4 plays about an existential portrayal of Hell, the reworking of the Electra-Orestes story, the conflict of a young intellectual torn between theory and conflict and an arresting attack on American racism.
Two women and one man are locked up together for eternity in one hideous room in Hell. The windows are bricked up, there are no mirrors, the electric lights can never be turned off, and there is no exit. The irony of this Hell is that its torture is not of the rack and fire, but of the burning humiliation of each soul as it is stripped of its pretenses by the cruel curiosity of the damned. Here the soul is shorn of secrecy, and even the blackest deeds are mercilessly exposed to the fierce light of Hell. It is an eternal torment.
It is a curious and relatively little-known fact that for two decades—from the end of World War II until the late 1960s—existentialism’s most fertile ground outside of Europe was in the Middle East, and Jean-Paul Sartre was the Arab intelligentsia’s uncontested champion. In the Arab world, neither before nor since has another Western intellectual been so widely translated, debated, and celebrated. By closely following the remarkable career of Arab existentialism, Yoav Di-Capua reconstructs the cosmopolitan milieu of the generation that tried to articulate a political and philosophical vision for an egalitarian postcolonial world. He tells this story by touring a fascinating selection of Arabic and Hebrew archives, including unpublished diaries and interviews. Tragically, the warm and hopeful relationships forged between Arab intellectuals, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and others ended when, on the eve of the 1967 war, Sartre failed to embrace the Palestinian cause. Today, when the prospect of global ethical engagement seems to be slipping ever farther out of reach, No Exit provides a timely, humanistic account of the intellectual hopes, struggles, and victories that shaped the Arab experience of decolonization and a delightfully wide-ranging excavation of existentialism’s non-Western history.