June 25, 2005


After reading the previously posted exchange on Sartre and Heidegger --  provoked by my reminder of Sartre's relevance on the 100th anniversary of his birth -- Ronald Aronson (right), whoseRon_aronson_photo  authority in matters Sartrean is not in dispute, as his many books on Sartre's thought and life Images_17amply demonstrate) dropped me the following e-mail, which I reproduce with his permission:

"I think you yield too much to Charles Todd on Sartre's 'nefarious  political views.'  His acknowledgement of Sartre's 100th birthday by linking to Edward Said's remembrance of a fading Sartre a few months before his death is puzzling indeed.  Why not refer to Sartre's commitment - unique in the West - to both the rights of Israelis and of Palestinians?  Why not, for example, cite his efforts after 1965 to create a rapprochement between the Egyptian and the Israeli Left?  His visit to  Egypt and Israel in 1967 and his editorship of a special issue of Les Temps Modernes later that year seeking to find common ground between Israelis and Arabs?  His 1969 statement that 'an Israeli Jew has the right to remain in his homeland; by the same token a Palestinain has the right to return to his'?  Why not Sartre's no less 'nefarious'  statement that the hostage-taking of Israeli athletes at the Munich  Olympics in 1972 was “the Palestinians’ only weapon” (see http://www.is.wayne.edu/raronson/Articles/Terror%20Symposium.pdf )?  But perhaps there is a method to such omissions: they allow Todd to parallel Sartre to Heidegger, the former Nazi Rector of the University of  Freiburg, as a man who made 'some unfortunate decisions.'  And there, Doug, thanks for setting the record straight. -- Ron"

On reflection, I think Ron is right to chide me -- his useful reminder of the fuller Sartre record on the Palestine question makes me realize I should have put Charles' negative comment through a much finer sieve.

ARIEL DORFMAN ON SARTRE: My old and dear friend Ariel Ariel_dorfman_1Dorfman (right), the prolific Chilean novelist-playwright-scenarist-political essayist-poet-literary critic who also teaches at Duke University, has been following the discussion of Sartre here on DIRELAND, and e-mails me to say that a piece of his on Sartre -- "Adieu to a Philosopher," a memoir of Sartre's funeral originally written for the Paris daily Liberation -- has been translated into English, and can be read by clicking here. Writes Ariel, "I owed so much to Sartre...he had taught me, among other things, that the truth tends to be a profanation of our expectations, uncomfortable and startling." Ariel adds in his note to me that "I thought Aronson's comment [above] was very much to the point. One of the things I noted at J-P's funeral was the lack (almost total lack) of Arabs, no sense of how he had stood up for the rights of Palestinians (along with his commitment to not allow Israel to be destroyed). I commented on this in the Spanish version many years ago, but never got around to fitting it into the present versions and memories of that event."....And, check out Ariel's multi-media website by clicking here. It features Ariel reading his work, excerpts from novels, short stories, an articles archive, film clips....more than worth a visit.

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Sartre as a political actor is best and rightly remembered not for his stand on any one particular issue, but for his insistence that in a world dominated and defined by the East and West blocs, it was the inescapable responsibility of progressives everywhere to defend the East. The personal consequences to Sartre of this stance accounted for his falling out with Camus, along with much else. The political consequences were far greater and affected many more people, privatizing unease with the systematic repressiveness of Soviet style governments. It is a supreme irony that the best-known contemporary explicator of the human being as a freedom, willingly gave himself to the role of running interference for some of the worst enemies of human freedom.

Heidegger is politically best known as a Nazi, an unreconstructed national socialist to the end of his days. That he was also a lover to one of his Jewish students--the later famous Hannah Arendt--and a member of that faction of the Nazi party defeated and partly physically liquidated during the purge known to us as "The Night of the Long Knives," is less well known. His was the nonracialist wing of the NSDAP, those who took seriously the 'socialist' in national socialist ideology. The wonder is not that he was refused the rectorship of a prominent university during Hitler's reign...rather, the wonder is that he was not at minimum put into a concentration camp. Only his international reputation and his political silence during the Nazi period, saved him. In this respect, his career and fate was parallel to Sartre's. Both were, in their repective ways, private dissenters while publicly conforming to the pronouncements of monstrous political regimes.

Posted by: Daniel Raphael | Jun 27, 2005 1:23:49 AM

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