From The TLS: Women Swooned

“Anxiousness reminds us of existence; happiness momentarily forgets it existed.” The power of ‘it’ in that wonderful bit of existentialism comes in the ambiguity of its reference, and so reminding us of the closeness between ‘anxiety’ and ‘existence’, almost anagrams. One of the appeals of the existentialists, then, comes in their trying to work out the tension between these two; a tension which, unsolved, pulses with an anxiety of its own. Professor Shahidha Bari, writing for the TLS, recites some of the questions raised during a panel at the London School of Economics to open discussion about the ways in which these thinkers are not only relevant but needed. Serious problems sometimes ask for solutions that give us not only gravity but levity:


Its true that existentialism isn’t always easy, but it helps that many of the existentialists themselves were irresistible. As a young man, Sartre hurled water bombs from classroom windows, yelling Thus pissed Zarathustra! Simone de Beauvoir improvised elegant solutions to the straitened circumstances of life in Nazi-occupied Paris, wearing turbans when she could not secure a haircut, and sleeping in ski-wear to save on heating. Albert Camus, who was investigated by the FBI at the request of J. Edgar Hoover (the file was mislabelled Canus), could sit in the street in the snow, lamenting his love life, until two in the morning. He adored his cat, a creature blessed with the perfect moniker: Cigarette. Tell me whats not to love about these existentialists.

Professor Bari goes on to list many of the virtues of the philosophy and its thinkers. Besides charming anecdotes about Sartre’s scatological therapy for eschatological problems, Bari writes about the contentious friendship he shared with Camus, which persisted even when the latter ceased to exist.

Read her full post at The TLS

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