• At the Existentialist Café

  • Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails
  • By: Sarah Bakewell
  • Narrated by: Antonia Beamish
  • Length: 14 hrs and 44 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 06-07-16
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.7 (40 ratings)

Regular price: $20.24

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Publisher's Summary

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 audiobook 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.
©2016 Sarah Bakewell (P)2016 Audible, Ltd
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Critic Reviews

"At the Existentialist Café takes us back to...when philosophers and philosophy itself were sexy, glamorous, outrageous; when sensuality and erudition were entwined.... [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." (Jane O’Grady, Daily Telegraph)
"This lucid study of the existentialists picks out some overlooked figures and exposes the sexual hypocrisies of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre." (Jane O’Grady, Sunday Telegraph)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Nick on 06-08-18

Engaging book

Well researched and engaging. Excellent narration. Highly recommended for anyone interested in existential thought and the history of the 20th century.

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5 out of 5 stars
By Jens Marsling on 08-30-16

well written, finely narrated, thought provoking

a worthwhile reminder of what the existentialists have done and still do for our modern day society and the humanistic, gender-specific, cultural and existence questioning problems and thoughts we all face every day.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Liz... Bristol on 01-01-17

Existentialism and Phenomenology

I came to this knowing a little about Sartre from 35 years ago, and thinking that it might be a fairly light recounting of him and his times (including the famous relationship with de Beauvoir). It does cover those topics, but much, much more. Bakewell's work gives a wider view of Existentialism and it's roots in Phenomenology. So if you have an interest in these things (and perhaps that is a given, if you're reading this review) I can highly recommend this book.
The sections can be quite long (my attention span is not what it was) so may need judicious choices about when to have that cup of coffee (or perhaps the apricot cocktail). Bakewell is clear about differences between the proponents and why they fell out when they did. Her summaries are from her own opinions, and not always quite how I expected her to feel. De Beauvoir, in particular, is given good coverage in what is otherwise a very male domain.
Antonia Beamish does an excellent job of the narration, helping to maintain the clarity that I'm sure Bakewell put there.
So if you might like to know how Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger, Murdoch and all the other Names interacted and influenced one another, this is an excellent book to come to.

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43 of 44 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David Cunningham on 08-02-16

Being. Just being.

I really enjoyed this book. It puts the lives of Hüsserl, Heidigger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus et al into the context of their experience of the world, politics, history and each other. It makes no excuses for their flaws, explains their philosophy, and illustrates their influence and legacy. You don't need any prior knowledge of Existentialism or philosophy. I would recommend this to any reader who is interested in what makes people tick.

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31 of 33 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By playtime on 12-11-16

A way to understand existentialism

What made the experience of listening to At the Existentialist Café the most enjoyable?

It geve a background to why the cafe drinkers came to believe in existentialism and associated ideas

Who was your favorite character and why?

Satre because of his opposition to Nazism

Which character – as performed by Antonia Beamish – was your favourite?


If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Living under tyranny

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2 out of 5 stars
By nathan on 09-04-17


A lot of filler. A few good ideas and too many personal stories for me

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0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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