France is currently experiencing a “crisis of identity”, where (the illusion of?) French Culture is increasingly less relevant in today’s distracted, anti-intellectual world. But the true origins of French malaise lie in a post World War II period first marked by liberation from Nazi occupation, then complicated by the Algerian War (1954-62).

Jean-Paul Sartre used the journal Les Temps Modernes (launched in 1945) as an instrument for the Existentialist “littérature engagée“:

“…an individual is responsible for making conscious decisions to commit socially useful acts.”

CV1_TNY_01_19_15Juan.inddSartre supported Algerian independence and the dismantling of French Imperialism, opposed the Vietnam War, and ultimately rejected Soviet Communism.

The terrorist assaults and the Charlie Hebdo shootings that have horrified the world in the past three years had as their precursor the French Government-sanctioned domestic attacks carried out by the paramilitary Organisation de l’armée secrète (OAS) in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Sartre himself survived bombings on his Paris apartment (shared with his mother) and the offices of Les Temps Modernes. The Algerian War saw the French government use torture against Algerian Nationalists and sympathizers, just a decade after being under Nazi domination.

The nightmares of past French extremism will continue sans Sartre’s dreamed for “Authenticity“.