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La Rocque Indentified

May 27, 1990

(Editor's Note): Gene R. La Rocque, who reviewed "Fighting for Peace: Seven Critical Years in the Pentagon" by Caspar Weinberger (Book Review, May 20), is director at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C.


In reference to Richard Eder's review of "Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography" by Dierdre Bair (Book Review, April 15), Mr. Eder writes of Sartre's final years: "Old and ill, he gave a series of interviews to Benny Levy, a young Maoist adept whom many of the old Sartrians saw as an evil genius, in which he notably reversed the existentialist notion of the autonomous man." What was Beauvoir's reaction to such goings on?

Again, Eder according to Bair: "Beauvoir wept tears of rage when she read the manuscript. For her, the ideas she and Sartre had worked on were her life. For him, they were a corset that made him look stiff and old."

I have to question, or at least wonder about, Ms. Bair's scholarship when I compare the above with the first volume of John Gerassi's biography of Sartre, "Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century." Gerassi, the authorized biographer of Sartre and friend to both Sartre and Beauvoir, writes, " 'Tell me, Sartre,' I asked him in 1979 during one of his rare moments of lucidity, 'is it true that you have renounced the dialectic and found God?' He exploded in his famous guttural laughter. 'I tell them what they want to hear . . . but don't you print that until they have all published their new analyses. Think carefully, Gerassi. Right now, as France turns far right, all these opportunists will go with it. For the foreseeable future, they are the future.' " And Sartre concludes, "All I want out of the future, whatever of it there is, is to be read."

Seeing that Sartre and Beauvoir were as close as any two people have ever been, I find it hard to believe that she was not let in on his little scheme. As for the rest of the book's scholarship, who knows? I just know that I won't be reading a book that doesn't even bother to look behind what are seemingly the most complete changes of opinion taken by any philosopher at any time in history.



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