Meeting the existentialists

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Book Reviewer Michelle Woods brushes with history, thanks to being Irish, at the ACLA conference in Vancouver

I’ve been away the last few days at the American Comparative Literature Association’s annual conference in Vancouver.

At the first night reception I turned in the drinks queue to an older academic*  and said, without thinking, and I don’t know why “You’re Irish!”. 

It turned out the Stanford scholar’s parents were from Donegal and Lisburn.  

He told me a great story about going over to Paris, postwar, as a teenager “to meet the existentialists”.
 

Lost and alone, he was stopped by a gendarme and brought to the local station. They asked him there what he was up to and fell about laughing when he said he was in Paris to meet the existentialists. One of them brought him to their cousin’s pension, and the next morning she gave him a piece of paper with “10 heures” on it and brought him to a street corner near the hotel.

Sure enough, at 10, Sartre walked out of a door opposite.

Look out for the next book review, coming soon, of Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies.

*Gerald Gillespie, we think….

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