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At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others (2016)

af Sarah Bakewell

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1,5634211,562 (4.18)76
Biography & Autobiograph Histor Philosoph Nonfictio HTML:Named one of the Ten Best Books of 2016 by the New York Times, a spirited account of a major intellectual movement of the twentieth century and the revolutionary thinkers who came to shape it, by the best-selling author of How to Live Sarah Bakewell.
Paris, 1933: three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are the young Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and longtime friend Raymond Aron, a fellow philosopher who raves to them about a new conceptual framework from Berlin called Phenomenology. "You see," he says, "if you are a phenomenologist you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!"
     It was this simple phrase that would ignite a movement, inspiring Sartre to integrate Phenomenology into his own French, humanistic sensibility, thereby creating an entirely new philosophical approach inspired by themes of radical freedom, authentic being, and political activism. This movement would sweep through the jazz clubs and cafés of the Left Bank before making its way across the world as Existentialism.
    Featuring not only philosophers, but also playwrights, anthropologists, convicts, and revolutionaries, At the Existentialist Café follows the existentialists' story, from the first rebellious spark through the Second World War, to its role in postwar liberation movements such as anti-colonialism, feminism, and gay rights. Interweaving biography and philosophy, it is the epic account of passionate encounters??fights, love affairs, mentorships, rebellions, and long partnerships??and a vital investigation into what the existentialists have to offer us today, at a moment when we are once again confronting the major questions of freedom, global responsibility, and human authenticity in a fractious and technology-d
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Engelsk (41)  Hollandsk (1)  Alle sprog (42)
Viser 1-5 af 42 (næste | vis alle)
I’d recommend this book to anyone looking to bootstrap their way into existentialism. It describes why existentialism and its forerunner, phenomenology, caused such an upheaval in philosophy in the twentieth century, spilling over into popular culture, and why this movement still matters today. Bakewell even offers a one-page definition of existentialism.
The title reflects the book’s approach. It refers to an encounter at a Left Bank café when Raymond Aron explained phenomenology to his school chum Jean-Paul Sartre and Sartre’s partner, Simone de Beauvoir, by remarking that you could talk about the apricot cocktail they were enjoying and make philosophy out of it. This was audacious and ran counter to the practice of philosophy since Aristotle.
By starting with this anecdote, Bakewell signalizes what was new in these movements, with their focus on the lived experience of the individual. It also reflects her approach; she writes of her response to Sartre’s novel, Nausea, when she read it as a sixteen-year-old, making her want to study philosophy.
This mix of biography and the history of ideas results in a readable book that I enjoyed. As Bakewell writes, every one of these figures was flawed, as were their ideas. But while she makes clear the failure of Heidegger either to explain or apologize for his Naziism, she goes easier on Sartre, whose exasperating defense of Stalinism betrayed the core principles of existentialism. And even when he belatedly dropped his loyalty to the Soviets in 1968, as tanks rolled into Prague, it was only to jump to Mao. By detailing these shifts, she permits readers to make up their own minds.
I only regret coming to this book so late in life. My copy of Sein und Zeit sits on my shelf, as unmarked as when I bought it twenty-four years ago. Perhaps I’ll still tackle it, as well as Being and Nothingness, sitting near it. And then Beauvoir, Marcel, so many others! But even this introduction has already changed my thinking, which is more than many books do.
And Juliette Greco singing “Sous le ciel de Paris” keeps running through my head. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Mar 7, 2024 |
A story of the people, the ideas and the history of philosophy of Existentialism with a trace to how it reaches us today.

I can’t find faults with this book that would not just be critique of the specific choices of content emphasis. ( )
  yates9 | Feb 28, 2024 |
As an introduction to existentialism for the beginner or casual reader, it would be hard to improve on this. Bakewell is a very good writer indeed (her book on Montaigne is equally excellent), and she does justice I think to most if not all of the main actors in existential philosophy. While some reviewers may quibble about someone or something that gets little or no attention in her book, the marvel is that she fits so much in and yet manages a lightness of tone, and an easy integration of biography and ideas. If you have the energy or interest to read just one book about existentialism, then this is it. ( )
  breathslow | Jan 27, 2024 |
I thought this was a great way to dip my toes into existentialism. From the subtitle, I was a bit worried that it would all be brooding photos of Camus in a trenchcoat and quips from de Beauvoir and Sartre, but there were plenty of sections actually discussing the ideas in reasonable detail. I'd mostly encountered Heidegger in the context of people saying how difficult and dense the writing was, so it was enlightening to get the backstory of his gradual movement into his own enclosed world of ideas.

Overall, a very effective gateway book. ( )
  NickEdkins | May 27, 2023 |
Bakewell does a really nice job of balancing concept and context. She makes the seminal works accessible while adding political and interpersonal context for the pieces. ( )
  kspeerschneider | Apr 11, 2023 |
Viser 1-5 af 42 (næste | vis alle)
"near the turn of 1932-3 when three young philosophers were sitting in the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue du Montparnasse in Paris, catching up on gossip and drinking the house specialty, apricot cocktails." De Beauvoir was 25, her boyfriend Sartre was 27 and his school chum Raymond Aron was describing a new train of thought, "phenomenology," which demands a close scrutiny of the elements of everyday life, "the things themselves." As Beauvoir recounted it, Aron — just back from Berlin — exclaimed, "If you are a phenomenologist, you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!" Sartre reportedly went pale — intoxicated by the potential in wedding philosophy to normal, lived experience instead of dusty, dead tomes.
tilføjet af smasler | RedigerLos Angeles Times, Karen Long (Mar 4, 2016)
 
Towards the end of this absorbing and enjoyable book, Bakewell writes: ‘Ideas are interesting, but people are vastly more so.’ She presents a cast of characters who are undeniably diverting. Simone de Beauvoir, in particular, emerges as a highly complex individual, far more interesting than her egotistical and gullible partner. Karl Jaspers, frail in health but resolute in his determination to remain untainted by Nazism; Emmanuel Levinas, who withstood Nazi oppression and clearly perceived Heidegger’s culpability; Albert Camus, much given to high-flown rhetoric but with a sense of reality that kept him from Sartre’s political follies: these were substantial figures.
tilføjet af smasler | RedigerLiterary Review, John Gray (Mar 1, 2016)
 
The author offers fascinating insights into the cultural impact of existentialism on the English-speaking world. In his influential 1957 essay The White Negro, for example, Norman Mailer predicts much of what would become the counterculture, saying that this is the making of what he calls “the hipster” or “the American existentialist”. English existentialists included the young Iris Murdoch, who got Sartre to sign her copy of Being and Nothingness and wrote to a friend of “the excitement – I remember nothing like it since the days of discovering Keats and Shelley and Coleridge”.
tilføjet af smasler | RedigerThe Guardian, Andrew Hussey (Feb 28, 2016)
 

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It is sometimes said that existentialism is more of a mood than a philosophy, and that it can be traced back to anguished novelists of the nineteenth century, and beyond that to Blaise Pascal, who was terrified by the silence of empty spaces, and beyond that to the soul-searching St. Augustine, and beyond that to the Old Tetsament's weary Ecclesiastes and to Job, the man who dared to question the game God was playing with him and was intimidated into submission.
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Biography & Autobiograph Histor Philosoph Nonfictio HTML:Named one of the Ten Best Books of 2016 by the New York Times, a spirited account of a major intellectual movement of the twentieth century and the revolutionary thinkers who came to shape it, by the best-selling author of How to Live Sarah Bakewell.
Paris, 1933: three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are the young Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and longtime friend Raymond Aron, a fellow philosopher who raves to them about a new conceptual framework from Berlin called Phenomenology. "You see," he says, "if you are a phenomenologist you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!"
     It was this simple phrase that would ignite a movement, inspiring Sartre to integrate Phenomenology into his own French, humanistic sensibility, thereby creating an entirely new philosophical approach inspired by themes of radical freedom, authentic being, and political activism. This movement would sweep through the jazz clubs and cafés of the Left Bank before making its way across the world as Existentialism.
    Featuring not only philosophers, but also playwrights, anthropologists, convicts, and revolutionaries, At the Existentialist Café follows the existentialists' story, from the first rebellious spark through the Second World War, to its role in postwar liberation movements such as anti-colonialism, feminism, and gay rights. Interweaving biography and philosophy, it is the epic account of passionate encounters??fights, love affairs, mentorships, rebellions, and long partnerships??and a vital investigation into what the existentialists have to offer us today, at a moment when we are once again confronting the major questions of freedom, global responsibility, and human authenticity in a fractious and technology-d

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