, and I shall say: ‘Women must not be allowed to interfere with us. This is not the moment to pester men with their follies” (Sartre, 23).
Phillipe offers us a pacifist view: “And you are being packed off to the slaughter, you don’t mind, you don’t lift a finger, a rifle is shoved into your hands and you think you’re heroes, and if anyone protests, you call him a plutocrat, and a fascist, and a yellow-belly, because he doesn’t do as everybody else does” (Sartre, 193).
Birnenschatz shows the reader the problem of national identity (He is a Jewish refugee but he defines himself as a Frenchman first) This prompts him to make this insensitive remark: “The fate of German Jews is not our business” (Sartre, 96).
If anyone is looking for a wide range of perspectives on the World War II, as well as a philosophical take on it, I would definitely recommend reading The Reprieve.