Journal of Romance Studies

Beauvoir’s blues, Sartre’s Jews: reading L’espoir maintenant

Journal of Romance Studies (2006), 6, (1-2), 169–183.

Abstract

This article treats the reception, and offers a new interpretation, of the dialogues between Jean-Paul Sartre and Benny Lévy published 10, 17 and 24 March 1980 in Le Nouvel Observateur and reprinted by Lévy as L’espoir maintenant. I argue that both the celebratory and derogatory readings of L’espoir maintenant have been dominated by a hermeneutics of intention that focuses on whether Sartre meant what he said in these conversations or whether he was manipulated by Lévy. However, the entire project of forging an ethical basis for a new Left politics that guided Sartre’s and Lévy’s efforts is foreclosed in this approach as scholars squabble over what elements belong to Lévy and Sartre respectively. Arguing instead for a hermeneutics of performativity sensitive to the flow of the discussion, where the premises and postulates often spring from the give and take of dialogue, I highlight Sartre’s reworking of Jewish tropes, including messianism, as central to re-sketching his views on consciousness, history, ethics, revolutionary politics, the humanism of his existential-Marxism and his conception of the role of the intellectual

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Judaken, Jonathan