Books

At The Existentialist Café

Sarah Bakewell

Shortlisted for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize

Paris, near the turn of 1932-3. Three young friends meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and their friend Raymond Aron, who opens their eyes to a radical new way of thinking…

‘It’s not often that you miss your bus stop because you’re so engrossed in reading a book about existentialism, but I did exactly that... The story of Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger et al is strange, fun and compelling reading. If it doesn’t win awards, I will eat my copy’ Independent on Sunday

‘Bakewell shows how fascinating were some of the existentialists’ ideas and how fascinating, often frightful, were their lives. Vivid, humorous anecdotes are interwoven with a lucid and unpatronising exposition of their complex philosophy… Tender, incisive and fair’ Daily Telegraph

‘Quirky, funny, clear and passionate… Few writers are as good as Bakewell at explaining complicated ideas in a way that makes them easy to understand’ Mail on Sunday

The Smart

Sarah Bakewell

The Smart is a true drama of eighteenth-century life with a mercurial, mysterious heroine. Caroline is a young Irishwoman who runs off to marry a soldier, comes to London and slides into a glamorous life as a high-class prostitute, a great risk-taker, possessing a mesmerising appeal. In the early 1770s, she becomes involved with the intriguing Perreau twins, identical in looks but opposite in character, one a sober merchant, the other a raffish gambler. They begin forging bonds, living in increasing luxury until everything collapses like a house of cards - and forgery is a capital offence. A brilliantly researched and marvellously evocative history, The Smart is full of the life of London streets and shots through with enduring themes - sex, money, death and fame. It bridges the gap between aristocracy and underworld as eighteenth-century society is drawn into the most scandalous financial sting of the age.

How to Live

Sarah Bakewell

How to get on well with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love? How to live?

This question obsessed Renaissance nobleman Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92), who wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. Into these essays he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, events in the appalling civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant bestseller, and over four hundred years later, readers still come to him in search of companionship, wisdom and entertainment - and in search of themselves.

This first full biography of Montaigne in English for nearly fifty years relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored.

The English Dane

Sarah Bakewell

This gripping nineteenth-century adventure stars Jorgen Jorgenson, who ran away to sea at fourteen and began a brilliant career by sailing to establish the first colony in Tasmania. Twists of fortune then found him captaining a warship for Napoleon before joining a British trading voyage to Iceland, where he staged an outrageous coup and ruled the country for two months.

Much lay ahead, from imprisonment in the hulks to patronage by Joseph Banks and travels in Europe as a British spy. But Jorgenson was dogged by his own excesses, and ended up transported as a convict to the very colony he helped to found. Here he reinvented himself again as an explorer, and, despite his sympathy for the people, was caught up in the terrible Aboriginal clearances. Using unpublished sources and letters, Sarah Bakewell tells his astonishing tale with dazzling verve.

Biography

Sarah Bakewell was a teenage existentialist, having been swept off her feet by reading Sartre's Nausea, aged 16. She is the author of three biographies, including the bestselling How to Live: A Life of Montaigne, which won the Duff Cooper Prize for Non-Fiction and the National Books Critics Circle Award for Biography in the US, and was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Marsh Biography Award.