Little Bits of History

No, Thanks

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 22, 2012

Jean-Paul Sartre

October 22, 1964: Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature. Sartre was born in Paris in 1905. His mother was a first cousin of Albert Schweitzer. Sartre’s father died when he was a year old and his mother returned to her parents’ house in Meudon to raise him. There, his grandfather who was a professor, helped to school the young boy, teaching him mathematics and classical literature. When Sartre was twelve, his mother remarried and they moved away to La Rochelle ending the idyllic childhood he had known. In his new environment, he was bullied frequently.

As a teen, Sartre became interested in philosophy and earned a doctorate of philosophy from École Normale Supérieure, a school noted for its encouragement of French thinkers and intellectuals. While Sartre enjoyed the philosophical nature of the school, he was also a committed prankster and his pranks often resulted in those in charge having to leave their positions. He would look back on this with a sense of chagrin or possibly shame. In 1939 he wrote about pranks saying, “There is more destructive power than in all the works of Lenin.”

During World War II, Sartre was drafted into the French army. He was captured by the Germans and spent nine months as a prisoner of war. He wrote his first theatrical piece while in prison. Due to poor health, he was released in April 1941 and given civilian status. He was back in Paris the next month and founded an underground group which soon dissolved without enough support. Sartre took up writing rather than resistance. After the liberation of Paris in 1944, he wrote Anti-Semite and Jew, a study in anti-Semitic hate. Albert Camus referred to him as a “writer who resisted, not a resister who wrote.”

When he was awarded the Nobel Prize, he refused the honor. In fact, he had written a letter on October 14 asking to be removed from the list of nominees and warned that he would not accept the award if offered it. They did not read the letter. On October 23, Sartre published a statement in Le Figaro explaining his refusal stating he did not wish to be “transformed” by such an award and did not want to participate in an East vs. West cultural struggle. He went into hiding soon after. However, his support of existentialism during this time remained intact. He continued to write and as his health failed, he wrote even more quickly trying to get the words onto paper. He died on April 15, 1980 and was mourned by as many as 50,000 people who lined the streets to pay their respects.

As far as men go, it is not what they are that interests me, but what they can become.

Evil is the product of the ability of humans to make abstract that which is concrete.

If I became a philosopher, if I have so keenly sought this fame for which I’m still waiting, it’s all been to seduce women basically.

Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat. – all from Jean-Paul Sartre

Also on this day:

When the World Was New – In 4004 BC, the world was created – according to the math.
Where Is He? – In 1844, Jesus Christ did not return to Earth.
Pretty Boy – In 1934, Charles Floyd was killed.

One Response

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  1. said, on October 22, 2012 at 10:49 am

    About “Sartre took up writing rather than resistance”: Sarte saw the pure greed in many of the so-called resistence people in France during World War II. These people were interested in making fortunes in smuggling-often in human smuggling of Jews and other groups wanted by the Germans;also, they smuggled German soldiers captured by the French- all for a price! Charles DeGaulle said to me that he was disgusted at the outrageous commercialism of the French “underground” and that is why he left France during the German occupation.
    About “explaining his refusal stating he did not wish to be “transformed” by such an award and did not want to participate in an East vs. West cultural struggle”: Sartre himself made a career of building an east-west hate mentality to sell more of his writings. Considering that he considered the others as monetary rivals I think he very pubiclicly refused consideration of the prize to degrade the others by making himself look like a nobel journalist on a humanitarian quest(to hide his own greedy aspirations) to sell more of his writings.

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