At the Existentialist Café

  • by Sarah Bakewell
  • Narrated by Antonia Beamish
  • 14 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Paris, near the turn of 1933. Three young friends meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and their friend Raymond Aron, who opens their eyes to a radical new way of thinking. Pointing to his drink, he says, 'You can make philosophy out of this cocktail!'
From this moment of inspiration, Sartre will create his own extraordinary philosophy of real, experienced life - of love and desire, of freedom and being, of cafés and waiters, of friendships and revolutionary fervour. It is a philosophy that will enthral Paris and sweep through the world, leaving its mark on post-war liberation movements, from the student uprisings of 1968 to civil rights pioneers.
At the Existentialist Café tells the story of modern existentialism as one of passionate encounters between people, minds and ideas. From the 'king and queen of existentialism' - Sartre and de Beauvoir - to their wider circle of friends and adversaries including Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Iris Murdoch, this audiobook is an enjoyable and original journey through a captivating intellectual movement.
Weaving biography and thought, Sarah Bakewell takes us to the heart of a philosophy about life that also changed lives, and that tackled the biggest questions of all: what we are and how we are to live.

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What the Critics Say

"At the Existentialist Café takes us back to...when philosophers and philosophy itself were sexy, glamorous, outrageous; when sensuality and erudition were entwined.... [Bakewell] shows how fascinating were some of the existentialists’ ideas and how fascinating, often frightful, were their lives. Vivid, humorous anecdotes are interwoven with a lucid and unpatronising exposition of their complex philosophy.... Tender, incisive and fair." (Jane O’Grady, Daily Telegraph)
"This lucid study of the existentialists picks out some overlooked figures and exposes the sexual hypocrisies of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre." (Jane O’Grady, Sunday Telegraph)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Existentialism and Phenomenology

I came to this knowing a little about Sartre from 35 years ago, and thinking that it might be a fairly light recounting of him and his times (including the famous relationship with de Beauvoir). It does cover those topics, but much, much more. Bakewell's work gives a wider view of Existentialism and it's roots in Phenomenology. So if you have an interest in these things (and perhaps that is a given, if you're reading this review) I can highly recommend this book.
The sections can be quite long (my attention span is not what it was) so may need judicious choices about when to have that cup of coffee (or perhaps the apricot cocktail). Bakewell is clear about differences between the proponents and why they fell out when they did. Her summaries are from her own opinions, and not always quite how I expected her to feel. De Beauvoir, in particular, is given good coverage in what is otherwise a very male domain.
Antonia Beamish does an excellent job of the narration, helping to maintain the clarity that I'm sure Bakewell put there.
So if you might like to know how Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger, Murdoch and all the other Names interacted and influenced one another, this is an excellent book to come to.
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- Liz... Bristol

Absolutely enthralling

Fantastic book, informative and entertaining at the same time. The person reading is also perfect so it makes a great combination.
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- discerning reader

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-06-2016
  • Publisher: Audible Studios