I am inclined to being a party pooper with an over active anti social streak, so I have often sought solace in John Paul Sartre’s line from his play ‘No Exit’ where he has his characters express the view that   ‘hell is other people’.

After all, if a literary icon has the same misanthropic thoughts as me I can’t be so wrong. Or can I?

Turns out I’ll either have to change my ways from this new year on or find another smart quote to fall back on.

Sartre, it seems did not intend to be so universally negative after all. Here’s what he wrote in the playbill notes for the Imago Theatre where his play was being performed:

“hell is other people” has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because…when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves, … we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves. Into whatever I say about myself someone else’s judgment always enters. Into whatever I feel within myself someone else’s judgment enters. … But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people for each one of us”.

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