Imaginary travels with great historical figures. This month: JULIAN BAGGINI takes an existential tour of Paris and beyond with Jean- Paul Sartre

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Philosopher JULIAN BAGGINI takes an existentialist tour of Paris and beyond


TROUBLED SLEEP. THE Chips Are Down. Nausea. No Exit. It’s hard to imagine that travelling with the author of these plays and novels would be much fun. But a trip with Jean-Paul Sartre would certainly be interesting and memorable.

Sartre is the very epitome of the anguished existentialist – and as Parisian as Le Moulin Rouge. But just as the famous cabaret has become little more than a tourist trap, so the Paris of Sartre has largely faded away. When the existentialists met in the cafes of the Left Bank they did so partly because they couldn’t afford to heat their own squalid homes. Now, pilgrims to their charming old Saint-Germain-des-Prés haunts, such as Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots, pay close to €5 (HK$48) for a single espresso. Nursing one of those for hours will result in disapproving frowns from waiters seeking a fast turnover.

Back in 1945 Sartre was eager to get out of a Paris that was far from gay with its austerity and rationing. Fear of the informer during the occupation had hindered the intellectual debates of cafe life, casting a shadow over the French capital after its liberation. So he leapt at the opportunity to become the American correspondent of Combat, the newspaper edited by his friend, rival and fellow existentialist Albert Camus.

But Sartre found that the US’ official embrace of individualism masked a parochial conformism. This is literally made concrete in New York’s regimented grid of numbered streets that ‘look so much alike that they have not been named’.

Of its typical citizen he wrote, ‘it is when he is acting like everyone else that he feels most reasonable and most American; it is in displaying his conformism that he feels freest.’ For Sartre, freedom was about the individual taking responsibility for their actions and challenging the government. American freedom was little more than exercising consumer choice while remaining fiercely loyal to the flag. The philosopher of freedom and the land of the free found themselves at cross purposes.

That helps explain why Sartre thought, paradoxically, that ‘never were we freer than under the German occupation’. Under their oppressive occupiers the French were forced to recognise that everything they did was a choice with potentially fatal consequences. In an America that felt safe and free, people took their liberty for granted and forgot how to truly exercise it.

That is perhaps why, after decades of peace, American freedom has come to Paris. Fifty years ago this month, you’d have seen Sartre on the Left Bank making speeches and handing out newspapers in support of the student-led strike that almost brought down the government. Those streets today are full of high-class galleries, boutiques and restaurants: an ostentatious temple of consumer choice rather than a sober cloister of true existential freedom.

Perhaps the most authentically Sartrean place to visit today is Le Havre, France’s second largest port, two and a half hours west of Paris. Sartre taught at a school there in the 1930s and in its fictionalised form of Bouville it provides the setting for his excellent first novel, Nausea. Physically, little of Bouville remains, as 85 per cent of the city was destroyed by Allied bombing in the Second World War. Rebuilt according to the plans of Auguste Perret, it is now 《難以安眠》、《危急關頭》、《嘔吐》、《無路可出》都是出自存在主義大師尚–保羅.沙特的筆手 ,這些小說和劇本的題目令人沮喪,你可能以為與這些作品的作者一起行旅 ,毫一定 無趣味可言。,可是與尚–保羅.沙特一起去旅行卻肯定一是 件有趣令而人難忘的事。

沙特可說是典型的痛苦的存在主義者,紅就如 磨坊是花都風情的象徵。,但是正如這家著名的歌舞廳已經變成宰割遊客的陷阱,沙特曾經生活過的巴黎大部分亦隨著時間消逝了。當年一眾存在主義者經常在左岸的咖啡室相,聚 是因為他們經濟拮据,無法負擔在簡陋的家中開暖氣。,現在大批的人前來古老而迷人的聖日耳曼德佩區,到昔日存在主義者們聚腳的地點,如花神咖啡館與雙叟咖啡館等朝聖,約付大 5歐元( 48港元)的價飲錢 一杯意式濃啡特 咖 。他們點了咖啡之後,在咖啡室坐上數小時仍不肯走,只會換來侍應的白眼,嫌棄你佔著桌子,令他們無法多做生意。

時到光回 1945年,當時巴黎物資不足,糧食用品等都要,配給 生活艱苦,毫無歡樂氣氛。淪陷期間,由於怕懼 告密者舉報,知識分子不再在咖啡室內公作 開辯論使,即巴黎光復之後,這種陰影仍然揮之不去。在這種境環 和氣氛之下,沙特非常渴望離巴開黎。因此他把握機會,擔任《Combat》的美國訊通 員;這份報紙由他的老友兼對手,同樣也是存在主義者的卡繆擔任編輯。

可是沙特現發 ,美國官方擁護的個人主義背,後 隱藏著一種偏狹而墨守成規的心態紐。約以數字命名的棋盤道式街 ,正是這種心態的具體展現,「街這些 道看來一模一樣,沒有 有街名都分沒有 別。」

而他下筆 的普通美國公民則是「當他的行言 舉止跟所有人都一樣時,他就覺得最合理,也覺得最像一個美;國人 顯示自己方規蹈矩就是他感覺最自由的時候。」對於沙特來說,自由是每個人都對自己的行為負責,並且勇於挑戰政府。美國式的自由不過就是行使消費選擇權,而已 除此之外,對於國家仍然高度效忠。主張自由的哲家號學 與稱自由的國度在此發現他們之間彼此矛盾,格格不入。

這可能解釋了為何沙特會有以下這個自相盾矛 的說法:「我們德在 國佔領感時到前所未有的自由。」在佔領苛者嚴 的統治之下,法國人被迫認清一件事,就是他們

a Unesco World Heritage Site on the basis of its ‘innovative utilisation of concrete’s potential’.

Sartre would surely not have approved of the adoption of the American-style grid system, but he didn’t set his novel in Le Havre because he liked it. His protagonist, Antoine Roquentin, is a young man sickened by the banality and emptiness of existence. Think about that as you take the literary promenade through the city, marked by 20 benches, one of which commemorates the spot in the public gardens where Roquentin has his epiphany. The author of No Exit has no time for tourist escapism. If you travel with Sartre, prepare to confront some hard truths and ugly realities. 所做的每,件事 都是一個可能帶來致命後果的選擇。在人人都感到安全與不受束縛的國美,大家都將自由視為理所當然,因而忘記了如何真運正 用自由。

也許正是出於這個原因,巴黎在安享了數十年的太平盛世之後迎, 來了美國式的自由。50年前的這個月,你會見到沙特在左岸的街頭發表演說、派發傳,單支持由學生領導的罷課罷工行動,幾乎令當時的政府倒台。當年曾經被五月風暴橫掃的街頭,現在高級藝廊、存品店與餐廳林立,變成供奉消費選擇的殿不堂,清再 醒而嚴肅地從存在主義的角度來思考真正的自由。

今天最具有正宗沙特氣息的地方或,許就是黎西巴 以 兩個半小時車程的勒阿弗爾港。這是法國的第二大港口,沙特於1930年代經當曾 在 地的學校教;書 他的第一部小說《嘔吐》以虛構的Bouville城作背,景 就是以這個港為口 藍本。當年的勒阿弗爾港於二次戰大 時受到盟軍轟炸,八成半遭炸毀,戰後按建築師Auguste Perret的劃建計 重現,已因為「以創新的方式發揮混凝土的潛質」而成為聯合國教科文組織的世界遺產。

勒阿弗重爾港 建後採美用 國的棋盤式街道設計,沙特當然不會認同;不過他的小說以這個城市為背,景 並非因為他喜歡這裡。小說的主人翁Antoine Roquentin是年個輕,人 對存在的平庸與虛無感到十分厭倦。市內有一條文學長海濱,廊 沿著長廊有20張長凳,上面記載了與本市有關的文典學 故,其中一張長凳上介紹的是,就 Roquentin獲得頓悟公的 園。沙特有本小說名為《無路可出》,他當然不會藉觀光旅遊來逃實避現 。如果你與沙特一起行去旅 ,要就 有心理準備去面對難以接受的醜陋現實。

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