Having spread my leathery wingspan of influence all about the broad borders of the anglosphere, I think it now the highest of high times that I extend my analytical research-stick into the murky subways, night-markets and basement-cafés of Western Europe. And so, I introduce the feared and revered, the sleek and anti-Camusian, existentialist and author, activist and anti-colonialist, Marxist and long-term Beauvoirian bedfellow, the Parisian Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre, A.K.A. The Anti Camus.
So, gather your children, lock out your serfs, and put your elderly to bed. We - you, your lackeys and me, Nicolas Cage - are going to Europe.
Oftentimes, the details we most demand, when concerning the biographies of the highly successful, will go unsupplied; such details, of course, include the question of childhood privilege: how large was the pundit’s familial home? Was he upper, or upper-middle, class? Did his youth include a regular contact of some renown, or stature, or intelligence, who might have inspired or encouraged the boy to uncommon advantage? What were his mother’s and father’s mode, mean, and median yearly incomes? Sartre, we can estimate, was born from privileged stock, having himself been second cousin to a Nobel Prize winner - one Albert Schweitzer - and having had that many fucking given names. But this is not at all to speak ill of him; many of my, Nicolas Cage’s, closest acquaintances were born from privileged stock, and each of them, to the last, are in fact tremendous people, although they most probably could never stand to talk to you - you, specifically - for more than a hundred seconds or so; but who could blame them? But… Sartre’s privilege puts him at immediate odds with his contemporaries. Compare Sartre’s relatively clean genetic record to that of wastrel and blackfoot, Albert Camus (who grew up in near-poverty and whose father perished in the first world war, 1 year after Albert’s birth), or the orphan Jean Genet, homosexual, prostitute, and literal vagabond, or even Simone de Beauvoir, who, although indeed privileged, was albeit forced to make do with her condition as a 20’s female - even given her father’s encouragement: ‘Simone thinks like a man!’
Sartre’s accomplishments are, irreversibly, Sartre’s accomplishments, whether they were hard-won or not. I’m not one to praise work by the difficulty of its production. But, the question is begged: If Sartre was a rebel (as is how he stylized himself), then at whom or what did he aim his rebellion? Certainly his rebellions could not have been self-interested, he himself having borrowed his momentum from the ruling class. Or is it as Camus suggested: that Sartre was not a resister who wrote, but a writer who resisted? Who was simply too enchanted with the idea of himself as a resister to not do his earnest best to sabotage at least something? His adventures at university, at the École normale supérieure, deserve reflection. He was a prankster, a hoaxer, a Bart Simpson-Dennis the Menace-class troublemaker, which is charming until we reflect that this was in his early twenties, and that, after one of old googly-eyes’s most particularly vicious cons, his headmaster was forced to resign. Indeed, a more contemporary Sartre’s psych-profile might have read: ‘has problems with authority’, or: ‘antisocial’, or: ‘is not considerate of others’. Yes: Sartre was, in the worst sense, a contrarian. I’m going to dive right into the analytic deep end here and suggest that it is this very uncooperativeness, so essential to Sartre’s character, that led him to his - I’ll posit, however precariously (and recall that this is simply due my diving trajectory) - strange affection for communism, and for the Cuban leaders. Observe his assessment of ‘Che’ Guevara: “not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age”; “the era’s most perfect man”; “he lived his own words, spoke his own actions, and his story and the story of the world ran parallel”. I have discussed my opposition to communism before; and I will be deducting points on this account. But, perhaps that’s lazy: Sartre was more an artist than a politician; sure he might have overreached and over-dabbled in the political medium, but he ought be appraised in consideration to his art, as was his prime medium. Fine, I say; but that doesn’t ensure his grade’ll bump up; indeed, it could well drop. On the art of Jean-Paul Sartre, then:
I will ally my assessment with that of Jean Genet: Sartre was an attention-seeker and, in the art-world, fulfilled no role but that of a destructor, a receptacle for its refuse. And so I’ve been rather blunt, haven’t I? In his affection for Genet the dog, the Diogenes, of France, Sartre published the bio, Saint Genet: Actor and Martyr. This, Sartre’s romantic re-appropriation, and mutation, of Jean Genet, towards the flesh and form of the Saint-ironic, would be the zenith of Sartre’s career in simulated rebellion. What’s wrong is: Genet knew himself; and, were it that Genet had been given the advantages of Sartre, he would have used them to his peers’ oppression; but, as he would describe himself, Genet was a ‘black’, a subaltern-inherent; his was the chemical antithesis of sainthood; his was not to be good, but to grow, and, ward of a cruel state, to necessarily grow against the good, the cultural security, of the nation he hated. Of course Sartre, the wannabe rebel, loved him. But, Sartre thought order was to be overturned, whereas Genet knew that all revolutions were merely reorientations – that neither communism nor the militant-aristocrats of Cuba could save the world. And so Sartre was Genet’s destructor, was a receptacle for him, Genet, the human refuse; Sartre it was who took in a rebel and made him a saint, thus disarming his rebellion. And why? Because, as much as Sartre protests that ‘a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution’, his life’s gesture was at last nothing other than an attempt at the commodification, the institutionalization, of rebellion. A nation of irony lives in the dreamscape of Sartre’s ‘ideal world’, and in there it seats an empire. See, then, the death of the French subaltern:
In his 1964 Playboy interview with Madelein Gobel, when asked, “What did you feel while reading the book he devoted to you?” Genet responds:
'A kind of disgust – because I saw myself naked and stripped by someone other than myself. In all my books I strip myself but at the same time I disguise myself with words, choices, attitudes, magic. I take pains not to damage myself too much. Sartre stripped me without mercy. He wrote about me in the present tense. My first impulse was to burn the book.Sartre had handed me the manuscript. I finally allowed him to publish it because I've always felt compelled to be responsible for what I evoke.'
Genet would, after this, undergo a tranformative phase, out of which he would become no longer a criminal but now the paragon-imago after whom he’d been canonized, and in consideration to whom, to which imago, he’d receive a presidential pardon – as requested by Johnny P. himself, four years the earlier. Not another novel would be written – some few plays, advancing the theme of revolution-vs.-reorientation in a safe, indicative-of-futility-only, way, would be published; but only a few. Henceforth he would be an essayist, canonized, immortalized, dead. In 1948, Genet was presidentially pardoned, and in short form, thereafter, was plunged into a suicidal fugue that would last seven years, and which would be extended by an exposure to his own posthumous image, that of the Genet the Saint, in 1952. Writes Edmund White: ‘magically, through the power of his pen, he had beaten the system’, and then he quips: ‘nothing is so depressing as success’. On the contrary, he had been subsumed by the system – a kind of ironic anti-punishment for having railed too loudly against it. So of course, as I’ve been saying for some rambling time now, Genet was made to watch his own death and subsequent decomposition. And this is the monstrosity of Sartre’s art.
It was not Genet alone that would be made the victim of Sartre’s ironic homicide. But against no other would the collegiate-scalawag-cum-Nobel-Prize-refuser’s violations be so unambiguously fatal (although Camus, too, lies dead in irony’s gutter; and of course poor ignorant Ernesto Guevara never stood a chance). Too, he would make his attempts on the life of Michel Foucault, on the careers of every literally dead existentialist, on the churches and denominations of Christianity and Judaism, on the Jewish and French races, and on the very identity of ‘the suffering man’, none of which (could Jean-Paul conceive) might not belong to him. Intention merit: a slim and well-fitting, but somehow implacably offensive, 6.5/10. Practical merit: an unexpectedly – but in retrospect inevitably – dissatisfying, 3.5/10.
Practical merit: 3.5/10
Intention merit: 6.5/10
Hot from my mouth, to your ears, that’s the Cage Equation, and you were asking for it.
[trigger warning: rape]
Now, hold up there, fella. Looks to me like you’ve gotten your objective realities tangled with your subjective…
When I tried to reblog this with commentary on his commentary,…
Ha ha. Whoops-ee-daisy, I see the amateurishness of my blog-posting’s revealed itself. I deleted my original because I’d meant to put it on delay, and, well, that delay is now over! Hop on back to crayoller’s crazy Cage-page, any time, for a review, and a bit of discourse if you’re keen, on the laws of comedy! It’s a riot, I tell ya.
[trigger warning: rape, gang rape]
I just reblogged a quote and I swear I wrote a whole rant underneath it but that didn’t make it through in the post so I’m just going to right it here.
There are only a couple things I wanted to say, so I’ll try to keep this short.
First of all, how on earth…
Now, hold up there, fella. Looks to me like you’ve gotten your objective realities tangled with your subjective realities. Allow me to tease out that knot for you. Let’s toy first with the mother knot - which, I think, would be this ‘Rape - Is - Not - Funny’ mantra your lot have been so cheekily plastering on all the telegraph poles. The difficulty, you see, is that, while I, Nicolas Cage, am neither a fan of rape-based comedy, I - my titanic celebrity notwithstanding - do acknowledge that I am not the only occupant of my world (solipsists; I might ask you step away a while). Now, because of that strange fact, I’ve gotten to philosophizing (oh, only about reality, I wouldn’t dare graze that moral philosophy business), and even making a few or two conclusions. My first, that preferences, reality, and opinions are all - all of them! - different things. And the second, of course, is that, if a blind-from-birth sort-a chap were to approach me, here, in my blogging-office, and tell me, “light is not visible”, I’d say, “oh ho-ho, you blindies and your hijinks!” and, quick as cracking thunder, follow it up with, “no, you scab-ridden prole, it’s just you - you can’t see light.”
Now, of course, the blind man would be shocked at this revelation, his entire world-view shattered, and immediately agree with me. It’s with that same expectation, then, pal-ums, that I suggest, perhaps less quickly, that it’s just you - you can’t see the humour. Now, that’s not to your detriment, or your incapacity - if so, it would be to my same detriment and incapacity, and let’s not have that - no, it’s simply that your preferences are for a reality less macabre. There is nothing that, if it struts the steps, and twists in a favourable enough light, will never be funny. Neither, either, neither, do I accept the argument that its justice is lost in the poverty of its skill - there’s a good number of revolutionists out campaigning the slogan of “I get that, and if it actually were funny, I’d agree.” Hoo, boy! It almost sounds like they’re back at the same water cooler, but I take their point and I’ll not be a facetious Franny. The rebuttal is obvious - skill should not determine what you do, and do not, have the right to say.
Thanks a whole bunch for your time, fellow blogospherean - I do hope we chat again.
Catered, cosy, and always cutting-edge, that’s the Cage Kibitz, and there’s still space on the couch.