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New Left Review I/145, May-June 1984

Jean-Paul Sartre

The Path to Rooted Freedom

Struck yesterday, as I leafed anew through Gide’s journal, by its religious aspect. It is primarily a Protestant self-examination, and then a book of meditation and prayer. Nothing in common with Montaigne’s essays, the Goncourts’ diary or Renard’s journal. The basic thing is the struggle against sin. And keeping up the journal is very often presented as one humble means—one humble trick—to facilitate struggle against the Evil One. E.g.: ‘I have never been so modest as when constraining myself to write every day in this notebook a series of pages that I know and feel to be so definitely mediocre . . . I cling desperately to this notebook; it is a part of my patience; it helps keep me from going under’ (7 February 1916). [1] The Journals of André Gide, London 1947–9, Vol. II, pp. 125–6. And (16 September 1916): ‘I shan’t succeed without a constant effort, an hourly effort, constantly renewed. I shan’t succeed without deceit and attention to detail. Nothing gained if I aim to note here only things of importance. I must make up my mind to write everything in this notebook. I must force myself to write anything whatever.’ [2] Ibid. II, p. 143.

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