War Diaries

War Diaries:Notebooks from a Phoney War, 1939-40

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The existentialist philosopher chronicles his time in the Resistance in the Second World War

During the phony war that preceded the invasion of France, between late 1939 and the summer of 1940, the young Jean-Paul Sartre was stationed in his native Alsace as part of a meteorological unit. He used his considerable periods of spare time, between mundane duties like watching weather balloons, to make a series of notes on philosophy, literature, politics, history and autobiography that anticipate the themes of his later masterpieces, and often surpass them in literary verve and directness. These War Diaries form a portrait of Sartre in his most intense and brilliant phase. With them the twentieth century’s most remarkable and public philosopher has provided us with a fitting posthumous monument to his honest and creativity.


  • Whatever you value in Sartre ... the notebooks add substantially to his achievement.

    The Times
  • As a man, philosopher and novelist [Sartre] is ... hard to love. And yet love him I do, because of these diaries. They are the story of a mind finding itself, groping about for the theoretical scaffolding on which he would erect his thought.

    Peter SalmonGuardian