In This Review

The War Diaries: November 1939-March 1940
The War Diaries: November 1939-March 1940
By Jean-Paul Sartre
Pantheon, 1985, 366 pp.

In a prodigious outpouring of words, Jean-Paul Sartre filled some 14 notebooks during the few months he spent (before he was captured by the Germans) as a French army conscript on the Alsatian border during the "phony war." Only these five have come to light. In them Sartre roughed out the preliminary themes for his philosophical masterwork Being and Nothingness, described wartime life when there is no fighting (tedious), and studied with some alarm and fascination his own mental processes. His playful and teasing way with ideas, and his insistence on his own "frivolousness," give these writings a sort of elfin charm. And because of who he was later to become-postwar Europe's maetre a penser-they are also of considerable historical interest.