June 5, 2020

“Les Jeux Sont Fait” by Jean Paul Sartre

We felt Jen’s book review this week is suited for a Sunday. For those not familiar with Nobel Prize-winning French author Jean-Paul Sartre, his theme is existentialism, which preaches, in Jen’s concise words, “life is a done deal before you started, so what’s the point?”  Sartre is a hard sell, but Jen makes us want to try him one more time.

The Chips Are Down ( Les Jeux Sont Fait) is not as depressing as I remembered.  (Of course, in 10th grade French – everything is moderately depressing unless you get to read Tintin, which you don’t.)

I actually enjoyed it more this time.

It stands as a classic example of the existentialist movement in the last century.  Camus, Sartre, Ionesco and others were presenting the relatively novel opinion that life was a done deal before you started, so what is the point?

“Existentialism is a term that has been applied to the work of a number ofnineteenth and twentieth century philosophers who took the human subject — and his or her conditions of existence — as a starting point for philosophical thought. Existential philosophy is the “explicit conceptual manifestation of an existential attitude” that begins with a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.” *Well, Hell. There’s really no point in even reading my thoughts then, is there?  In Les Jeux Sont Fait, two characters from very different circumstances, die and then fall in love.  As this is a bit backwards, they are given, by the powers above or whomever, another try.  If, in 24 hours they can stay in love then they can return to the living.

Of course, the chips have been played though haven’t they?  What is done is done.  You can no more control the fates than overlook the grammatical anomalies in this sentence.  (Oxymoron doesn’t have the word moron in it for nothing.) See how jumpy existentialism makes me?  My sense of humor is eroding before your very eyes.

Existentialism is a variation on the theme of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, which states that man should absolutely take charge of his own life.  Reality exists independently of consciousness and your world is what you make of it.  You will succeed if you utilize your powers.  Existentialism holds that your consciousness is your reality and the world is made already so you are not as powerful as you think, but you still have to try.**

Instead of getting control over your own life, your own happiness, you may have no say at all.  Que sera, sera. Whatever will be will be and you’d best just accept it.  Les Jeux Sont Fait, so tough darts.  Or is it?

Sartre seems to agree with me (how vain, it is I with him, of course) that although your freedom may be a fantasy, it is also a necessity.  “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”  Whatever cards you are dealt are worth playing.  The outcome may or may not be fixed but it’s all in how much you enjoy playing the game.

It is definitely a book you should read at least once (also Beckett’s Waiting For Godot.)  It is not quite as morose as it seems and it is an important door to open.

As Max Tivoli said,” Life is short and full of sorrows, and I loved it”.

* Thank you, Wikipedia.
** I apologize for the gross oversimplification.  There isn’t enough coffee in the world for me to go further down that path of reasoning right now …Editor’s Note to Book Reviewer:  This book breaks all previous records for length of time to locate a photo to run with your review … seems kind of par for the course for Monsieur Sartre …


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