Talking with Sartre


You are viewing an older version of the Yalebooks website. Please visit out new website with more updated information and a better user experience:

Conversations and Debates

Edited and Translated by John Gerassi

View Inside Format: PB-with Flaps
Price: $39.00
Our shopping cart only supports Mozilla Firefox. Please ensure you're using that browser before attempting to purchase.

Also Available in:

What would it be like to be privy to the mind of one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers? John Gerassi had just this opportunity; as a child, his mother and father were very close friends with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and the couple became for him like surrogate parents. Authorized by Sartre to write his biography, Gerassi conducted a long series of interviews between 1970 and 1974, which he has now edited to produce this revelatory and breathtaking portrait of one of the world’s most famous intellectuals.


Through the interviews, with both their informalities and their tensions, Sartre’s greater complexities emerge. In particular, we see Sartre wrestling with the apparent contradiction between his views on freedom and the influence of social conditions on our choices and actions. We also gain insight into his perspectives on the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the disintegration of colonialism.


These conversations add an intimate dimension to Sartre’s more abstract ideas. With remarkable rigor and intensity, they also provide a clear lens through which to view the major conflagrations of the past century.


John Gerassi, currently professor of political science at Queens College, City University of New York, is the author of Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century.

“Gerassi's conversations with Sartre are a treat, unprecedented in the voluminous Sartre archives. This is the unguarded Sartre; he forgets the tape recorder. We see it all—the voracious curiosity, political passion, probing honesty, self-deprecating humor, and bragging machismo. Some of the greatest gems are his passing comments. In between the lines we see into his soul.”—Hazel Rowley, author of Tête-à-Tête: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre

Talking with Sartre is like no other interview book that I’ve ever read. Sartre’s genius and fire figure on every page, often interwoven with the personal details that make his life every bit as interesting as his writings. Gerassi’s insightful and argumentative probing brings out the very best in Sartre. A masterpiece, an absolute delight to read.”—

Bertell Ollman, New York University

"[As] a document of both the thinker and the man, the volume paints a revealing picture of a restless mind in profound engagement with the philosophical and political crises of its time."—Publishers Weekly

‘Imagine you could pose one of the greatest thinkers of the age any question you liked…John Gerassi was fortunate enough to lob not just one but hundreds of questions at John-Paul Satre…over the burning questions of the [60s] era…and eternal questions of truth, freedom and responsibility…If you want to get a feel for Satre’s ideas…you can do no better than read this.’

‘Gerassi’s account offers startling new details of the philosopher’s descent into near-madness as he battled to make sense of what he had come to regard as the intellectual absurdity of his life.’
ISBN: 9780300159011
Publication Date: November 24, 2009
336 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4