(June 21, 1905 – April 15, 1980) was a French existentialist philosopher,
dramatist, novelist and critic.
Early life and thought
Sartre was born in Paris to parents Jean-Baptiste Sartre, a naval officer,
and Anne-Marie Schweitzer, cousin of Albert Schweitzer. He was 15 months
old when his father died of a fever and Anne-Marie raised him with help
from her father, Charles Schweitzer, who taught Sartre mathematics and
introduced him to classical literature at an early age.
As a teenager in
the 1920s, Sartre became attracted to philosophy upon reading Henri
Bergson's Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. He studied in
Paris at the elite École Normale Supérieure where, in
1929, he met fellow student Simone de Beauvoir. The two became inseparable
and lifelong companions, though far from monogamous. Together they challenged
the assumptions and expectations of their bourgeois upbringings. The
conflict between oppressive, spiritually destructive conformity (bad
faith/mauvaise foi) and an "authentic" state of "being"
became the dominant theme of Sartre's work, a theme embodied in his
principal philosophical work L'Etre et le Néant (Being and Nothingness)
The most well-known
introduction of Sartre's philosophy is his work Existentialism is a
Humanism (1946). In this work, Sartre defends existentialism against
its detractors, which ultimately lends itself to a 'dumbing down' of
his ideas. This makes it a popular, if over-simplifying, point of entry
for anyone wanting to know more about Sartre's ideas but lacking the
background in philosophy necessary to get through his longer work Being
He graduated from
the École Normale Supérieure in 1929 with a doctorate
in philosophy and served as a conscript in the French Army from 1929
As a junior lecturer at the University of Le Havre in 1938, Sartre wrote
the novel La Nausée (Nausea) which serves in some ways as a manifesto
of existentialism and remains one of his most famous books. Taking a
page from the German phenomenological movement, he believed that our
ideas are the product of experiences of real-life situations, and that
novels and plays describing such fundamental experiences have as much
value as do discursive essays for the elaboration of philosophical theories.
With this mandate, the novel concerns a dejected researcher (Roquentin)
in a town similar to Le Havre who becomes starkly conscious of the fact
that inanimate objects and situations remain absolutely indifferent
to his existence. As such, they show themselves to be resistant to whatever
significance human consciousness might perceive in them. This indifference
of 'things in themselves' (closely linked with the later notion of "being-in-itself"
in his Being and Nothingness) has the effect of highlighting all the
more the freedom Roquentin has to perceive and act in the world; everywhere
he looks, he finds situations imbued with meanings which bear the stamp
of his existence. Hence the "nausea" referred to in the title
of the book; all that he encounters in his everyday life is suffused
with a pervasive, even horrible, taste of himself and, more specifically,
his freedom. No matter how much he longs for something other or something
different, he cannot get away from this harrowing evidence of his engagement
with the world.
The stories in Le
Mur (The Wall) emphasize the arbitrary aspects of the situations people
find themselves in and the absurdity of their attempts to deal rationally
with them. A whole school of "absurd" literature subsequently
Sartre and World
1939 saw Sartre drafted into the French army, where he served as a meteorologist.
German troops captured him in 1940 in Padoux, and he spent nine months
in prison — later in Nancy and finally in Stalag 12D, Treves,
until released in April 1941 due to poor health (he claimed that his
poor eyesight affected his balance). Given civilian status, he then
escaped to Paris where he became involved in the French Resistance,
and participated in the founding of the resistance group Socialisme
et Liberté. It was while engaged in the resistance that he met
Albert Camus, a philosopher and author who held similar beliefs, and
remained friends with him until Camus turned away from communism, a
schism between them that eventually divided them in 1951, after the
publication of Camus' book entitled "The Rebel". When the
war ended Sartre established Les Temps Modernes (Modern Times), a monthly
literary and political review, and started writing full-time as well
as continuing his political activism. He would draw on his war experiences
for his great trilogy of novels, Les Chemins de la Liberté (The
Roads to Freedom) (1945–1949).
Sartre and Communism
The first period of Sartre's career, defined by Being and Nothingness
(1943), gave way to a second period as a politically engaged activist
and intellectual. His 1948 work Les Mains Sales (Dirty Hands) in particular
explored the problem of being both an intellectual at the same time
as becoming "engaged" politically. He embraced communism,
though he never officially joined the Communist party, and took a prominent
role in the struggle against French colonialism in Algeria. He became
perhaps the most eminent supporter of the Algerian war of liberation.
He had an Algerian mistress, Arlette Elkaïm, who became his adopted
daughter in 1965. He opposed the Vietnam War and, along with Bertrand
Russell and other luminaries, he organized a tribunal intended to expose
U.S. war crimes, which became known as the Russell Tribunal.
Not being an orthodox
Stalinist fellow-traveller, Sartre spent much of the rest of his life
attempting to reconcile his existentialist ideas about self-determination
with communist principles, which taught that socio-economic forces beyond
our immediate, individual control play a critical role in shaping our
lives. His major defining work of this period, the Critique de la raison
dialectique (Critique of Dialectical Reason) appeared in 1960.
on the humanist values in Marx and the emphasis on the early Marx this
gave rise to, led to a famous dispute with the leading Communist intellectual
in France in the 1960s, Louis Althusser, in which Althusser attempted
to redefine Marx's work into an early pre-Marxist period, with essentialist
generalizations about Mankind, and a mature, scientific, authentically
Marxist period (starting between the Grundrisse and Das Kapital). Some
say this was the only public debate Sartre ever lost, but it remains
still to this day a both disputed and controversial event still discussed
within some philosophical circles of France.
Sartre and literature
During the 1940s and 1950s Sartre's ideas remained much in vogue, and
existentialism became a favoured philosophy of the beatnik generation.
Sartre's views were counterposed to those of Albert Camus in the popular
imagination. In 1948, the Catholic Church placed his complete works
on the Index of prohibited books. Most of his plays are richly symbolic
and serve as a means of conveying his philosophy. The best-known, Huis-clos
(No Exit), contains the famous line: "L'enfer, c'est les autres",
usually translated as "Hell is other people".
Besides the obvious
impact of Nausea, Sartre's major contribution to literature was the
Roads to Freedom trilogy which charts the progression of how World War
II affected Sartre's ideas. In this way, Roads to Freedom presents a
less theoretical and more practical approach to existentialism. The
first book in the trilogy, L'age de raison (The Age of Reason) (1945),
could easily be said to be the Sartre work with the broadest appeal.
In 1964, Sartre
renounced literature in a witty and sardonic account of the first six
years of his life, Les mots (Words). The book is an ironic counterblast
to Marcel Proust, whose reputation had unexpectedly eclipsed that of
André Gide (who had provided the model of literature engagée
for Sartre's generation). Literature, Sartre concluded, functioned as
a bourgeois substitute for real commitment in the world. In the same
year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he resoundingly
declined it. This rejection hurt the prestige of the Nobel institution
more than it did Sartre's. However, Sartre later tried to claim the
prize money but the Nobel committee turned him down.
Though he was now
world-famous and a "household word" (as was "existentialism"
during the tumultuous 1960's), Sartre remained a simple man with few
possessions, actively committed to causes until the end of his life,
such as the "student revolution" strikes in Paris during the
summer of 1968.
In 1975, when asked
how he would like to be remembered, Sartre replied: "I would like
[people] to remember 'Nausea', [my plays] 'No Exit' and 'The Devil and
the Good Lord', and then my two philosophical works, more particularly
the second one, 'Critique of Dialectical Reason'. Then my essay on Genet,
'Saint Genet'...If these are remembered, that would be quite an achievement,
and I don't ask for more. As a man, if a certain Jean-Paul Sartre is
remembered, I would like people to remember the milieu or historical
situation in which I lived,...how I lived in it, in terms of all the
aspirations which I tried to gather up within myself."
condition deteriorated, partially due to the merciless pace of work
he put himself through during the writing of the Critique and the last
project of his life, a massive analytical biography of Flaubert ("The
Family Idiot"), both of which remained characteristically, tantalizingly
brilliant but unfinished. He died April 15, 1980 in Paris.
Sartre lies buried
in Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. His funeral was attended
by some 50,000 people.
Family: Born June 21, 1905, in Paris, France; died April 15, 1980, of
a lung ailment, in Paris, France; son of Jean-Baptiste (a naval officer)
and Anne-Marie (Schweitzer) Sartre; children: Arlette el Kaim-Sartre
(adopted). Education: Attended Lycee Louis-le-Grand; Ecole Normale Superieure,
agrege de philosophie, 1930; further study in Egypt, Italy, Greece,
and in Germany under Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Politics:
Communistic, but not party member. Religion: Atheist. Military/Wartime
Service: Meteorological Corps, 1929-31; French Army, 1939-40; prisoner
of war in Germany for nine months, 1940-41. Served in Resistance Movement,
1941-44, wrote for its underground newspapers, Combat and Les Lettres
Francaises. One of the founders of the French Rally of Revolutionary
Democrats. Memberships: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Modern
Language Association of America (honorary fellow).
Career: Philosopher and author of novels, plays, screenplays, biographies,
and literary and political criticism. Professeur of philosophy at Lycee
le Havre, 1931-32 and 1934-36, Institut Francais, Berlin, 1933-34, Lycee
de Laon, 1936-37, Lycee Pasteur, 1937-39, and Lycee Condorcet, 1941-44.
Founded Les Temps modernes, 1944, editor, beginning 1945. Lecturer at
various institutions in United States, including Harvard, Columbia,
Yale, and Princeton universities, and in Europe, the U.S.S.R., and China.
prize, 1940, for Le Mur; French Legion d'honneur, 1945 (refused); New
York Drama Critics Award for best foreign play of the season, 1947,
for No Exit; French Grand Novel Prize, 1950, for La Nausee; Omegna Prize
(Italy), 1960, for total body of work; Nobel Prize for Literature, 1964
(refused); received honorary doctorate from Hebrew University in Jerusalem,
was one of the major intellectual figures of the twentieth century,
doubtless the greatest of his immediate generation in France. In the
words of Sartrean scholars Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka in The Writings
of Jean-Paul Sartre, he was "uncontestably the most outstanding
philosopher and writer of our time." The eminent scholar Henri
Peyre, in his preface to The Condemned of Altona, called Sartre "the
most powerful intellect at work ... in the literature of Western Europe,"
the "Picasso of literature." Since his death in 1980, Sartre's
reputation has not waned, and with perspective it has become clear that
he represented his age much as, in different ways, Voltaire (1694-1778),
Victor Hugo (1802- 1885), and Andre Gide (1869-1951) represented theirs.
"To understand Jean-Paul Sartre," wrote the novelist Iris
Murdoch in Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, "is to understand something
important about the present time."
Sartre was the chief
proponent of French existentialism, a philosophic school--influenced
by Soeren Kierkegaard and German philosophy--that developed around the
close of the World War II. Existentialism stressed the primacy of the
thinking person and of concrete individual experience as the source
of knowledge; this philosophy also emphasized the anguish and solitude
inherent in the making of choices.
fame was based substantially on his existentialism, but it would be
a mistake to consider him significant only for a philosophy that represented
his thinking at a relatively early stage of his career. It would be
a still greater mistake to reduce his existentialism to very simplistic
elements, such as crude nihilism, as often has been done.
and philosophic careers were inextricably bound together and are best
understood in relation to one another and to their biographic context.
An only child, Sartre decided at an early age to be a writer. According
to The Words, the autobiography of his youth, this decision was made
in conscious opposition to the wishes of his grandfather, Charles Schweitzer
(who, after the death of Sartre's father, raised the boy with the help
of Sartre's grandmother). Schweitzer, a domineering old Protestant who
was nevertheless very fond of his grandson and extremely indulgent with
him, appeared to young Sartre as insincere, a consummate charlatan.
Charles Schweitzer preached the serious values of the bourgeoisie and
tried to denigrate a career in letters as precarious, unsuitable for
stable middle-class people. As a reaction, Sartre proposed to make writing
serious, to adopt it as the center of his life and values. He also chose
it as a kind of self-justification in a world where a child was not
taken seriously. "By writing I was existing. I was escaping from
the grown-ups," he wrote in The Words.
When his mother
remarried, Sartre moved from Paris to La Rochelle with her and his stepfather,
a solemn professional man with whom he felt little in common. All the
same, young Sartre followed the path of a professional, finishing his
lycee studies in Paris and completing university work at the Ecole Normale
Superieure. There he met feminist intellectual Simone de Beauvoir, who
was to be a lifelong companion, though by no means his only love interest.
As a student, Sartre
became interested in philosophy, pursuing it through the agregation
(the highest French degree preparing for a teaching career). Sartre
was steeped in the Cartesian rationalist tradition (whereby the subject's
existence is proven by his thought), although eventually he largely
departed from this philosophy. The topic of his thesis, the imagination,
shows how his philosophic concerns supported his early interest in creative
writing. Other of his treatises of the 1930s concern the emotions and
what Sartre called the transcendence of the ego--or the nature of the
self--which, he argued, is created by the individual instead of being
a given. At the same time that he was pursuing these investigations
on the imagination, Sartre became acquainted with phenomenology, a branch
of philosophy associated with such German scholars as Edmund Husserl,
with whom Sartre studied for a year in Berlin.
Throughout the 1930s,
Sartre's philosophic and literary pursuits supported each other and
developed along parallel lines. At the beginning of the decade Sartre
began work on a fictional piece first called "A Pamphlet on Contingency"
(contingency being lack of foundation), which developed into his first
novel, Nausea. It illustrates what de Beauvoir called his "opposition
aesthetics"--his desire to use literature as a critical tool. The
novel's title indicates the hero's reaction toward existence: when he
discovers that life is absurd, he feels repulsed. Nothing, it would
seem, can save him, except the discovery that he might be able to write
a novel that would have internal necessity and be a rival to life; he
proposes to save himself through an act of aesthetic creation. Sartre
said in The Words: "At the age of thirty, I executed the masterstroke
of writing in Nausea--quite sincerely, believe me--about the bitter
unjustified existence of my fellow men and of exonerating my own."
Nausea was received
with praise and had considerable success. In his 1938 Esprit review,
for instance, Armand Robin wrote that Nausea "is undoubtedly one
of the distinctive works of our time." Later, in Sartre: A Philosophic
Study, Anthony Richards Manser called it "that rare thing: a genuinely
himself to be a master psychologist in his next fictional work, the
short story collection The Wall. These works are superb examples of
the storyteller's craft. Particularly impressive is the title story,
which recounts an episode from the Spanish Civil War, and the final
one, "The Childhood of a Leader," which, while autobiographical
to a considerable degree, has as its main plot thread the making of
a Fascist. All the stories reveal the author's command of dialogue and
metaphor and illustrate exceptionally interesting ideas about human
relationships, sexuality, insanity, childhood development, and the meaning
By the end of the
1930s, Sartre was known as a promising writer but he was not yet considered
an important philosopher. This assessment changed in 1943 when Sartre
produced Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology,
the major philosophical work of the first half of his career. While
closely related to his treatises on imagination and to the views of
experience he had expressed in his fiction, Being and Nothingness is
not confined to these subjects. Rather, in defining being, or what is,
as what appears, it explores all phenomena. The essay examines man,
the being who questions being, and concludes that he is both his body
occupying a place in the world--that is, an object among objects--and
a subject or a consciousness reflecting on objects. Sartre contends
that all consciousness is consciousness ofsomething. Since it is basically
a negating--or distinguishing--function (saying that this chair, for
instance, is not this table), consciousness produces the concept of
nothingness; man is the being by whom negation is introduced into an
otherwise complete world. Though its influence penetrated slowly, Being
and Nothingness helped assure its author's fame after 1945.
to expand upon Being and Nothingness withTruth and Existence, which,
although completed in 1948, did not see print until 1989. In the essay
the philosopher explores the connections between ethics, truth and ignorance,
and the panorama of history, and portrays bad faith among men and women
as the intentional choice to remain ignorant by abrogating hard work
in favor of a reliance upon fate and destiny.
In Being and Nothingness,
Sartre wrote that one of the most important characteristics of consciousness
is its freedom. He soon drew explicitly the corollary that ontological
freedom, in which man is "condemned to be free," as he wrote
in Being and Nothingness, must entail political freedom also. That is,
freedom is a goal as well as a given and must be embodied in praxis
(practical action). The very popularThe Flies, which retells the Greek
story of the murder of Clytemnestra by her children Orestes and Electra,
emphasizes man's fundamental freedom, against which even the gods are
powerless. No Exit, often anthologized and perhaps the best known of
all of Sartre's works, deals with the absence of freedom when one allows
oneself to exist through and for others, rather than living authentically.
Sartre stated inL'Express that its famous conclusion, "Hell is
other people," did not describe what had to be true concerning
human relationships, but what was true when relationships with others
became corrupt or twisted.
The theme of freedom
may be even more elaborately treated in less famous Sartre plays of
the 1940s. Morts sans sepulture (usually translated as The Victors),
which shocked the sensibilities of many theatergoers because it dealt
with torture during the Occupation, indicates how extreme the Sartrean
view of freedom could be. The play offers the view that even under torture
and threat of death, one is free to choose; that this choice cannot
be evaded, nor can it be made other than in utter loneliness; and that
one is responsible for all its consequences. Les Mains sales (sometimes
translated as Dirty Hands), treats the difficulty of political choice,
the necessity of political compromise, and the refusal to let one's
freedom be alienated or appropriated by others.
Between 1945 and
1950 Sartre also published three more novels--The Age of Reason, The
Reprieve, and Troubled Sleep--collectively called Roads to Freedom.
These works deal with an ineffectual hero in a morally and politically
indifferent France before World War II. The series illustrates what
Sartre described in "What Is Literature?" as a literature
of praxis: "action in history and on history ... a synthesis of
historical relativity and moral and metaphysical absolute." In
The Reprieve, the second volume of this trilogy, Sartre carries further
than any other French writer of his period the techniques of jumping
from one plot thread to another, without transition, and of pursuing
simultaneous plots. While making for very difficult reading, these techniques
suggest collective action and thus support his portrait of what it was
like to be in Europe at the time of the Munich Crisis (1938).
After the war Sartre
also published many articles on literature and politics, notably the
important essay "What Is Literature?" inSituations II. Here
he stated that all prose literature is necessarily committed to making
a political and social statement and is directed to one's own contemporaries;
the practice of literature, he insisted, is built on freedom (the writer's,
the reader's). As he put it inSituations II, literature is "the
subjectivity of a society in permanent revolution."
After the war, though
considerably lionized and taken by many youthful readers to be the preeminent
spokesman for their generation, Sartre continued to develop intellectually
and undergo changes that were to have far-reaching effects on his work.
In the prewar years, he had been generally uninterested in politics.
While despising Fascist parties and the bourgeoisie from which they--and
he--came, Sartre had not participated in political action, nor even
bothered to vote. He considered then that his fiction and philosophic
texts were sufficient expressions of his unfavorable views of society.
But he eventually became thoroughly politicized, speaking out on such
issues as the French presence in Indochina, which he opposed, and even
participating in a leftist, but non-Communist, postwar political movement.
By the close of
the decade, with the advent of the Cold War, Sartre accepted that a
non-Communist leftist party was a contradiction. He returned to Karl
Marx's writings, with which he had previously been only roughly familiar,
and began steeping himself in Marxism to rework his positions and think
against what he had previously held. Throughout the rest of his career
Sartre denounced many of his previous attitudes and practiced systematic
self-debate. Although he became a resolute neo-Marxist, he was never
a member of the French Communist Party but was instead often its critic
and that of the former Soviet Union (as when it invaded Hungary in 1956
and Czechoslovakia in 1968). However, he was always staunchly opposed
to Western capitalism, NATO, and the United States.
of his thinking seemed essential to Sartre because the fame that had
overtaken him during the 1940s had the effect, or so he thought, of
making him a public being; he felt that he was being appropriated by
others. This threat increased his sense of alienation. He also resented
what he felt would be his inevitable acceptance by the bourgeoisie;
he was becoming respectable, read by the middle classes. This attitude
explains why, in 1964, he refused the Nobel Prize for Literature; to
him, it was a middle-class recognition that would have the effect of
making him appear inoffensive.
In a 1964 Le Monde
interview with Jacqueline Piatier, Sartre summarized his political changes:
"I discovered abruptly that alienation, exploitation of man by
man, undernourishment, relegated to the background metaphysical evil,
which is a luxury." This discovery led to profound transformations
in Sartre as a writer. Although he continued to regard his earlier works
as well written, he also now viewed them as inauthentic because they
had resulted from a bourgeois decision to write, a decision based on
personal rebellion and on the idolatry of words. Moreover, he came to
believe that fiction could no longer serve his purpose. He even abandoned
drama, although he had argued earlier that theatre is an ideal means
of showing characters in situations where they must commit themselves
wholly to their actions and thereby create values.
In short, Sartre's
career as a semipopular writer came to a close in 1950. Yet several
works published after that date are among his greatest. The Critique
of Dialectical Reason, his second major philosophic work, is essential
to the understanding of all he wrote after his radicalization and is
so closely connected to certain of his other texts that whole sections
were transferred from one to another. It is far from a popular work;
even more than in Being and Nothingness, the vocabulary and concepts
of its 750-plus pages are difficult, and the analysis is so abstruse
and sometimes meandering that even professional philosophers have found
some of it incomprehensible.
Intended as a synthesis
of existentialist philosophy and Marxism, theCritique calls on and belongs
to disciplines as various as anthropology, history, psychology, economics,
and philosophy. Its aim is to give a philosophical basis to Marxism
and, on that basis, to investigate further the dialectic of history
and its intelligibility. Dialectical reasoning, which is opposed to
the analytic method, involves the Hegelian synthesis of contraries.
Sartre's thesis is that, whereas analytical reason has been the tool
of the oppressive classes, dialectical reason, which offers a different
understanding of history and its possibilities, is the "practical
awareness of an oppressed class fighting against its oppressor,"
"the objective spirit of the working class," as he put it
in theCritique. While still insisting on the possibility of human freedom,
the treatise shows how this freedom is conditioned, alienated, made
powerless by historical and social developments.
In the field of
biography, Sartre published in 1947 a short volume on the poet Charles
Baudelaire. Using what in Being and Nothingness he called existential
psychoanalysis, Sartre explains Baudelaire's character and career as
an original conscious choice--the choice to remain infantile, narcissistic,
dependent on his mother, a failure. In opposition to Freud, Sartre shows
that the poet's choice reveals psychological freedom, not psychological
determinism. The next biography, Saint Genet: Actor and Martyr, is a
masterly analysis of the writer Jean Genet, a convicted thief and multiple
offender known as the author of shocking plays and novels concerned
with homosexuality, anarchy, and rebellion against authority. The biography
ascribes Genet's career as a thief to a conscious decision made in childhood
to be what others accused him of being. To Sartre, Genet is a splendid
example of a man who made himself as he wanted to be by inverting other
Some twelve years
later, Sartre published his autobiography, a self- accusatory work.
The title, The Words, refers to the idolatry of literature he had practiced
up to about 1950. The autobiography was judged by Francis Jeanson in
Sartre dans sa vie as "the most accessible, and doubtless the most
successful, of all the non- philosophical works of Sartre." It
demolishes "the myth of a Messiah-writer of a dechristianized bourgeoisie,"
according to Revue des Sciences Humaines contributor Marc Bensimon.
As a study in characters (his mother, his grandfather, the Alsatian
bourgeoisie from which they sprang, his father's family), it is superb.
As self-analysis, it is even more outstanding. Few writers have portrayed
so searchingly their early childhood and their choice of a vocation
or have judged so severely the adult who grew from the child. The book
was, Sartre says within its pages, the fruit of an awakening from "a
long, bitter, and sweet delusion." The Words reads almost like
fiction; it is brief and its style is witty, aphoristic, penetrating--classical,
in a word, although its method is dialectical.
At the opposite
extreme is Sartre's final biographic work, The Family Idiot, a 2,800-page
analysis of Gustave Flaubert. Flaubert had long interested Sartre, both
attracting him and repulsing him. Sartre wanted to explore chiefly the
particular circumstances and the dialectical relationships that made
Flaubert into a bourgeois who hated the bourgeoisie, a passive man incapable
of pursuing an ordinary career, and, generally, a misfit and a neurotic,
as well as a great writer. The investigation ranges far afield, from
Flaubert's antecedents and family, to his infancy (reconstructed with
the help of Sartre's dialectical method, here called progressive-regressive)
and youth, to all aspects of the social and economic situation in which
he matured. Sartre wished to show, he said in an interview given to
Le Monde, that "everything can be communicated ... that every human
being is perfectly capable of being understood if the appropriate methods
After 1950 Sartre
published and saw into production two theatrical adaptations and three
original plays, two of which are surely among his greatest. The Devil
and the Good Lord, his personal favorite, is, like the volume on Genet,
concerned with values, absolutely and pragmatically. An uncompromising
statement of atheism, the play explores in a historical context (sixteenth-century
Reformation Germany) the interdependency of good and evil and illustrates
the necessity of adopting means that suit the ends. A second major play
of the 1950s is the lengthyThe Condemned of Altona, which concerns a
German World War II veteran who has barricaded himself in his room for
years. Tended only by his sister, the veteran has persuaded himself
that Germany won the war. Although concerned explicitly with that conflict
and its aftermath, the play was intended to refer also to the Algerian
War, then in progress. The play impugns Nazi Germany and the type of
men it produced--not just SS soldiers but also members of the upper
bourgeoisie who found Nazism useful because it served their economic
interests. More generally, it condemns capitalist Europe, whose conflicts
over markets and expansion had caused two world wars.
Declaring to John
Gerassi--in a 1971 New York Times Magazine interview--that "commitment
is an act, not a word," Sartre expressed his political beliefs
by participating in demonstrations, marches, and campaigns, although
he was not well (he suffered from failing eyesight and circulatory troubles,
among other ailments). Sartre took stands on literally dozens of political
and social issues around the world. Such topics as decent housing in
France, conscientious objection in Israel, the Vietnamese War, repression
in the Congo, Basque separatism, the troubles in Northern Ireland, torture
in Argentina, and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan show the range
of his concerns. Denouncing as ossified the French Communist Party and
all other parties intellectually dependent upon the Soviet Union, Sartre
supported Maoist attempts at a new radicalization of Marxist theory
and action. This political activity both increased interest in his writings
and made him notorious throughout Europe.
From the beginning
of his career, Sartre wanted to make people think, feel, see, and ultimately
act differently. Like his earlier views, summarized in Existentialism
Is a Humanism, Sartre's later morality is both a difficult and a hopeful
one. People can change, he proclaimed, but they would prefer to remain
in their errors (to practice injustice, for instance) or to cling to
what he had called bad faith. Because of the acceleration of violence
and international competition, theymust change, he insisted. Since the
oppressive and privileged classes will not willingly give up their privileges,
these must be wrested from them by violence and revolution; then new
relationships between human beings, based on reciprocity and openness
instead of rivalry and secrecy, will be possible, Sartre declared.
As his health deteriorated,
Sartre wrote less but gave lengthy interviews that are a sort of intellectual
autobiography. He remained fascinated with himself and his career, perhaps
more so than other great writers, but more surprisingly so, since he
had wished to move away from the cult of the individual to the idea
of the general man, "anyone at all," as he put it in The Words.
He was, as Josette Pacaly declared in Sartre au miroir, "a Narcissus
who does not like himself."
Twelve years after
Sartre's death in 1980, his daughter authorized the publication of several
collections of letters that illuminate the private life and thoughts
of the philosopher. Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre
to Simone de Beauvoir, 1926- 1939 relates to the early years of the
unconventional Sartre-de Beauvoir love relationship, the period during
which he wrote his first fictional and philosophical works and during
which Sartre served as a professor of philosophy at several universities.
Many ideas that the novelist-philosopher included in such novels as
The Age of Reason and Being and Nothingness "were first formulated
in letters written at the beginning of [World War II], when, exiled
from the distractions of Paris, he profited from the enforced leisure
of camp life," according to Ronald Hayman in the New York Times
Book Review. "Though the publication of these letters brings rather
too many private parts into public view, and though they illuminate
only the comparatively brief periods when Sartre and Beauvoir were separated,
they enable us to see the whole partnership in a new perspective,"
the critic added.
experiences of serving as an officer attached to a French meteorological
unit and, later, as a prisoner of war, are recounted through letters
collected as Quiet Moments in a War: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre
to Simone de Beauvoir, 1940-1963. "In these letters, we have in
effect an intimate portrait of the precocious philosopher emerging into
a kind of intellectual and spiritual maturity," explained Peter
T. Connor in America. Many of the letters written to his lover from
his uneventful wartime post show Sartre engaged in "deep and searching
ruminations," added Connor, "staking out his philosophical
position vis-a-vis Husserl and Heidegger, overcoming his `inferiority
complex vis-a-vis the far Left' and reflecting on the inner meaning
that his philosophy holds for him." Enthralled by the collection,
Penelope Mesic added in Chicago's Tribune Books: "It is irresistible,
when reading the life of a philosopher, to compare the writer's conduct
with his theories. But the foremost philosopher of freedom, in prison,
comes across rather well.... In these letters we almost casually discover
an exemplary life."
Seen as a whole,
Sartre's career reveals numerous contradictions. A bourgeois, he hated
the middle classes and wanted to chastise them; "I became a traitor
and remained one," he wrote in The Words. Yet he was not a true
proletarian writer. An individualist in many ways and completely opposed
to regimentation, he nevertheless attacked the individualistic tradition
and insisted on the importance of the collectivity; he moved from the
extremely solitary position of an existentialist to concern for society
above all. A writer possessed of an outstanding ear for language and
other literary skills, he came to suspect literature as inauthentic
and wrote a superb autobiography to denounce writing. An atheist, he
often spoke with the fervor of an evangelist and repeated that man was
responsible for his own errors and must mend his ways. A reformer and
moralist, he led an existence that would seem to many decidedly immoral.
Of such contradictions, he was of course, aware.
Born January 21, 1905, in Paris, France; died of a lung ailment, April
15, 1980, in Paris. Philosopher and author of novels, plays, screenplays,
biography, autobiography, literary and political criticism, and books
on philosophy. Drawing on the works of Soren Kierkegaard, Edmund Husserl,
and Martin Heidegger, Sartre developed an existentialist philosophy
based on an individual's freedom and responsibility to choose to act
and thus to define his being. "Existence precedes essence"
was Sartre's famous formula for his theory. Sartre's life was a testament
to his beliefs. He once said: "The task of the intellectual is
not to decide where there are battles but to join them wherever and
whenever the people wage them. Commitment is an act, not a word."
He was identified with various leftist causes, particularly with Communism,
although he never became a party member and was vocally critical of
Soviet and French Communism. Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1964, but he refused to accept it, claiming that a writer
"should refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution."
Sartre first explicated his philosophy in the novel Nausea, which critics
believe to be autobiographical. In nonfiction form, Sartre expanded
on this theme in Being and Nothingness, written during the Nazi occupation
of France, and in Existentialiam and Humanism. Some critics have expressed
the belief that Sartre will be best remembered for his plays. Among
the bestknown are "No Exit, " "The Respectful Prostitute,
" "The Flies, " and "The Condemned of Altona."
Sartre founded the monthly reviewLes Temps Moderne in 1945. He also
wrote biographies on Charles Baudelaire and Jean Genet, and completed
three of four volumes on the life of Gustave Flaubert. The writer Simone
de Beauvoir was Sartre's close companion for most of his life. Obituaries
and other sources: Chicago Tribune, April 16, 1980;
New York Times, April 16, 1980;Washington Post , April 16, 1980;
London Times, April 16-17, 1980; Publishers Weekly, May 9, 1980.
While Sartrean scholars
admit that Poulou himself would not approve of anybody chronologizing
his life since he believed that one is always on the verge of becoming,
it is nevertheless necessitated by purposes of clear discussion that
we sub-divide Poulou's life into early, middle and later years.
June 21, 1905 was
the day when JEAN-PAUL-CHARLES-AYMARD SARTRE was born on 13, rue Mignard,
XVI in Paris, a fruit of the love between Jean-Baptiste Sartre, a young
naval officer dying of fevers of Cochin-China, and Anne Marie Schweitzer,
daughter of Charles Schweitzer and cousin of the famous medical missionary
Albert Schweitzer. He lost his father when he was a year old. In his
autobiography, he regretted that he was refused the pleasure of making
an acquaintance with a father.
admitted that he was nevertheless happy with the turn of events for
two main reasons. The first is the death of his father "sent my
mother back to her chains and gave me freedom." The second reason
is that he would not have been the Sartre that he became had not events
turned the way they were. As a result of the death of his father, Poulou
and his mother came to live with his grandfather, Charles Schweitzer,
from 1906 to 1911 in Meudon. His was an unhappy childhood, devoid of
the happiness of friendship with his peers. A typical bourgeois, Charles
was a strict disciplinarian. Each member of the family had a role to
play, and Poulou had his. This very artificial condition made him indulge
As a result of this
family setup, the young Sartre immersed himself in reading and writing.
He made it a habit to devote time for reading, and he read whatever
reading material was available, although he took more interest in novels
and short stories. However, he admitted in his autobiography that his
kind of writing was one of plagiarism. His grandfather later on discovered
his misdemeanor and as a result, Charles became biased against the achievements
of his grandson. For him, "literature did not fill a man's belly."
He instead wanted Poulou to be a teacher. However, he was not able to
dissuade Poulou from writing:
In short, he drove
me into literature by the care he took to divert me from it, to such
an extent that even now I sometimes wonder, when I am in a bad mood,
whether I have not consumed so many days and nights, covered so many
pages with ink, thrown on the market so many books that nobody wanted,
solely in the mad hope of pleasing my grandfather.
to writing fulfilled a twofold advantage. First, he claimed he enjoyed
his obscurity and thus wanted to prolong it. Second, it presented him
an avenue for a kind of existence which he had not experienced before,
an existence devoid of the artificiality of grown-ups.
To add to the unhappiness
of his childhood was his realization when he was ten years old of his
ugliness -- his being small and cross-eyed. He had been sporting long
hair, and when his grandfather decided to bring him to a barber, it
was then that he faced his true features. As to his smallness in stature,
his grandfather used to blame this on his being a Sartre. Furthermore,
Sartre's early life was a constant struggle with sickness and death.
He even claimed that he was at the brink of the grave many times, including
In 1911, Anne Marie
brought Poulou from Meudon and moved to Paris. They settled at the fifth
floor of an apartment located at 1, rue Le-Goff. In 1913, he was enrolled
at Lycée Montaigne where he had Monsieur Lieven as his schoolmaster.
Although he indulged in reading and writing in his early years, Poulou
realized that he was not yet that prepared to tackle schoolwork. Poulou
later recalled that he was "a child prodigy who was not a good
speller." When his grandfather learned about this incident, he
decided that Poulou quit school for the time being and concentrate on
learning how to spell. He was enrolled at a public school in Arcachon
where he idolized his teacher, M. Barrault, so much so that he was disappointed
when he read graffiti in the walls of the school criticizing his way
In July 1914, at
the start of the First World War, Poulou had to retire from reading
for a short time because there were no more books to read; he even stopped
writing. At first they did not leave Arcachon, but later they returned
to Paris. During the war, he enrolled for one semester at the Poupon
Academy where he had Mlle. Marie Louise as his teacher. When Poulou
was ten years and three months old, his grandfather decided to register
him at the Lycée Henri IV, where he had Monsieur Ollivier as
his official teacher. There he met Paul Nizan, who would later be his
constant companion and best friend. His experiences of grave happiness
with his friends allowed him to drop the family play-acting. This gave
him the confidence that shall later on build a strong character in the
mature Sartre. It was also there that he "got used to democracy."
In 1917, his mother
was remarried to Joseph Mancy, an engineer who was later assigned as
head of the naval yards in La Rochelle that belonged to the Delaunay-Belleville
Company. Soon after the marriage, Poulou, who grew up in an urban bourgeois
world, found himself in the rural town of La Rochelle. He recalled that
he was never happy when he was at the Lycée of La Rochelle. He
later said that it was there that he "learned the meaning of solitude,
and at the same time that of violence." Moreover, his stepfather
decided to influence his education by acquainting him with geometry,
but to no avail. His disappointment with his stepfather even came to
the point of his calling his stepfather an "intruder." Poulou
considered the fact that his grandfather, with his failing health, could
no longer support his mother, the very reason why his mother remarried.
What Sartre said
in his autobiography captures the loneliness of his growing up days:
"I grew older in the darkness, I became a lonely adult, without
father and mother, without home or hearth, almost without a name."
He succinctly recollects this stage in his life:
Feminized by maternal
tendencies, dulled by the absence of the stern Moses who has begotten
me, puffed with pride by my grandfather's adoration, I was a pure object,
doomed par excellence to masochism if only I could have believed in
the family play-acting. But no. It perturbed me only on the surface,
and the depths remained cold, unjustified. The system horrified me.
He returned in 1920
to Lycée Henri IV where he renews acquaintance with Paul Nizan,
and in the following two years, he took up his Baccalaureat. After his
two-year stint from 1922 to 1924 at Lycée Louis-Le-Grand, he
took up his higher studies at the prestigious École Normale Superieure.
There he had for his classmates Simone Weil, Maurice Merleau-Ponty,
Jean Hippolyte, and Claude Levi-Strauss. In 1928, he failed the agrégation.
The following year, he passed the same test when he resigned himself
to more traditional philosophical ideas. It was also during this year
that he met Simone de Beauvoir, who became his lifelong companion as
well as his intellectual associate.
At the L'École
normale, the relationship between Sartre and Beaver blossomed, and their
mere intellectual companionship later turned to a relationship between
lovers. Axel Madsen observes the commonality between the two:
Poulou and Simone
were the gifted children of a class they learned to hate because of
the way it deprived others of what young intellectuals would naturally
consider everyone's birthright - a voice. What filled the young Sartre
and Beaver with that deep, lifelong and absolute loathing of the bourgeoisie
was the way it deprived others of the means of expressing themselves.
the agrégation in philosophy he taught philosophy at the lycées
in Le Havre, Laon and then Paris. It was when he was at Le Havre that
he started writing Nausea. In 1933, he obtained a grant to study at
the French Institute in Berlin, where, with the help of his friend R.
Aron, he got acquainted with Husserl's phenomenology. During this time,
he published Transcendance de l'ego. Meanwhile, Sartre commenced to
evolve into a more political thinker. Indeed, on July 14, 1935, Sartre
joined the Popular Front demonstration from the Bastille to the Porte
de Vincennes. After his brief stint at Berlin, he did some research
at the University of Freiburg. From 1929 to 1931, he engaged in military
service. His book L'Imagination was published in 1936, the year that
he and Beaver attempted to incorporate Olga Kosakiewicz into their life
to form a ménage a trois.
encountered a twofold setback during this year: the attempted relationship
with Miss Kosakiewicz failed and Gallimard denied the publication of
Melancholia (La Nausée). Nevertheless, Gallimard accepted the
novel the following year, and published it in 1938. While his literary
notoriety was blooming, he was drafted to the French army to fight the
invading German troops and on September 2, 1939, he was conscripted
to the 70th Division in Nancy. He was later transferred to Brumath and
then to Morsbronn. While at the military camp, he was working on his
L'Être et néant. The following year, he was captured by
the Germans and was imprisoned in Padoux. He was later transferred to
Nancy and then to Stalag XII in Treves. While in prison, Sartre reread
Heidegger and he recalled in his autobiography that he discussed Heidegger
with his priest-friends in prison. He even wrote and directed a play,
Bariona, while inside the prison camp. For reasons of poor health, he
was released from prison in 1941.
Upon his release,
he taught in Lycée Condorcet while founding, together with Maurice
Merleau-Ponty, a short-lived intellectual Resistance group called Socialisme
et Liberté. His magnum opus, L'Être et néant, was
published in 1943 together with the play, Les Mouches. The following
year, he gave up teaching to found the political and literary journal
Les Temps modernes (Modern Times), of which he became editor-in-chief.
After the war, Sartre
gained prominence especially with the publication of more books, Huis
Clos, L'Age de raison, and Le Sursis. He refused the Legion of Honor
awarded him by the government. He later went to the United States to
give a series of lectures. When he presented his lecture, Existentialism
is a Humanism, Sartre's notoriety continued to rise. With his passion
for writing at its peak, volumes were added to the collection of books
written by Sartre. In 1948, all of his works were put on the Index by
the Catholic Church. He likewise participated in the founding of the
Rassemblement Democratique Revolutionnaire (RDR), but he later on became
disaffected with the group and left it the following year. Sartre visited
Guatemala, Panama, Curacao, Haiti and Cuba and later on the Sahara.
During the early
fifties, Beaver observed that Sartre had undergone a change in lifestyle.
Moreover, the next decade saw the active political involvement of Sartre.
In 1950 to 1951, Sartre started to reread Marx. He later condemned,
together with Merleau-Ponty, the Soviet concentration camps.
The following year,
he wrote The Communists and Peace, signed a manifesto against the Cold
War, and protested against the Rosenberg executions. In 1954, he participated
in a meeting of the World Council for Peace in Berlin after gaining
a name for advocating the peace movement. His first journey to the Soviet
Union, and his only visit to China, occurred in 1955. He visited the
USSR in two more occasions, in one of which Khrushchev received him.
He was also named the vice-president of the France-USSR Association.
When Soviet troops invaded Hungary to crush an anti-Communist demonstration
there, Sartre condemned the act and left the France-USSR Association.
The following year, he protested against the Algerian war and the tortures
committed by the French government there. He subsequently came to the
open in criticizing De Gaulle and the Gaullist Party in France, and
later gave a press conference on the violation of human rights committed
in Algeria. Cutting short his lecture about the theater at Sorborne,
he returned to Cuba together with Beaver where he met Fidel Castro and
Che Guevara. He later visited Yugoslavia, where he met Tito.
During these times,
he did not waiver in his commitment to the Algerian people, and he continued
to speak for them. After the publication of his Critique de la Raison
Dialectique, he visited Poland and Czechoslovakia. In 1964, he gave
lectures at the UNESCO Kierkegaard Conference and at the Conference
on Ethics at the Gramsci Institute in Rome. The Nobel Prize Committee
later awarded him the Nobel Prize, but he declined to receive it for
the reason that he did not want to be turned into an institution. In
1966, he joined and later presided at the War Crimes Commission organized
by Bertrand Russell at Stockholm. Afterwards, he gave a series of lectures
in Japan and then in Egypt, where he met Nasser and visited refugee
camps. His affiliation with the Jewish people was affirmed when he visited
Israel during the following year. He also expressed his support for
Israel over the opening of the Gulf of Aqaba. Later in the same year,
he went to Brussels to give a lecture on Vietnam.
Sartre's Later Years
His political involvement
became more intense in 1968, when he supported the student movement
in France during the May uprising. He even came to the point of accusing
the Communist Party of betraying the May revolution. He condemned the
Soviet Union when Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia. He did the same
thing in 1975 in protest over what he called Soviet repression. The
following year, Anne Marie Sartre-Mancy died. He continued his political
involvement by editing and supervising the publication of various Leftist
health had never been good during these times. He suffered two heart
attacks, one in 1971, and another one two years later. Thereupon, he
transferred from boulevard Raspail to boulevard Edgar-Quinet. He also
became semi-blind after suffering from two hemorrhages in his good eye.
To help him continue with his intellectual endeavors, Pierre Victor,
whom he met in 1970 and with whom he had engaged in ethical discussions,
read to him books and articles which he wanted to read. He then started
autobiographical dialogues on tape with Beaver.
health failed to stop him from being active in politics. In 1973, he
took side with Israel during the war of Yom Kippur. In view of his continued
support to the Jewish cause, the University of Jerusalem later presented
him with an honorary doctorate. In 1977, he called on Israel to respond
to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's peace initiative and he even went
in 1978 to Israel to further the peace process. The following year,
he participated in an Israel-Palestinian conference.
was never the same after his second bout with heart attack. On March
20, 1980, he was hospitalized for edema of the lungs. After more than
a month at the hospital, he went into a coma on April 13 and died two
days later. His ashes were buried at the cemetery of Montparnasse on
The drama of Sartre's
life is as paradoxical as his thoughts. For all the fame he gained in
his life, he remained a man of simple tastes, a man committed to a principle
worth dying for, a man capable of empathizing with the oppressed of
the world. When interviewed five years before his death on how he would
like people to remember him, Sartre replied:
I would like them
to remember Nausea, one or two plays, No Exit and The Devil and the
Good Lord, and then my two philosophical works, more particularly the
second one, Critique of Dialectical Reason. Then my essay on Genet,
Saint Genet, which I wrote quite a long time ago. If these are remembered,
that would be quite an achievement, and I don't ask for more. As a man,
if a certain Jean-Paul Sartre is remembered, I would like people to
remember the milieu or the historical situation in which I lived, the
general characteristics of this milieu, how I lived in it, in terms
of all the aspirations which I tried to gather up within myself. This
is how I would like to be remembered.
1905 June 21 Born
to Jean-Baptiste Sartre and Anne-Marie (Schweitzer) Sartre.
1905 October 20 The General Strike of Russia, leading to the formation
of the first Soviet in St. Petersburg.
1906 November 17 Jean-Baptiste dies.
1907 Sartre and Anne-Marie move in with her parents: Karl "Charles"
Schweitzer, noted writer and music historian, and Louise. Anne-Marie's
cousin is Albert Schweitzer.
1909 Sartre suffers from a cold or influenza, causing leucoma in his
right eye. He loses some sight in the eye.
1911 The Schweitzers move to Paris.
1913 October Dr. Eymard Sartre dies.
1914 June 28 Assassination of Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand in
Sarajevo signals the start of World War I.
1914 August 1-23 Various European nations formally declare war against
1916 January 29 Germans launch an air raid on Paris, using the Zeppelin
1917 Anne-Marie marries Joseph Mancy. The couple settles in La Rochelle.
1917 April 2 America declares war on Germany.
1917 November 7 (October 26, according to old Russian calendar) The
Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
1917 November 8 Lenin assumes the chair of the Council of People's Commissars.
1918 Writes novel Götz von Berlichingen.
1918 November 9 Revolution in Berlin.
1920 February German Workers' Party changes its name to the National
1922 Writes the short L'Ange du morbide and begins the novel Jésus
la Chouette, which he does not finish.
1923 August 10-13 Riots in Germany, lead by unions and National Socialists.
1925 January 16 Trotsky dismissed as chair of people's Military Council.
1926 October Stalin expels Trotsky and Zinoviev from Politburo.
1927 Writes thesis L'Image dans la view psychologique.
1927 December 27 Trotsky expelled from Communist Party.
1928 Fails agrégation.
1929 Meets Simone de Beauvoir. They both take the agrégation.
He places first, she places second.
1929 January 31 Trotsky exiled from Soviet Union.
1930 Inherits portion of grandmother's estate.
1931 Publishes La Légende de la vérité and starts
1934 Writes La Transcendance de l'Ego.
1935 Grandfather, Karl "Charles" Schweitzer dies.
1935 Fall Relationship with de Beauvoir and Olga Kosakiewicz.
1936 Alcan publishes L'Imagination. Sartre writes the short stories
Erostrate and Dépaysement.
1936 Series of government changes in France, the result of power struggles
between the left and moderates.
1936 July 18 Spanish Civil War begins.
1937 The journal Recherches Philosophiques publishes La Transcendance
1938 Writes about 400 pages of Le Psyché and begins writing La
Age de raison. Publishes the stories La Chambre, Intimité, and
Nourritures (originally titled Dépaysement).
1938 April Publishes La Nausée (Nausea).
1938 September 7 French government activates all reserve military personnel.
1940 June 14 German troops enter Paris.
1940 June 21 Sartre is taken prisoner by German army.
1941 March Escapes from German stalag. He founds the resistance group
Socialisme et Liberté, which is disolved within the year. Maurice
Merleau-Ponty, a student of Husserl and acquaintance of de Beauvoir
joins the group.
1941 December 8, 11 America declares war on Japan, then Germany.
1943 June 2 Meets Albert Camus.
1943 Writes Huis clos in two weeks. Finishes Le Sursis and Réflexions
sur la question juive, published in 1946.
1944 July Escapes from Paris with de Beauvoir.
1944 August 25 Allied troops enter Paris. The liberation of France does
little to change the instability of the French government.
1944 Fall Forms Les Temps Modernes, which is to remain a popular journal.
1945 January 21 Stepfather, Joseph Mancy, dies.
1945 Refuses the Légion d'Honneur.
1946 November 8 The plays Morts sans sépulture and La Putain
1946 November 10 French elections are marked by Communist and Socialist
gains, leading to a Socialist-Communist coalition government.
1948 February Joins the Rassemlement Démocratique Révolutionnaire
1950 Denounces Soviet labor camps, after defending them in several articles.
1952 Publishes Saint Genet.
1952 May 28 Communists demonstrate in Paris.
1952 August Publishes public reply to Camus' essays on rebellion in
Les Temps Modernes.
1953 May Merleau-Ponty parts with Sartre, leaving the staff of Les Temps
1954 January-February The former Allies meet to discuss German autonomy.
The Soviet Union vetoes proposed free elections in Germany.
1954 May-June Visits the Soviet Union for the first time.
1954 December Elected president of the Franco-Soviet Association.
1955 May 5 Occupation of Germany officially ends, but troops remain.
1955 June Merleau-Ponty publishes Les Aventures de la dialectique, which
inclides a chapter attacking Satre for ultra-bolshevism.
1955 October 2 France withdraws from the United Nations over perceived
interference by other nations in the Algerian-French Revolt.
1956 November Condemns Soviet intervention in Hungary.
1956 December Martial law is declared in Hungary. Once again, Sartre
is forced to recognize the totalatarian nature of the Soviet Union.
1958 December 21 Anti-communist De Gaulle elected president of France,
just two months after radical-socialists had formed a coalition government.
In many ways, De Gaulle's rise is a result of Soviet actions.
1959 September 24 The play Les Séquestrés d'Altona premieres.
1961 May Maurice Merleau-Ponty dies.
1961 July 19 A bomb explodes near Sartre's apartment, 24 Rue Bonaparte.
1962 January 7 Another bomb attack prompts Sartre to move.
1962 Sartre visits Russia three times during the year. He is also elected
as vice-president of the Congrès de la Communanté Européenne
des Ecrivains (COMES). He steadfastly remains a supporter of Marxist
1962 July 3 Algeria wins independence from France and soon after joins
the Arab League.
1963 Received by Krushchev in Soviet Georgia. Sartre will make regular
trips to the USSR in coming years.
1964 Refuses the Nobel Prize in literature.
1965 Again elected as vice-president of COMES.
1965 January 25 Begins adoption process of Arlette Elkain.
1968 After appearing on Czech television in support of the Prague Spring,
Sartre once again is faced with the true nature of the Soviet Union
when it crushes Czechoslovakian reforms with tanks.
1969 Sartre's mother, Anne-Marie, dies.
1969 May Supports Communist candidate for French presidency.
1969 November 12 The Soviet Union expells Solzhenitsyn from the Union
of Soviet Writers. Sartre remains publically loyal to the Communist
1970 November 9 De Gaulle dies.
1971 Publically breaks with Fidel Castro.
1972 May 22 American President Richard Nixon becomes the first President
to visit Moscow.
1974 February 13 The Soviet Union deports Solzhenitsyn and revokes his
1976 Sartre leads a campaign of 50 Nobel prizewinners for the release
of Mikhail Stern, a political prisoner in the Soviet Union.
1976 April 15 In Spain the Union of Workers convenes its first congress
in 44 years.
1976 April 25 Portugal has first elections in 40 years. The Socialist
Party wins most seats.
1976 November 7 Accepts a doctorate from Jerusalem University.
1977 In an interview, Sartre declares that he is no no longer a Marxist.
The interview appears in Lotta Coninua.
1977 May 17 Israeli Labour Party defeated after 29 years in power.
1978 February Visits Israel.
1978 March 12 In French elections leftists parties win an absolute majority
for the first time.
1980 April 15 Dies at 9 p.m. in a Paris hospital while in a coma.