The Age of Reason

by Jean Paul Sartre

Covers two days in the life of Mathieu, a philosophy lecturer, whose girlfriend of 7 years has just announced to him that they are expecting a baby. It had been agreed between them, two years earlier, what to do in the case such a thing were to happen. Mathieu does not have the requisite money, 4000 francs, to pay the doctor so he goes first to Daniel, a friend who though having the money refuses to give him. He goes next to his brother Jacques, who offers to give him 10,000 franks on condition he marries Marcelle, an offer he rejects.

There is a twist to the story. It appears in the two years since they had the discussion about what should happen should Marcelle be pregnant, she has changed her mind but Mathieu fails to consult her thinking things are as they always have been. He talks to Boris, a young man so fond of him,who has a cougar, Lola, as a mistress. Boris asks Lola for a loan of 4,000 franks while they are dancing. She doesn’t believe and they end up having a bad altercation in her hotel room where she takes an overdose of some pills that make her pass out. When Boris wakes up, he thinks she is dead because she is pale and unresponsive. He runs to the bar where he had earleir left Mathieu to report what has just happened and entices him to go to Lola’s room to see for himself. To persuade him, he tells him about the money in her suitcase and this works since he, Mathieu, agrees to go and check on her.

Lola wakes up to find Mathieu in her room and he explains to her the circumstances under which he had come. He does not steal the money though. He regrets his cowardice. Later the same evening, he contrives to steal the money which he manages to do while Lola is out of her falt and takes it to Marcelle. She rejects the money and sends him away, marking the end of their 7 year affair. He leaves asking himself if he is really free and wonders for what has he left her.

Lola comes charging to his flat, looking for Boris thinking he is the one who pinched her money because she is old and threatens to press charges. She doesn’t find him at Mathieu’s. He calms her down and explains that he is the one who stole the money and that he is the one who had earlier asked Boris to borrow the money. She doesn’t believe him at first but then a few moments elapse and then demands to have her money back, money which he doesn’t have for they had remained at Marcelles. Daniel comes in just as they are ending their conversation. He hands over the money to Lola telling her it’s from Marcelle and she departs and promises not to press charges. She still misses Boris, who appears to have disappeared albeit briefly.

When they remain the two of them, Daniel tells Mathieu he plans to marry his Marcelle so she gets to keep the baby. Mathieu doesn’t seem hurt or even in the least surprised. He (Daniel) presses on and tells him he is a homosexual and will marry Marcelle so that she gets to keep the baby. It is this revelation that seem to annoy Mathieu but its effect doesn’t last for long as he realizes that he has lost her forever. He finds himself alone and as the book ends, he declares he has reached the age of reason.

It’s an interesting read and for those of you who have some time to spare, I would advice you add it to your reading list.