The Boxer and The Goal Keeper: Sartre Versus Camus - Andy Martin

DNF @ p. 28 (of 336)

I’ve been looking forward to this book. However, having read two chapters, I know that this is not a book for me. Nor would I recommend it to anyone else who is looking to read more about Sartre and Camus and their circle.

No. Instead I would like to point anyone interested to Sarah Bakewell’s excellent At the Existentialist Cafe.

The Boxer and the Goalkeeper on the other hand … no. Just, no.

The first chapter describes how the author got interested in Sartre and Camus. He got stood up by a girl, stole a book, and was feeling at a loss for a place in the world – that’s when Sarte crossed his path apparently and hooked him. By the end of the chapter, I was glad we had gotten the introduction out of the way and hoped there would be no future reason for the self-involved chap that the author seems to have been to make another appearance.

The second chapter proved to be worse. I am not sure whether the author was planning a joke on Baudrillard’s ideas on how images convey messages, but describing a scene by relating to how the scene is set in another book or film is a crappy way to let your readers know what you are on about. And yes, I have just run foul of that myself by referring to Baudrillard.

However, unlike Martin, the author of The Boxer and the Goalkeeper, I am seeking to explain what I mean:

When describing Paris at the time of the German occupation, I expect to read about curfews, descriptions about what happened to the people, what everyday life was like, etc., but I do not expect to read something like this:

This was post-Casablanca. The last train to freedom had left the station long ago.

And, yes, Martin is referring to the film here.

On the next page, he continues trying to make an argument while referring to other works of popular fiction: Orwell’s 1984, Harris’ Fatherland, and Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.

Any work of popular non-fiction that bases its arguments on works of popular fiction, no less works which have little relevance to the subject matter at hand, is starting off on the wrong foot with me.

Martin lost me completely when over he also included references to works by Camus, Sartre and de Beauvoir without so much as providing an introduction to the works or how they relate to whatever point he is trying to make.

So, not only is Martin presupposing that his readers are familiar with all of the cited works, but the lack of context that he provides also makes him look rather conceited and shows a lack of skill in communicating with his readers.

In short, he either expects his readers to know already what he is talking about and agree with the author on all points exactly, or he is supposing that his readers have no idea what he is talking about and he is banking on his readers to not be able to disagree with the author.

In either case, by the end of Chapter 2 the author had lost my good will to engage with his nonsense.

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