In the new biography of Sartre by Annie Cohen-Solal, I came upon the following line, which gave me an almost Proustian shock of pleasure and total recall: “[in 1948] the excellent review, Yale French Studies, devoted a whole issue to Sartre and existentialism.” Those were the years . . . What a haven Yale was for a young literary person then! Fresh out of World War II, we were eager to make up for lost time. Henri Peyre—who loves to reminisce about that generation—gave us his southern French warmth, his brilliance, his immense erudition. Out of a desire to give something back, I proposed that we graduate students start a magazine, on a shoestring, and since existentialism was in the transatlantic air, that was our first issue. It soon had to be reprinted.

I ran the founding number and the next one, “Modern Poets.” On the...


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