Sartre’s existential philosophy of freedom was founded on the ‘nothingness’ of consciousness. In several of her novels, Spark adopts ideas from Sartre’s philosophy in order to reveal their contradictory and inhuman consequences. Thus in The Hothouse by the East River Spark poses an ontological paradox: Paul and Elsa died in England in the Second World War, in spite of which they live on as all-too-material ghosts in post-war New York and have conceived children who grow up as wealthy New Yorkers. Spark gives their son the name Pierre, which is the name of a friend regularly invoked by Sartre in illustrating aspects of his philosophy in Being and Nothingness. Spark’s Pierre, both a being and a nothingness, is the producer of a new version of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, in which Barrie’s vision of an eternal childhood is performed by aged actors. The ‘Neverland’ of Barrie’s play thus becomes a mockery of a world that has lost its belief in eternity and has made art a compensation for that loss, a theme also played out in Lise’s efforts to become the producer of the drama of her own death in The Driver’s Seat.
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