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What Is Literature? (French: Qu'est ce que la littérature?) is a 1947 book by Jean-Paul Sartre. (Alternative title: Literature and Existentialism)
The book is divided into three topics of discussion:
- Sartre condemns the bourgeoisie as being devoid of culture.
- Sartre claims authors and poets are outside of language and are trapped.
- Sartre states that the writer must write for a public which has the freedom of changing everything.
The basic roots of existentialism are left to one side by Sartre in this book, as he devises an understanding of the effect literature has on those who are subjected to it.
The second chapter of this book, entitled 'Why Write?' has been reprinted as a free standing essay.