Jean-Paul Sartre

THE LAUREATE: Jean-Paul Sartre was born in 1905. He studied philosophy in college, where he was also apparently a notorious prankster. He was in a long-term non-monogamous relationship with Simone de Beauvoir. During the war, he was a meteorologist in the French army. He wrote Nausea during the occupation. He contributed to Combat, which was Camus’ wartime newspaper (CONNECTIONS). He had a prolific writing career afterwards. His most important philosophical work was Being and Nothingness, in which he laid out the principles that were expounded in his books (like a less crazy Ayn Rand). He was awarded the Nobel in 1964 and refused it, gaining the peculiar honor of being the only laureate whose refusal the Nobel Committee accepted. Sartre died in 1980.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HIM: Well, like everyone who reads modern philosophy, and particular modern Neo-Marxist/Freudian philosophers, I knew of Sartre. There was some in my big box of free French stuff. I just never gave him a thought.

WHAT ARE YOU READING: No Exit and The Flies from one book, The Trojan Women and Nausea. I have finished the plays as of this writing, but I haven’t really had uninterrupted reading time for Nausea.

REVIEW: I’m going to talk about The Flies another time, because it is seriously the coolest Orestes/Electra I’ve ever seen and I want to really devote time to it. Maybe I will go so far as to buy Sophocles’ Electra so I can go through all the Tragedians at once. I need the Greek practice anyway. No Exit is the source of the one line by Sartre everyone knows: “Hell is other people.” It’s also an interesting look at how otherwise-ordinary-seeming people tear each other apart when no one else is around to stop them. In other words, Sartre invented reality television. I haven’t finished Nausea yet, and when I do, I’ll post a separate entry about it

DO YOU RECOMMEND HIM?: Yes. Everyone should read some Sartre. Right now. And that brings EXISTENTIALISM WEEK to an end. Here’s hoping your minds expanded and you didn’t kill yourselves.

WHAT’S NEXT?: Bertrand Russell, Par Lagerkvist or Seamus Heaney, depending on what I feel like doing. I’m going out of town for a few days and they fit into my bag, so we shall see.


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