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From the best-selling author of How to Live, a spirited account of one of the twentieth century's major intellectual movements and the revolutionary thinkers who came to shape it

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 anticolonialism, 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-driven world.



About the Author

Sarah Bakewell

Sarah Bakewell was born in Bournemouth on the English south coast in 1963, but spent most of her childhood in Sydney, Australia, after several years travelling the hippy trail through Asia with her parents. Returning to Britain, she studied philosophy at the University of Essex and worked as a curator of early printed books at London's Wellcome Library for ten years before devoting herself to full-time writing in 2002. After a few years living in the Italian countryside, she has returned to urban life in London, where she teaches creative writing at City University, London, and for the Open University.

Her three books are all biographies, but the latest, 'How to Live: a life of Montaigne', is also an exploration of philosophical questions, not least the one posed by its title: How does one live well?



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