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The Age of Reason

The Age of Reason - Jean-Paul Sartre I always thought I have already read many of Sartre’s greatest works: Nausea, Le diable et le bon dieu, The flies, Dirty Hands or The Words. But yet, this one is another outstanding novel. It is also the first part of the trilogy The Roads to Freedom, so I will still have a long journey ahead with Sartre.

This is full of Existentialism.

There are so many characters with their special concerns. Mathieu-a philosophy teacher who seems to be Sartre himself, Marcelle – Mathieu’s mistress, Boris Mathieu’s student, Ivich Boris’s sister , Lola a middle aged woman who loves Boris and Daniel- Mathieu’s friend.

The main character is freedom which shows itself in different forms and every character seeks his/her freedom or loneliness.

Mathieu a 35 years old man has been with Marcelle for seven years but after Marcelle’s pregnancy he’s not sure he loves her any more. He wants to be free and fears marriage. He’s trying to find money for abortion.

Daniel tries to kill himself several times but fails.

Ivich struggling for entrance exams for medicine but fails.

And Boris who thinks he’s getting older and fears old ages.

Sartre says human is condemned to be free. But what does this freedom mean? There’s no God and only human exists and he is responsible for his actions. There are a lot of limitations out there which threaten our freedom: Loving somebody, attending university, working, … Indeed if we want to remain free we only must stay at our rooms and do nothing. Life is the biggest limitation!

How can we be free with these limitations? Sartre explores his characters extensively regarding to this issue. He puts them at the moment of decision and only in this moment we see the real meaning of his philosophy: Each character reveals his/her true self, each one is free to follow what he/she wants. Only at this moment they are honest with themselves.

My favorite part was the last 20 pages which is a conversation between Daniel and Mathieu, the two strongest characters. And the last paragraph:

He had finished the day, and he had also finished with his youth. Various tried and proved rules of conduct had already discreetly offered him their services: disillusioned epicureanism, smiling tolerance, resignation, flat seriousness, stoicism- all the aids whereby a man may savor, minute by minute, the failure of a life. ..He repeated to himself: “It’s true, it’s really true: I have attained the age of reason.”