This is a strange one folks and I can’t help but wonder what Jean- Paul Sartre would have thought of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The full story appears over at The Times Online but you can read the bones of it below:
“As one of the great European thinkers of the 20th century, Jean-Paul Sartre popularised existentialism, became a working-class hero — and was chased down the Champs Elysées by a pack of imaginary lobsters.
A previously unpublished account of the late French philosopher’s improbable drug-induced crustacean visions has surfaced in New York, where a new book of conversations between Sartre and an old family friend will be published later this month.
John Gerassi, a New York professor of political science whose parents were close friends of Sartre, talked at length to the philosopher in the 1970s about his experiments with mescaline, a powerful hallucinogenic drug derived from a Mexican cactus.
Although it has long been known that Sartre experienced visions of lobsters — which he sometimes referred to as crabs — Gerassi’s account offers startling new details of the philosopher’s descent into near-madness as he battled to make sense of what he had come to regard as the intellectual absurdity of his life.
“Yeah, after I took mescaline I started seeing crabs around me all the time,” he says in Gerassi’s new book, Talking With Sartre. “They followed me in the streets, into class … I would wake up in the morning and say, ‘Good morning, my little ones, how did you sleep?’ I would say, ‘Okay guys, we’re going into class now . . . ’ and they would be there, around my desk, absolutely still, until the bell rang.”
Like numerous other free-thinking writers from Aldous Huxley to Hunter S Thompson, Sartre was intrigued by the mind-expanding properties of the peyote cactus. His mescaline experiments started in 1935 and affected his thinking for more than a year.
They proved a big influence in the writing of his 1938 novel, Nausea — now regarded as a manifesto of existentialism. Shellfish visions also featured in his 1959 play, The Condemned of Altona, in which a race of crabs sits in judgment on humanity.
In between, Sartre told Gerassi, “I began to think I was going crazy.”
He consulted a young psychiatrist named Jacques Lacan — who later became another of France’s foremost intellectuals — and they attributed Sartre’s crab-infested depression to his fear that he was being pigeon-holed as a teacher.
“That was the worst part, to have to be serious about life,” said Sartre. “The crabs stayed with me until the day I simply decided that they bored me and I wouldn’t pay attention to them.” By then it was the 1940s, France was occupied and Sartre had other things to worry about.”
Read the entire article here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6926971.ece