At The Existentialist Café

Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails

Sarah Bakewell

One of the New York Times Top Ten Books of the Year 2016

Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 by the Guardian, TLS, Observer and Mail on Sunday

* AS READ ON BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK *

Paris, near the turn of 1933. 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. Pointing to his drink, he says, "You can make philosophy out of this cocktail!"


From this moment of inspiration, Sartre will create his own extraordinary philosophy of real, experienced life – of love and desire, of freedom and being, of cafés and waiters, of friendships and revolutionary fervour. It is a philosophy that will enthral Paris and sweep through the world, leaving its mark on post-war liberation movements, from the student uprisings of 1968 to civil rights pioneers.

At the Existentialist Café tells the story of modern existentialism as one of passionate encounters between people, minds and ideas. From the ‘king and queen of existentialism’ – Sartre and de Beauvoir – to their wider circle of friends and adversaries including Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Iris Murdoch, this book is an enjoyable and original journey through a captivating intellectual movement. Weaving biography and thought, Sarah Bakewell takes us to the heart of a philosophy about life that also changed lives, and that tackled the biggest questions of all: what we are and how we are to live.

  • Chatto & Windus
  • Published 3rd March 2016
  • 448 Pages
  • 162mm x 222mm x 41mm
  • 744g
  • £16.99