After the initial surprise this sort of news causes, I felt a resigned melancholy at the death of Jean-Paul Sartre. I was living in Paris during those years after World War II when his glory and influence were at their height. Sartre bore his fame simply and with good humor. Despite the fact that the sanctimoniousness of many of his
admirers—especially the Latin Americans, as always avid for “up-to-date”
philosophies—was at once irritating and comic, his truly philosophic simplicity disarmed even the most reticent. In those years, reading him both enraged and impassioned me. One of his qualities was to arouse both rejection and assent in his readers, with equal violence. Many times, in the course of my reading, I regretted not knowing him personally, so as to tell him of my doubts and disagreements. Happenstance gave me that opportunity.
A friend, who had been sent to Paris by our University [of Mexico] to complete his studies in philosophy, told me he was in danger of losing his scholarship unless he produced in the near future a work on some
philosophical theme. It occurred to me that this article could take the form of a dialogue with Sartre. We got in touch with him through some common friends and proposed the idea. He accepted, and a few days later the three of us ate together in the Pont-Royal bar. The interview-cum-dinner lasted over three hours, during which Sartre was extremely animated, speaking with intelligence, passion, and energy. He also knew how to listen, and went to the trouble of answering my questions and my
timid objections. My friend never wrote the article, but that first encounter gave me the chance to see Sartre again in the same bar. After the third or fourth meeting our relationship ended: too many things separated us, and I did not seek him out again. I have touched upon our differences in parts of Alternating Current and The Philanthropic Ogre.
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