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The Age of Reason (Penguin Modern Classics)

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Alternatively, the young student Bruno – who hates being described as Mathieu’s ‘disciple’ – has his own, rather immature definition of freedom. It’s at once deeply intellectual but also crude and insulting, a dithering Parisian university lecturer bumbling about attempting to solve an issue he’s created. As always, my reviews comprise about 5,000 words and merely scratch at the surface of a full-scale novel like the Age of Reason. At 34, he’s anti-bourgeoisie, but this personal leaning receives a major blow at the start of the book. It is bad enough to be a consciousness trapped inside a revolting body: but in some sense other people trap you in their gaze.

Each name springs up in mind in a color and the association with that color is complete, character and the color inextricable from each other. A darkly Machiavellian character, his outward acts are often simply foils for devious, open-ended desires.

One of the notions is that ultimately a person's freedom is unassailable as it is fundamentally part of the nothingness that is the imagination and so cannot be taken away or destroyed. Although upset Boris presumed she was dead, Lola merely shrugs off the incident as one of her episodes—the seeming dangers of regular cocaine use evidently not of much concern to her.

This is, essentially, all there is to the plot, but from the subsequent carnage it creates, Mathieu is forced to swallow his pride and wheel and deal with his friends, such as the imposing Daniel, who clearly delights in wreaking havoc in other peoples’ lives for the sake of it. 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. Marcelle Duffett is his mistress, a woman uncertain about her position in life and who has seemingly fallen into a convenient routine with Mathieu. Meanwhile, in another strand of the plot, it turns out that the sleek homosexual Daniel has been visiting Mathieu’s mistress, Marcelle, for some time, unbeknown to Mathieu. It’s at this point he makes a bizarre, seemingly deadly mistake during a taxi ride to the latest museum exhibition.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. Slowly Mathieu realises the cheap abortionists he had been considering (400 Francs) risk seriously injuring Marcelle; Sarah knows a high class abortionist, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Austria, but he charges 4,000 Frances – where on earth can Mathieu get that kind of money?

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