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At The Existentialist Café


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From the bestselling author of How to Live, an enthralling and original new book about a group of young thinkers, the birth of existentialism and some of the biggest questions of all

About the Author

Sarah Bakewell had a wandering childhood, growing up on the "hippie trail" through Asia and in Australia. She studied philosophy at the University of Essex, and worked for many years as a curator of early printed books at the Wellcome Library, London, before becoming a full-time writer. Her books include How to Live- a life of Montaigne, which won the Duff Cooper Prize and the US National Book Critics Circle Prize, and At the Existentialist Cafe, a New York Times Ten Best Books of 2016. She was also among the winners of the 2018 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize. She still has a tendency to wander, but is mostly to be found either in London or in Italy with her wife and their family of dogs and chickens.


It's not often that you miss your bus stop because you're so engrossed in reading a book about existentialism, but I did exactly that while immersed in Sarah Bakewell's At the Existentialist Café. The story of Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger et al is strange, fun and compelling reading. If it doesn't win awards, I will eat my proof copy
*The Independent on Sunday*

My book of the year is Sarah Bakewell’s At The Existentialist Café, a marvellously rich and evocative journey through one of the most powerful philosophical movements of the twentieth century… This graceful book speaks to our parochial and inward-looking age.
*Times Literary Supplement, Book of the Year*

A wonderfully readable combination of biography, philosophy, history, cultural analysis and personal reflection.

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.
*Daily Telegraph*

Quirky, funny, clear and passionate…Few writers are as good as Bakewell at explaining complicated ideas in a way that makes them easy to understand.
*Mail on Sunday*

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