I felt a misled by the title of this book. Jean-Paul Sartre’s collection of existentialist short stories, Intimacy, is called Le Mur in french, or ‘The Wall’. The renaming of a work when translated always has the potential to go awry. Both titles are taken from one of the stories within, but as you can see, the ones chosen are not really interchangeable. Of course, such changes can be deliberate in drawing attention elsewhere. But I really feel that the french title is more telling. The stories deal with the crises that crop up in a life, such as problems in love, philosophy or politics, and each sufferer’s troubles are personally significant and difficult to surmount.
‘Intimacy’, as a title, seems to promise the elucidation and the minutiae of relationships between people, but this is not really the case. The title story does deal with a crisis point within the marriage of Lulu and Henri, and introduces Lulu’s various supports (a friend, the ripe Rirette; and a lover, Pierre, basically absent). By the first page, you’ve also got a quotable quote about intimacy: ‘when Lulu put it in the dirty laundry bag she couldn’t help noticing the bottoms were yellow from rubbing between his legs.’
The other stories are very different though, particularly two (‘Erostratus’ and ‘The Childhood of a Leader’) in which Sartre deals predominantly with the thoughts and actions of one individual. It would be easy enough to stretch the thematic aegis of the title to include intimacy with one’s self, though contrived. In that case, ‘Intimacy’ might be an appropriate title, but by no means is it an illuminating one. Intimacy is assumed, and necessary, with all of Sartre’s characters — he shows you their barest and most motivating thoughts. But what is viewed through that intimacy is far more interesting, and the salient lesson can be characterised as the cruelty of freedom and decisions; deciding how to die, deciding to kill — this book could as appropriately have been called ‘Death’.
Of commercial interest: this book is hard to get a hold of. There is only one used copy of this book at Amazon, and one new copy at Better World Books. None at Book Depository.