Today's Birthdays: June 21
Pronunciation: [zhäN-pôl sär´tru]
1905–80, French existential philosopher, playwright, and novelist.
Influenced by German philosophy, particularly that of Heidegger, Sartre has become 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). His plays express his philosophy and have been successful as theater. 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 has written several major studies of literary figures, including Baudelaire and Flaubert. His essay collections in translation include The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre (ed. by R. D. Cumming, 1965), Essays in Aesthetics (1963), 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).
See his autobiographical The Words (1964); Frederick Jameson, Sartre after Sartre (1985); Annie Cohen-Solal, Sartre (tr. 1987).
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