The Roads to Freedom

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The Roads to Freedom (French: Les chemins de la liberté) is a series of novels by Jean-Paul Sartre. Intended as a tetralogy, it was left incomplete with only three of the planned four volumes published.

The three published novels L'âge de raison (The Age of Reason), Le sursis (generally translated as The Reprieve but which could cover a number of semantic fields from 'deferment' to 'amnesty'), and La mort dans l'âme (Troubled Sleep, originally translated by Gerard Hopkins as Iron in the Soul, Hamish Hamilton, 1950), revolve around Mathieu, a Socialist teacher of philosophy, and a group of his friends. The trilogy was to be followed by a fourth novel, La dernière chance (i.e. The Last Chance); however, Sartre would never finish it: two chapters were published in 1949 in Sartre's magazine Les Temps modernes under the title Drôle d'amitié.[1]

The novels were written largely in response to the events of World War II and the Nazi occupation of France, and express certain significant shifts in Sartre's philosophical position towards 'engagement' (commitment) in both life and literature, finding their resolution in the extended essay L'existentialisme est un humanisme (Existentialism is a Form of Humanism), which was criticized from both sides of the existentialist fence.

This series of novels is considered to be (for example by Rowley in Tête-à-tête[2]) semi-autobiographical, with, for example, Mathieu standing in for Sartre, and Ivich representing Olga Kosakiewicz.

The novel series was adapted into a thirteen-part television serial by David Turner for the BBC in 1970, with Michael Bryant as Mathieu and directed by James Cellan Jones. The adaptation was nominated for several BAFTA awards for 1970.[3] The entire series was screened at the British Film Institute over the weekend of 12-13 May 2012, attended by the director and several surviving cast members.[4]


  1. ^ Caute, D. Introduction to The Reprieve by Jean-Paul Sartre, Penguin Classics, 2001.
  2. ^ Rowley, H. Tête-à-tête, HarperCollins, 2005.
  3. ^ BAFTA Television Nominations for 1970.
  4. ^ BFI Press Release

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