Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre, Jean-Paul (zhäN-pôl särˈtrə) [key], 1905–80, French philosopher, playwright, and novelist. Influenced by German philosophy, particularly that of Heidegger, Sartre was a leading exponent of 20th-century existentialism. His writings examine man as a responsible but lonely being, burdened with a terrifying freedom to choose, and set adrift in a meaningless universe. His first novel, Nausea (1938, tr. 1949), was followed by Intimacy (1939, tr. 1949), a collection of short stories. Sartre served in the army during World War II, was taken prisoner, escaped, and was involved in the resistance. During the occupation he wrote his first plays, The Flies (1943, tr. 1946) and No Exit (1944, tr. 1946), and the monumental treatise Being and Nothingness (1943, tr. 1953). Theatrically expert, his plays also express his philosophy. After the war Sartre's writings became increasingly influential, and his ideas began to reflect his interest in Marxism. In 1945 he founded the periodical Les Temps modernes. His other major works include the trilogy of novels The Age of Reason, The Reprieve (both: 1945, tr. 1947), and Troubled Sleep (1949, tr. 1951); and the plays The Respectful Prostitute (1947, tr. 1949), Dirty Hands (1948, tr. 1949), The Devil and the Good Lord (1951, tr. 1953), The Condemned of Altona (1956, tr. 1961), and Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960, tr. 1963). He wrote several major studies of literary figures, including Baudelaire and Flaubert. His essay collections in translation include Essays in Aesthetics (1963), The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre (ed. by R. D. Cumming, 1965), and Of Human Freedom (1967). Among his later individual essays are What Is Literature? (1948, tr. 1965), The Ghost of Stalin (tr. 1968), and On Genocide (1968). Sartre declined the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature on the grounds that such awards lend too much weight to a writer's influence. Simone de Beauvoir, his close associate of many years, wrote about him in her autobiography, The Prime of Life (tr. 1962).

Bibliography

See his autobiographical The Words (1964); F. Jameson, Sartre after Sartre (1985); A. Cohen-Solal, Sartre (tr. 1987); S. de Beauvoir, ed., Quiet Moments in a War: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir, 1940–1963 (1994); K. and E. Fullbrook, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre: The Remaking of a Twentieth-Century Legend (1994); B.-H. Levy, Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century (2000); H. Rowley, Tête-à-Tête: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre (2005).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: French Literature: Biographies