Seen by many as the culmination of Sartre's thought and project, and viewed by Sartre himself as an attempt to answer the question, "What, at this point in time, can we know about a man?" this monumental work continues to perplex its fascinated critics and admirers, who have argued about its precise nature. However, as reviews of the first volume in this translation agreed, whatever The Family Idiot may be called—"a dialectic" (Fredric Jameson, New York Times Book Review); "biography, philosophy, or politics? Surely . . . all of these together" (Renee Winegarten, Commentary); "a new form of fiction?" (Victor Brombert, Times Literary Supplement); or simply, "mad, of course" (Julian Barnes, London Review of Books)—its prominent place in intellectual history is indisputable.
Volume 2, consisting of the first book of part 2 of the original French work, takes the reader through Flaubert's adolescence well into his evolution as an artist. Sartre's approach to his complex subject, whether jaunty or ponderous, psychoanalytical or political, is captured in all of its rich variety of Carol Cosman's translation.