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The Age of Reason (Penguin Modern Classics)

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I liked Age of Reason very much, and while constant jumping of perspectives in Reprieve sounds like a good idea, I find it too difficult to follow.

The relationship between these two becomes central in the whole trilogy as it plays out over a couple of years. This causes some consternation but, drunk, she announces it to be a “very agreeable sensation” and she likes “seeing [her] blood”. This abandonment is of their own choosing or unavoidable because they are conscious, disgruntled and bored individuals, committed to denouncement of bourgeois and the lives they lead.Feeling connected with the Serguines due to recent events, a bolt of lightning surrounding Lola stuns the three of them. Mathieu makes his rounds, asking those who might be able to help him out -- while always inclined to stop off for a few drinks -- and eventually trying to get the money by other means (a loan, a theft), and it is his trying to deal with setting up the abortion that is the main plotline of the novel. A footnote in The Last Chance explains that the right-wing Vichy regime which ran unoccupied France till 1944, executed a woman for providing an abortion.

He had a warm, attractive laugh, and Boris liked him because he opened his mouth wide when he laughed.

Mathieu does so partly to impress Ivich and when he is there, in the darkness of the death room, comes across the bundles of thousands of Francs which Lola has been saving for years. A child: another consciousness, a little centre-point of light that would flutter round and round, dashing against the walls, and never be able to escape. None of them have jobs (Mathieu has stopped work for the vacation) or children – they are completely free of timetables and responsibilities, utterly free to be as unhappy and negative as they please. He has a sickly lover, Marcelle, who has just announced she’s pregnant and so Mathieu immediately decides she must have an abortion.

The purpose of the novel is to show the Sartrean worldview through six or seven glutinously imagined characters – and that worldview is one of gloomy despair, morbid fear of getting old, of disgust at other people’s decaying, wrinkled, smelly bodies, revulsion at your own physical existence, and a pervasive, sickly hyper-sensitive self-awareness. The absolute determination of all the characters to be as miserable as possible eventually becomes quite funny.As such, the statement about freedom being a lie is a statement made by an immature person (me) who was restricted in what he could do because he did not truly understand the nature of freedom.

He explains that being a member has given him a sense of purpose and brotherhood with other members all round the world. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure. I read this book on a lovely sunny day and couldn’t help thinking that all the characters in it needed to get out more, to get a hobby, get some exercise, and generally get a life. Here I am, lounging in a chair, committed to my present life right up to the ears and believing in nothing. But this gives an inaccurately optimistic sense of the novel; in reality it is Mathieu’s gloomy meditations on his directionless life which have the most power.

He’s an inquisitive sort who is sure of his professor’s ability to reveal the truth about existence. Starting to age, she’s found a picture of herself from 1928 (the timeline for Age of Reason is the summer of 1938), in the picture she’s dressed in a man’s jacket and remarks to Delarue: “I was a scream in those days. He’s filled with causticity and scathing asides which, naturally, includes his scheming on how he can interfere with everyone’s lives. It’s also my favourite from the trilogy—whilst the Reprieve and Iron in the Soul are profound and moving, there’s a certain unmatchable edge to Age of Reason which is delivered through its detailed analysis of its lead characters.

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