I was awakened this morning by the sound of an insistent knocking at my door. It was a man in a brown suit. He seemed to be in a hurry, as if Death itself were pursuing him.
“One always dies too soon—or too late,” I told him. “And yet one’s whole life is complete at that moment, with a line drawn neatly under it, ready for the summing up. You are—your life, and nothing else.”
“Okay,” he said. “But I’m just the UPS guy.”
“Oh,” I said. “I— Oh.”
“Sign here,” he said.
“I thought you were a harbinger of Death,” I told him.
“I get that a lot,” he said, peering down at the place on the clipboard where I had signed. “Spell your last name?”
“S-A-R-T-R-E,” I said.
“Have a nice day,” he said.
A nice day. How utterly banal.
Tuesday, 4 August, 1959: 3: 30 P.M.
A year ago, in a moment of weakness, I allowed my American literary representative to sell one of my books to a cinema producer for what was described as “a bold exploration of contemporary issues.” Yesterday I received a packet of publicity materials for a film titled “Johnny Sart: PD Squad.” The subtitle, or “tag line,” was “No badge. No gun. No exit.” A series of transatlantic telephone calls followed. Apparently I am unable to have my name removed from this abomination, but I will receive what is called a “co-producer” credit.
Existence is an imperfection.
Thursday, 20 August, 1959: 2:10 P.M.
If Man exists, God cannot exist, because God’s omniscience would reduce Man to an object. And if Man is merely an object, why then must I pay the onerous fees levied on overdue balances by M. Pelletier at the patisserie? At least this was the argument I raised this morning with M. Pelletier. He seemed unconvinced and produced his huge loutish son Gilles from the back, ominously brandishing a large pastry roller. The pastry roller existed, I can tell you that.
Whenever we do new readings this semester, I will be posting or linking to reading questions for the text. These questions are not assigned (though some of them will make it into your reading quizzes). Their purpose, rather, is to help guide your reading. As you read, for instance, “Oedipus the King,” try to keep the reading questions in mind. Anyway, two years ago, I posted a collection of reading questions about “Oedipus the King” here.
Since this is a course blog, we have been on hiatus for the past two years. However, as I am teaching the class again, we will be adding new posts over the next several months. If you are a student in the Ancient Greeks class, please look through the categories and posts that the former students have written. You might find some things that inspire or annoy you. If you are a visitor, welcome and feel free to contribute any comments you might have.