However, if circumstances happened to be so favourable to Sartre it was no accident; there existed, at least at first glance, a remarkable agreement between what he was offering the public and what the public wanted. His petit-bourgeois readers had lost their faith too, in perpetual peace, in eternal progress, in unchanging essences; they had discovered History in its most terrible form. They needed an ideology which would include such revelations without forcing them to jettison their old excuses. Existentialism, struggling to reconcile history and morality, authorised them to accept their transitory condition without renouncing a certain absolute, to face horror and absurdity while still retaining their human dignity, to preserve their individuality. It seemed to offer the
solution they had dreamed of.
From Force of Circumstance by Simone de Beauvoir (Penguin 1968)
(Research by Kate Oldfield)