From Jean-Paul Sartre's new foreword to The Conspiracy by Paul Nizan
Nizan speaks about youth. But a Marxist has too much historical sense to describe an age of life - such as Youth or Maturity - in general, just as it marches past in Strasburg Cathedral when the clock strikes midday. His young men are dated and attached to their class: like Nizan himself, they were twenty in 1929 - the heyday of 'prosperity' in the middle of the post-war period that has just ended. They are bourgeois, sons for the most part of that grande bourgeoisie which entertains 'anxious doubts about its future', of those 'rich tradespeople who brought up their children admirably, but who had ended up respecting only the Spirit, without thinking that this ludicrous veneration for the most disinterested activities of life ruined everything, and that it was merely the mark of their commercial decadence and of a bourgeois bad conscience of which as yet they had no suspicion.' Wayward sons, led by a deviation 'out of the paths of commerce' towards the careers of the 'creators of alibis'. But in Marx there is a phenomenology of economic essences: I am thinking, above all, of his admirable analyses of commodity fetishism. In this sense, a phenomenology can be found in Nizan: in other words, a fixing and description, on the basis of social and historical data, of that essence in motion which is 'youth', a sham age, a fetish. This complex mixture of history and analysis constitutes the great value of his book.