Thursday, 20 September 2012

Sartre: the figurative and the real.

I'm reading Sartre's War Diaries at the moment. They're written between 1939-40, when Sartre was stationed in Alsace as a reservist.  There's a passage where he reports a conversation with another reservist about "why [soldiers] all say they miss their children more than their wives". Sartre's explanation is as follows: 
Their relations with their wives [are] wretched and botched.. So they turn away from them, take their minds off them by thinking of the child. The child is nothing as yet, there's no balance to be totted up. On the other hand, it's the future, their future as much as their own. It's the post-war years... It's a way of thinking "My life's not yet over, the balance hasn't been totted up yet, there's a reprieve." The child's the only reprieve for that dead life. 
Children are, at the same time, possibility, the future, the yet-to-be-defined. Feelings about your child are also feelings about and ways of relating to these intangibles. The immediate and real emotion of missing the child has simultaneously a metaphorical shadow.

Whether Sartre is right on the particular point, this nicely and simply illustrates the way in which things are grasped immediately as metaphor without ceasing to be themselves, or, to put it another way, the metaphorical is folded perfectly within the real.

War Diaries is full of moments and situations, wherein the real, literal world doubles up as a landscape of figures and signs through which the self 'thinks' and 'feels' at a level prior to conscious articulation.

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