Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus
Two of the most well-known European post-war intellectuals, Camus and Sartre would both write plays and novels, win Nobel Prizes, and go on to have their names mispronounced by American college students long after their deaths. They were friends who always considered each other rivals, but Spiegel explains why they parted ways in 1952:
Sartre or Camus? Should we hope for a better world in the distant future at the price of accepting state terror? The revolutionary mass politics espoused by Sartre in the name of Marxism would seem to contain this tradeoff. Or should we refuse to sacrifice people for an ideal, as Camus’ humanist principles required?
But as it often happens, Sartre ended up missing his old frenemy after he perished in a car accident in 1960:
Fifteen years later, and five years before his death, Sartre, 70, was asked again in an interview for Les Temps Modernes about his relationship to Camus. His answer: Camus was “probably my last good friend.
Mary McCarthy and Dwight Macdonald
McCarthy could have made this list with, really, any of the public intellectuals she parodied in The Oasis. But unlike her former lover and Partisan Review founder Philip Rahv, Dwight “Masscult and Midcult” Macdonald didn’t threaten to sue her for the book, and was probably far more affable when they bumped into each other at cocktail parties.
Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald
Looking back on it, these two American literary titans from the first half of the 20th century didn’t have all that much in common. Hemingway always seemed like the bullying type, while Fitzgerald was the more talented of the two, possibly a little drunker, and less combative. That’s probably why Hemingway would go on to paint a less-than-flattering image of Jay Gatsby’s creator in A Moveable Feast.
Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis
It’s such a shock that Hitchens and Amis — two of England’s best-known and most controversial writers and public intellectuals — would have a public spat. It began when Amis, in his book Koba the Dread, accused many on the British left of turning a blind eye to the crimes of Joseph Stalin. Not surprisingly, the whole thing spilled over into the pages of newspapers. The two eventually hugged it out.
Norman Mailer and just about everybody
Here’s the thing about the great genius/moron/often great/sometimes awful/misogynist/blowhard who had a pretty long list public altercations: you just know he was bumping into some of these people away from the public eye. There was a good 40 years when you couldn’t attend a big New York literary function and not run into Mailer. All you could do was be polite and hope for the best.