Modern times

Carmela Gross, ENTRE WORDS series, Jururu, 2012, graphite and enamel on dictionary sheet, 27,5 x 20,8 cm
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By JEAN PAUL SARTRE*

Presentation of the magazine whose first issue was launched in October 1945

All writers of bourgeois origin have known the temptation to be irresponsible: it has been a tradition in the literary career for a century. The author rarely establishes a link between his works and monetary remuneration. On the one hand, he writes, sings, sighs; on the other, they give you money.

Here are two apparently unrelated facts; the best that can be said is that he is given a pension to sigh. He thinks he is more like a student who is awarded a scholarship than a worker who receives the price of his work. The theorists of Art for Art's sake and Realism came to anchor him in this opinion. Do you notice that they have the same objective and the same origin? The author who follows the teachings of the former is primarily concerned with making works that are useless: if they are free, free of roots, they will be closer to being considered beautiful by them. He thus places himself on the margins of society; or, rather, he only consents to belong to it as a mere consumer: precisely, as a scholarship holder.

The Realist, on the other hand, consumes at will. As for producing, that's another matter: he was told that science had no need to be useful and he aims at the scientist's barren impartiality. It has been said several times that he "bent" on the means he wanted to describe. He leaned! Where was he? Up in the air? The truth is that, not knowing his social position, too well-behaved to rise up against the bourgeoisie that pays him, too lucid to accept it unreservedly, he chose to judge his century and was convinced that he was outside of it, just as how the experimenter is outside the experimental system. Thus, the disinterest of pure science joins the gratuitousness of Art for Art's sake. It is no accident that Flaubert is at once a pure elitist, a pure lover of form, and the father of naturalism; it is no coincidence that the Goncourts pride themselves on knowing how to observe and having an artist's writing at the same time.

This legacy of irresponsibility has troubled many minds. They suffer from bad literary conscience and are not sure whether writing is admirable or grotesque. Once the poet considered himself a prophet, he was honorable; without then he became an outcast and cursed, he still passed. But today, he is among the specialists and it is not without some discomfort that he mentions the profession “man of letters” after his name in the hotel registers. Man of letters: this sequence of words, in itself, has something that takes away the desire to write; one thinks of an Ariel, a Vestal, a enfant terrible and also in a harmless maniac related to bodybuilders or numismatists. This is all pretty ridiculous.

The man of letters writes when fighting; one day he is proud, he feels like a priest and guardian of ideal values; in the other he is ashamed, he thinks that literature looks like a special kind of affectation. Together with the bourgeois who read him, he is aware of his dignity; but in front of the workers, who do not read him, he suffers from an inferiority complex, as seen in 1936 at the Maison de la Culture. It is certainly this complex that is at the origin of what Paulhan names terrorism, that's what led the Surrealists to despise the literature they lived off. After the other war, it was a moment of particular lyricism; the best writers, the most pissed off, publicly confessed what humiliated them the most and were satisfied when they attracted bourgeois disapproval: they had produced a writing that, in its consequences, somewhat resembled an act. These isolated attempts couldn't stop the words from depreciating by the day. There was a crisis of rhetoric and then a crisis of language.

On the eve of this war, most literati resigned themselves to being just nightingales. There were even authors who took their disgust to produce to the extreme: raising the stakes of their precursors, they judged that they had done very little by publishing a book that was simply useless, they maintained that the secret objective of all literature was the destruction of language and that, in order to hit him, it was enough to speak to say nothing. This inexhaustible silence was in fashion for some time, and the Messageries Hachette distributed pills of this silence in train station libraries in the form of voluminous novels. Today, things have reached the point where one has seen writers, scolded or punished for having rented their pens to the Germans, show a painful surprise: “What?”, they say, “so we engage with what we write?” .

We don't want to be ashamed of writing and we don't feel like talking to say nothing. And, by the way, if we wanted to, we wouldn't be able to: nobody can. Everything that is written has a meaning, even if that meaning is quite different from the one the author dreamed of. For us, in effect, the writer is neither Vestal nor Ariel: he is, in any case, involved, marked, committed until the final day of his retirement. If, at a certain time, he uses his art to forge insipid knick-knacks, this is in itself a sign that there is a crisis in literature and, no doubt, in society, or that the ruling classes have guided him, without his suspecting it, for a luxury activity, fearing that he would swell the revolutionary troops.

Flaubert, who cursed so much against the bourgeoisie and who believed himself to be apart of the social machine, would he be for us anything more than a usurer of his talent? And does not his meticulous art presuppose the comfort of Croisset, the solicitude of a mother and niece, a regimen of order, a prosperous trade, a regular income? It takes a few years for a book to become a social fact that is examined as an institution or that begins to appear in statistics; a certain detachment is necessary for him to blend in with the furniture of an era, with its clothes, its hats, its means of transport and its food.

The historian will say of us, "They ate this, read that, dressed like that." The first railroads, cholera, the Canuts revolt, Balzac's novels, the progress of industry, also contribute to characterize the July Monarchy. All this has been said and repeated since Hegel: we want to draw practical conclusions from this. Since the writer has no means of escape, we want him to fully embrace his times; she is his only chance: she was made for him and he is made for her. We regret Balzac's indifference to the events of 48, Flaubert's frightened incomprehension of the Commune; we are sorry for them: were things they lost forever. We don't want to waste any of our time: maybe there are more beautiful times, but this is ours; we just have this life to live, in between this war, this revolution maybe. But it should not be concluded that we are preaching some kind of populism: it is just the opposite.

Populism is a child of the old, the sad offspring of the last realists; it's another attempt to get the body out. We are, on the contrary, convinced that you can't get the body out. If we were still and mute as the stones, our very passivity would be an action. The abstention of someone who dedicates his life to making novels about the Hittites is, in itself, taking a position. the writer is in situation in his time; every word has resonance. Every silence too. I hold Flaubert and Goncourt responsible for the repression that followed the Commune because they did not write a single line to stop it. It wasn't their problem, they'll say. But was the Calas trial Voltaire's problem? Was Dreyfus' conviction Zola's problem? Was the administration of the Congo Gide's problem? Each of these authors, in a particular circumstance of his life, had the measure of his responsibility as a writer. The German occupation taught us ours. Since we act on our time and for our very existence, we have decided that this action will be voluntary.

It is still necessary to make it clear: it is not rare for a writer to be concerned, for his modest part, with securing his future. But there is a vague and conceptual future that concerns all of humanity and on which we have no light: will history come to an end? Will the sun go out? What will be the condition of man in the socialist regime of the year 3000? Let's leave these daydreams to science fiction writers: it's the future of Wow epoch that must be the object of our attention: a limited future that is hardly distinguishable, for an epoch, like a man, is first and foremost a future. It is made up of its works, its undertakings, its medium or long-term projects, its revolts, its combats, its hopes: when will the war end? How will the country re-equip itself? How will international relations be organized? What will be the social reforms? Will the forces of reaction triumph? Will there be a revolution and what will it be like? This future, we make it ours, we don't want to have another one. Undoubtedly, certain authors have less current concerns and shorter vision. They pass through our midst as if they were absent. Where are they? With their godchildren, they turn to judge this extinct age that was ours and of which they are the only survivors. But they miscalculate: posthumous glory is always based on a misunderstanding. What do they know about these godchildren who will come to fish for them among us! Immortality is a terrible alibi: it's not easy to live with one foot in the grave and the other out. How to deal with current tasks when they are seen from so far away! How to fall in love with combat, how to enjoy a victory! Everything is equivalent. They look at us without seeing us: in their eyes we are already dead – and they turn to the novel they write for men they will never see. They let their life be stolen by immortality. We write to our contemporaries, we don't want to look at our world with future eyes, that would be the safest way to kill it, but with our eyes of flesh, with our eyes that the earth will eat. We don't want to win our case on appeal and we have nothing to do with posthumous rehabilitation: it is right here and in our lives that cases are won or lost.

We do not dream, however, of establishing a literary relativism. We have little taste for pure history. By the way, is there pure history beyond the Seignobos manuals? Each era discovers an aspect of the human condition, each era man chooses himself in the face of others, love, death, the world; and when the parties clash over the disarmament of the FFI or the aid to be provided to the Spanish republicans, it is this metaphysical choice, this singular and absolute project that is at stake.

Thus, by taking advantage of the uniqueness of our time, we finally reach the eternal, and it is our task as a writer to hint at the values ​​of eternity that are involved in these social or political debates. But we don't bother to look for them in an intelligible sky: they only show interest in their present envelope. Far from being relativists, we affirm loud and clear that man is an absolute. But he is in his time, in his midst, in his land. What is absolute, what a thousand years of history cannot destroy, is that this irreplaceable, incomparable decision that he takes at this moment regarding these circumstances; the absolute is Descartes, the man who escapes us because he is dead, who lived in his time, who thought about it day by day with the means he had, who formed his doctrine from a certain state of science, who knew Gassendi , Caterus and Mersenne, who in his childhood loved a suspicious girl, who fought a war, who impregnated a maid, who attacked not only the principle of authority in general, but precisely the authority of Aristotle, and who stood in his time, unarmed but unexpired, like a landmark; what is relative is Cartesianism, that portable philosophy that wanders from century to century and in which everyone finds what they want. It is not by running after immortality that we will become immortal: we will not be absolute because we have reflected in our works some disembodied principles, sufficiently empty and null to pass from one century to another, but because we fight with passion in our time, because we will have liked it. passionately and because we will have accepted to perish whole with her.

In summary, our intention is to promote the production of certain changes in the Society that surrounds us. We do not mean by this a change in souls: we leave the direction of souls to authors who have a specialized clientele. For those of us who, without being materialists, have never distinguished the soul from the body and who only know an indecomposable reality: human reality, we side with those who want to change both the social condition of man and the conception he has of yourself. Our magazine will also take a stand, in each case, on the political and social events to come. she won't politically, that is, it will serve no party; but he will make an effort to understand the conception of man from which the present theses will be inspired and will give his opinion according to his own conception. If we can keep what we promise, if we can share our views with a few readers, we will not conceive of an exaggerated pride; we will simply congratulate ourselves on having found a good professional conscience and that, at least for us, literature has returned to being what it should never have ceased to be: a social function.

And what is, they will ask, this conception of man that they intend to discover for us? We will answer that it is in the streets and that we do not intend to discover it, but simply to help make it more accurate. This conception I will call totalitarian. But as the word may seem unfortunate, since in recent years it has not been used to designate the human person, but a type of oppressive and anti-democratic State, it is convenient to give some explanations.

The bourgeois class, it seems to me, can be defined intellectually by its use of the analytical spirit, whose initial postulate is that the components must necessarily reduce to an arrangement of simple elements. In his hands, this postulate constituted an offensive weapon that served him to dismantle the strongholds of the Old Regime. Everything was analysed: air and water were reduced to their elements in the same movement, the mind to the sum of the impressions that compose it, society to the sum of the individuals who make it up. The sets faded away: they were just random abstract sums of combinations. Reality took refuge in the final terms of decomposition. These, effectively – is the second postulate of the analysis – keep their essential properties unchanged, whether they belong to a compound or whether they exist in a free state. There was an unchanging nature of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, the elemental impressions that make up our mind, there was an unchanging nature of man. Man was man as the circle was the circle: once and for all; the individual, whether he was transported to the throne or plunged into misery, remained profoundly the same as himself, was conceived on the model of the oxygen atom, which can combine with hydrogen to make water, with nitrogen to make water. make air, without its internal structure being changed.

These principles presided over the Declaration of Human Rights. In the society that conceives the analytical spirit, the individual, solid and indecomposable particle, vehicle of human nature, resides like a pea in a can of peas: round, closed in on itself, incommunicable. all men are equal: it is necessary to understand that everyone participates in the essence of man. all men are brothers: fraternity is a passive connection between different molecules, which takes the place of a solidarity of action or class that the analytical spirit cannot even conceive of. It is a purely external and purely sentimental relationship that masks the simple juxtaposition of individuals in the analytic society. all men are Books: free from be men, needless to say. This dignifies that the politician's action must be entirely negative: it must not deal with human nature; it is necessary to exclude obstacles that could prevent you from developing. Thus, wishing to destroy divine right, the right of birth and blood, the right of the firstborn, all those rights that were based on the idea that there are natural differences between men, the bourgeoisie confused their cause with the universal. Unlike contemporary revolutionaries, it could only realize its demands by abdicating its class consciousness: the members of the Third Estate in the Constituent Assembly were bourgeois because they considered themselves simply as men.

After one hundred and fifty years, the analytical spirit remains the official doctrine of bourgeois democracy, but it has become a defensive weapon. The bourgeoisie has every interest in omitting itself about classes as it once did about the synthetic reality of the Old Regime. It insists on seeing only men, on proclaiming the identity of human nature across all varieties of situation: but it is against the proletariat that it proclaims this. A worker, for her, is first and foremost a man – a man like any other. If the Constitution grants this man the right to vote and freedom of opinion, he manifests his human nature as a bourgeois. Polemic literature has often portrayed the bourgeois as calculating and distasteful whose only concern is defending his privileges. in fact, someone constitutes itself bourgeois by choosing, once and for all, a certain analytical worldview that it tries to impose on all men and that excludes the perception of collective realities. Thus, bourgeois defense is, in a certain sense, permanent and merges with the bourgeoisie itself; but it does not manifest itself by calculations; within the world she has built for herself, there is room for virtues of detachment, altruism and even generosity; only bourgeois good deeds are individual acts that address universal human nature, embodied in the individual. In this sense, they are as effective as good advertising, as the holder of good deeds is coerced to receive them as they are proposed to him, that is, as a human creature isolated from another. Bourgeois charity entertains the myth of fraternity.

But there is another propaganda that interests us more particularly here, since we are writers and writers are its unconscious agents. This legend of the poet's irresponsibility, which we denounced a moment ago, has its origin in the analytical spirit. Since bourgeois authors regard themselves as peas in a can, the solidarity which unites them with other men seems to them strictly mechanics, that is, simple juxtaposition. Even if they have a high sense of their literary mission, they think they have done enough in describing their own nature and that of their friends: since all men are alike, they serve all by illuminating themselves. And since the postulate from which they start is that of analysis, it seems simple to them to use the analytical method to get to know themselves. Such is the origin of the intellectualist psychology of which Proust's works offer us the most complete example.

A pederast, Proust believed he could draw on his homosexual experience when he wanted to describe Swann's love for Odette; bourgeois, he presents the feeling of a rich and idle bourgeois for a woman whom he holds as the prototype of love: he believes in the existence of universal passions whose mechanism would not change appreciably when one changes the sexual character, the social condition, the nation or the time of the individuals who feel them. Having thus "isolated" these immutable affects, he can begin to reduce them, in turn, to elementary particles. Faithful to the postulates of the analytical spirit, he does not even imagine that there could be a dialectic of feelings, but only a mechanism. Thus, social atomism, a retreat position of the contemporary bourgeoisie, entails psychological atomism. Proust bourgeois was chosen and he became an accomplice of bourgeois propaganda, since his work contributes to the irradiation of the myth of human nature.

We are convinced that the analytical spirit has survived and that its only job today is to cloud revolutionary consciousness and isolate men for the benefit of the privileged classes. We no longer believe in Proust's intellectualist psychology and consider it disastrous. Since we have chosen his analysis of love-passion as an example, we have undoubtedly clarified the reader by mentioning the essential points on which we refuse any understanding with him.

First, we do not accept beforehand the idea that love-passion is a constitutive affect of human nature. It could be, as Denis de Rougemont suggested, that there was a historical origin in correlation with Christian ideology. Generally speaking, we consider that a feeling is always the expression of a certain way of life and a certain conception of the world that are common to an entire class or an entire epoch, and that its evolution is not the effect of who knows. as an inner mechanism, but of these historical and social factors.

Secondly, we cannot admit that an affect is composed of molecular elements that are juxtaposed without modifying each other. We regard it not as a well-adjusted machine, but as an organized form. We did not conceive of the possibility of making the analysis of love because the development of this feeling, like that of all others, is dialectic.

Third, we refuse to believe that the love of a homosexual has the same characteristics as that of a heterosexual. The secret, forbidden characteristic of the former, its aspect of a black mass, the existence of a homosexual Freemasonry, and that curse in which he is conscious of dragging his partner with him: so many facts that seem to us to influence the whole feeling and even the details of his evolution. We affirm that there is a synthetic unity of affectivity and that each individual moves in an affective world that is his own.

Fourthly, we deny that an individual's origin, class, and nation are mere concomitants of his sentimental life. We estimate, on the contrary, that each affect, like every other form of its psychic life, manifest their social situation. This worker who receives a salary, who does not have the tools of his trade, isolated by his work in the face of matter and who defends himself against oppression by becoming aware of his class, could under no circumstances feel like this bourgeois, with an analytical mind, whose profession puts him in a relationship of politeness with other bourgeois.

Thus, against the analytical spirit, we resort to a synthetic conception of reality whose principle is that a whole, whatever it may be, is different by nature from the sum of its parts. For us, what men have in common is not a nature, it is a metaphysical condition: we understand in this way the set of restrictions that limit them beforehand, the need to be born and to die, to be finite and to exist in the world among other men. For the rest, they constitute indecomposable totalities, whose ideas, moods and acts are secondary and dependent structures, and whose characteristic is that of being located and they differ from one another as their situations differ from one another. The unity of these significant wholes is the meaning they manifest. Whether he writes, whether he works on the production line, whether he chooses a woman or a tie, a man always manifests: he manifests his professional environment, his family, his class and, finally, how he is situated in relation to the whole world, he is the world. whole that he manifests. One man is the whole earth. He is present everywhere, he acts in all of them, he is responsible for everything. It is everywhere, Paris, Potsdam, Vladivostok, that his fate hangs in the balance. We adhere to this view because they seem true to us, because they seem socially useful to us at the present time, and because most people seem to us to sense and claim them. Our journal would like to contribute, for its modest part, to the constitution of a synthetic anthropology. But it is not just a question, let us repeat, of preparing progress in the field of pure knowledge: the distant goal we aim at is a release. Since man is a totality, it is not enough just to give him the right to vote, without touching the other factors that constitute him: it is necessary for him to free himself completely, that is, for him to become other, acting both on his biological constitution and on his economic conditioning, on his sexual complexes and on the political data of his situation.

However, this synthetic vision presents a serious risk: if the individual is an arbitrary selection operated by the analytical spirit, would we not risk substituting, by renouncing conceptions, the realm of collective consciousness for the realm of the person? There is no part of the synthetic spirit: the man as a whole, seen with difficulty, will disappear, swallowed up by the class; only the class exists, and it is only the class that needs to be freed. But, they will say, in freeing the class, do you not free the men it contains? Not necessarily: was the triumph of Hitler Germany the triumph of every German? Furthermore, where does the synthesis end? Tomorrow, they will come to tell us that class is a secondary structure, dependent on a more visible set of what will be, for example, the nation. The great seduction that Nazism exercised on certain minds of the left undoubtedly comes from the fact that it took the authoritarian conception to the absolute: its theorists also denounced the evils of analysis, the abstract character of democratic freedoms, its propaganda also promised to forge a new man, it retained the words Revolution and Liberation: but in the place of the class proletariat was the proletariat of nations. Individuals were reduced only to functions dependent on the class, classes only to functions of the nation, nations only to functions of the European continent. If, in the occupied countries, the working class rose up entirely against the invader, it is no doubt because it felt wounded in its revolutionary aspirations, but it also had an invincible repugnance against the dissolution of the person into the collectivity.

Thus, contemporary consciousness seems torn apart by an antinomy. Those who value above all the dignity of the human person, their freedom, their imprescriptible rights, tend, for this very reason, to think according to the analytical spirit that conceives individuals outside their real conditions of existence, which endows them with an immutable nature and abstract, which isolates them and closes their eyes to their solidarity. Those who have understood that man is rooted in the collectivity and who want to assert the importance of economic, technical and historical factors throw themselves on the synthetic spirit that, not seeing people, only has eyes for groups. This antinomy can be demonstrated, for example, in the belief that socialism is at the extreme opposite of individual freedom. Thus, those who value the autonomy of the person would be trapped in a capitalist liberalism whose disastrous consequences we know; those who claim a socialist organization should claim it from who knows what totalitarian authoritarianism.

The current unease stems from the fact that no one can accept the extreme consequences of these principles: there is a “synthetic” component to goodwill Democrats; there is an analytical component to socialists. It is enough to remember, for example, what the radical party was in France. One of its theorists published a work entitled: “The citizen against the powers”. This title clearly indicates how he conceived politics: everything would work better if the isolated citizen, molecular representative of human nature, controlled his elected representatives and, if necessary, exercised his free judgment against them. But, precisely, the radicals could not help but recognize their failure; In 1939, this great party had no will, no program, no ideology; he sank into opportunism: he wanted to solve politically problems that did not admit of political solutions. The best minds were astonished: if man is a political animal, how can it happen that, when he was given political freedom, his fate was not settled once and for all? Why has open play in parliamentary institutions failed to suppress poverty, unemployment and the oppression of the trusts? How can it happen that we find the class struggle above fraternal oppositions between parties? It was not necessary to go very far to glimpse the limits of the analytical spirit. The fact that radicalism constantly sought alliances with the parties of the left clearly shows the path along which its sympathies and disordered aspirations were heading, but it lacked the intellectual technique that would have allowed it not only to resolve, but even to formulate, the troubles he dimly sensed.

In the other field, the difficulties are no less. The working class has inherited democratic traditions. It is in the name of democracy that she claims her manumission. Now, as we have seen, the democratic ideal is historically presented in the form of a social contract between free individuals. Thus, Rousseau's analytical claims often interfere in consciousness with the synthetic claims of Marxism. In fact, the worker's technical training develops his analytical spirit. Similar to the scientist, it is through analysis that he must solve the problems of matter. If he turns to people, he tends to, in order to understand them, make use of the reasoning that serves him in his work; he thus applies to human conduct a psychology of analysis similar to that of the French seventeenth century.

The simultaneous existence of these two types of explanation reveals a certain hesitation; this perpetual recourse to the “as if…” clearly shows that Marxism does not yet have a psychology of synthesis appropriate to its totalitarian conception of class.

As far as we are concerned, we refuse to be divided between the thesis and the antithesis. We can easily conceive that a man, even if his situation totally conditions him, can be a center of irreducible indetermination. This sector of unpredictability that stands out in the social field is what we call freedom, and the person is nothing more than his freedom. This freedom should not be confused with a metaphysical power of human “nature”, nor is it permission to do whatever you want, nor is it some inner refuge that would remain even under chains. We don't do what we want, and yet we are responsible for what we are: that's the fact; the man who explains himself simultaneously by so many causes is nevertheless the only one to bear the weight of himself.

In this sense, freedom could pass as a curse, it é a curse. But it is also the only source of human greatness. Marxists will agree with us, for they do not shy away, as far as I know, from presenting moral condemnations. It remains to be explained: but that is the problem of philosophers, not ours. We will only note that if society makes the person, the person, by a reversal analogous to that which Augusto Comte called the passage to subjectivity, makes society. Without its future, a society is nothing more than a heap of material, but its future is nothing more than the project that, in addition to the present state of things, the millions of men who compose it make of themselves.

Man is just a situation: a worker is not free to think or feel like a bourgeois; but why this situation be a man, a complete man, it must be lived and overcome through a specific objective. It remains, in itself, indifferent since human freedom does not endow it with meaning: it is neither tolerable nor unbearable since freedom is neither resigned nor rebelled against it, so much so that a man does not choose himself in it, choose its meaning. And it is only then, within this free choice, that it becomes determinant because it is overdetermined. No, a worker cannot live like a bourgeois; it is necessary, in today's social organization, that he support his condition as a wage earner until the end; no evasion is possible, there is no recourse against it. But a man does not exist in the same way as a tree or a stone: he must make yourself factory worker. Totally conditioned by his class, his salary, the nature of his work, conditioned even in his feelings, even in his thoughts, it is he who decides the meaning of his condition and that of his comrades, it is he who, freely, gives to the proletariat a future of relentless humiliation or of conquest and victory, depending on whether he chooses to be resigned or revolutionary. And it is for this choice that he is responsible. He is not free not to choose: he is engaged, he must gamble, abstention is a choice. But free to choose in the same movement, his destiny, the destiny of all men and the value that must be attributed to humanity. Thus, he chooses himself to be both a worker and a man, attributing a meaning to the proletariat.

Such is the man we conceive: total man. Fully engaged and totally free. It is however this free man that is needed free, expanding your possibilities of choice. In certain situations, there is only room for an alternative whose one of the terms is death. It must be done in such a way that man can, under any circumstances, choose life.

Our magazine will be dedicated to defending the autonomy and rights of the person. We consider it, first of all, as an organ of research: the ideas I have just exposed will serve as a guiding theme in the study of the concrete problems of the present time. We all approach the study of these problems in a common spirit; but we have no political or social program; each article will express only the opinion of its author. We only want to highlight, in the long term, a general line. At the same time, we resort to all literary genres to familiarize the reader with our concepts: a poem, a novel of imagination, if it is inspired by them, will be able, more than a theoretical writing, to create a favorable climate for its development. But this ideological content and its new intentions run the risk of reacting on the very form and procedures of novelistic productions: our critical essays will try to define in broad terms the literary techniques – new or old – that will best adapt to our purposes.

We will endeavor to support the examination of current issues by publishing as often as we can on historical studies which, like the works of Marc Bloch or Pirenne on the Middle Ages, spontaneously apply these principles and the method which results from them to past centuries, this is when they renounce the arbitrary division of history into histories (political, economic, ideological, history of institutions, history of individuals) in order to try to restore a vanished epoch as a totality and that they will consider at the same time that the epoch is expressed in and through people and that people choose themselves in and for their times. Our chronicles will try to consider our own time as a significant synthesis and, for that, they will glimpse in a synthetic spirit the diverse manifestations of the present time, the criminal ways and processes as well as the political facts and the works of the spirit, seeking first to discover the common meanings of what to analyze them individually.

For this reason, contrary to custom, we will not hesitate to remain silent about an excellent book that, from our point of view, does not add anything new about our time, while we will dwell on a mediocre book that it will seem, in its very mediocrity, revealing. We will add to these studies every month raw documents that we will choose as varied as possible with the only requirement that they clearly demonstrate the reciprocal implication of the collective and the person. We will reinforce these documents by research and reporting. It seems to us, effectively, that the reportage is part of the literary genres and that it can become one of the most important. The ability to perceive meanings intuitively and instantly, the ability to group them to offer the reader synthetic sets immediately decipherable are the most necessary qualities for the reporter; are the ones we ask of all our employees. We know that among the rare works of our time that will have to last, there are several reports such as “The ten days that shook the world” and above all the admirable “Spanish testament”… Finally, in our chronicles we will make room for psychiatric studies as long as they are written in the perspective that interests us.

It can be seen that our project is ambitious: we will not be able to carry it out alone. We are a small team at the beginning, we will have failed if, in a year, it has not grown considerably. We call on well-meaning people; all manuscripts will be accepted, wherever they come from, as long as they are inspired by concerns that join ours and that they also have a literary value. I remind you, in fact, that in “engaged literature” the engajamento must not, under any circumstances, make you forget the literature and that our concern must be to serve literature, infusing it with new blood, as well as serving the community by trying to give it the literature that suits it.

*Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), philosopher, essayist and writer, is the author, among other books, of Being and Nothingness (Voices).

Translation: Oto Araujo Vale.

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