Blog – a work in progess

Once upon a time in Essex

Andy Martin teaches French philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Growing up in Essex inspired him to write about surfing, Brigitte Bardot, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, Napoleon Bonaparte—in short, anything other than Essex. Until now. He is currently writing “Nausea in New York,” recording the secret war between existentialists and the FBI. How do you get Geoff Russell, Johnny Herne, my twin brother and me on a single bike? Easy! My brother on the rear, Geoff on the crossbar, me pedalling and Johnny sitting up in front, on the handlebars. Which was a bit unfortunate for him. Not so much on account of the brake dropping off half way down Avalon Road—about a 1 in 5 gradient—when we had …

Against happiness: Why we need a philosophy of failure

We are now suffering the Hawaiianisation of everywhere by Andy Martin / August 1, 2014 View Article >> In Hawaii, people are expected to be too happy. Is Britain going the same way? While in Hawaii on a quest for the perfect wave, I once bumped into a psychiatrist who asked me where I came from. She gave a sigh of respect at my answer. “England!” she said, in a dreamy kind of way. “You are so lucky!” How so, I asked, far more in love with Hawaii. “Because in England you can be miserable and nobody minds. They expect you to be miserable over there.” It turned out that she was a specialist in depression. I said, “But we’re …

Student life: Real not royal at Cambridge

Many A level students still look on Cambridge as remote and unattainable, but you don’t have to be a toff or an Isaac Newton to apply, says Dr Andy Martin Article >> If Disney were making the movie, it would be about princes and supermodels, but the reality of studying at the University of Cambridge is nothing like that. Rather like Tom Stoppard’s play, I think we need to put the spotlight more on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern than Hamlet. For every Lily Cole or Duke of Cambridge, there are plenty of other students here, each of them in their different ways exceptional and talented, but none of them with either silver spoon or celebrity status. >> Poor schoolchildren reluctant to …

FBI files on Being and Nothingness

This article struck a chord – picked up by Open Culture and Melville House – and translated into German by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung. I liked the idea that someone put about that it ought to be made into a movie, a philosophical actioner, along the lines of Lives of Others. From 1945 onwards, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI spied on Camus and Sartre. The investigation soon turned into a philosophical inquiry… I was leafing through some FBI files on French philosophers when a new candidate for occupancy of the populous Grassy Knoll in Dallas leapt out at me. To the massed ranks of the CIA, the Mafia, the KGB, Castro, Hoover, and LBJ, we can now add: Jean-Paul Sartre. FBI …

WAITING FOR BARDOT

Yes, STILL waiting, I know – for the great Bardot movie! seeing Will Frears this week about the script. Just needs a few finishing touches (I hope). Then… roll ’em!

The Persistence of the ‘Lolita Syndrome’

Ever since the details of the Jimmy Savile case started to come to light, I have, like some philosophical gumshoe, been pursuing an investigation into the possible intellectual origin of his mentality. In other words, I have been looking into what has loosely been referred to as the “culture of abuse,” which may or may not have been a factor at the BBC, or what Michel Foucault would have called the “epistémé” — a kind of conspiracy at the level of language and ideas and metaphor that (in this context) could conceivably promote or justify the sexual exploitation of young girls. (Alongside its continuing “Savile review,” the BBC has also promised to examine the case of Stuart Hall, another broadcaster, …

Taking New York by storm

Honestly this photo is not a set-up. It was provided by the benevolent David Meyer at the New School in New York, who got his entire class to read Sartre vs Camus. Reminds me of the time I came across a guy reading one of my books on the tube. Staggering.

IS THIS TITLE OK?

Recent article in the New York Times – SEPTEMBER 1, 2012, 2:16 PM Is This Title O.K.? By ANDY MARTIN Beginning – check. Middle – check. End – check. But, hold on a sec, isn’t there something missing? Something rather vital? In fact, couldn’t it be the key to your book’s selling or not? Ah, yes, the title. Sometimes I think I am going to have to give up and employ one of those companies that do nothing but invent names for things. Usually it’s perfume. Actually I think I would be good at coming up with names for perfume. Or soap powder. Or vacuum cleaners. But when it comes to books, the job feels impossible. Your mission: summarize your …

FIVE-MINUTE MEMOIR IN THE INDEPENDENT

Andy Martin recalls how a stolen book changed his life It was a small family bookshop, on a peaceful back street in a small town on the fringes of London. I treated it as my own personal library, and I would sit there for hours on end, often on the floor, usually not buying anything. I loved that bookshop, so naturally I had to go and betray it. I had a particular soft spot for the foreign-languages section down in the basement. It was like going somewhere far far away, but without the trouble and expense of hopping on a boat or a plane. On this particular day – I was aged 15 and a half – there was no …