The 1944 Club crept up on me. I found I didn’t have time to read anything very long, so I decided to reread Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. When I say reread, I mean that I must have read the play before, as I own a copy of it and took a course in Absurdist drama that included it. However, I don’t really remember it except that I knew the premise, which is famous, going in.
Sartre himself wasn’t exactly an Absurdist but an Existentialist who believed that people can define their own essence. That done, though, they must be authentic to that essence.
In No Exit, three people are locked in a room. They are dead, and they are in hell, but hell is not like what they expect. Inez is a lesbian who is attracted to Estelle. Estelle is a beautiful young woman who needs the attention of men. Garcin is a journalist who is preoccupied with the fear that he was a coward after he deserted because of principle.
I’m sure that No Exit was shocking and controversial in its day, but I found it predictable and sexist. The arguments among the characters that provoke the conflict and lead to the famous conclusion “Hell is other people” seem contrived, and Garcin is the only character who is even slightly sympathetic. To me, the women seem stereotypical—Inez as the woman who hates men and Estelle as the cloying dependent type.
So, I’m not sure how well this play translates to the modern day. I think I generally have problems with works that are about ideas rather than actual people, and these characters do not seem like real people to me.