Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thursday Thirteen 207: Sartre

This week's post was influenced by Tuesday's issue of The Writer's Almanac.

Tuesday, June 21, marked the birth of French philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre, born in Paris in 1905.

Sartre earned a doctorate in philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, which was the alma mater for many prominent French thinkers.

It was at the École Normale in 1929 that he met Simone de Beauvoir, who studied at the Sorbonne and became a noted philosopher, writer, and feminist. They were inseparable lifelong companions, though not monogamous.

Sartre and de Beauvoir challenged cultural and social assumptions and expectations of what they considered their bourgeois upbringings, both in how they lived and thought.

Sartre was drafted into the French army in 1939 as a meteorologist, and was captured by Germans in 1940. It was during his nine months as a prisoner of war that he first read Heidegger, which had a huge influence on his own writings.

After WWII, Sartre established a quarterly literary and political review, Les Temps Modernes (Modern Times), and began writing full-time, writing numerous plays, novels, screenplays, and essays.

Sartre was a leading figure in French philosophy and existentialism, influenced by such notables as Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Husserl and Heidegger. His work continues to influence studies in literature, sociology and many other fields today.

Existentialism generally focuses on the condition of human existence, and a person’s emotions, thoughts, responsibilities and actions, or the purpose of life. It makes for very heavy, thought-provoking reading, and challenges your beliefs.
The dominant theme in much of Sartre’s early work, as found in his principal philosophical work L'Être et le Néant (Being and Nothingness) was the conflict between oppressive and spiritually destructive conformity and living an authentic life.

I read a few of his works in college, both in French and in English (and in subjects other than those two), including Le Mur (The Wall), Les Mouches (The Flies), and one of my favorite plays, Huis Clos (No Exit).

Huis Clos is the source of one of my favorite quotes, l'enfer, ç'est les autres ("Hell is other people"). Sartre also said, "If you are lonely when you're alone, you are in bad company."

In 1964, Sartre refused the Nobel Prize in literature.

50,000 people thronged the streets of Paris at his death in 1980 to pay their respects.

LINKS TO OTHER THURSDAY THIRTEENS:(Please leave your link if this is your first visit!)
Shelley Munro * CountryDew * Darla M Sands
Brenda ND * Colleen * A Kwee Life * Paige Tyler
Suzanna Medeiros * Mary Quast * Alice Audrey
Janice Seagraves * Dee Bibb * K Taylor
Adelle Laudan * Xakara * Skylar Kade


Shelley Munro said...

I hadn't heard of him before, so I learned stuff today :)

CountryDew said...

That's a heavy post!

Darla M Sands said...

Fascinating! Thank you.

Brenda ND said...

I have to say, I don't know very much about Jean-Paul Sartre. Your post taught me something new. I love your Thursday Thirteen header. I hope you don't mind if I borrow it sometime. :)Happy TT!

colleen said...

That's pretty heady,kinda zen. I'm more into Jung.

A Kwee Life said...

Sartre was my gateway into a deeper journey into philosophy and questioning what I believe and why. A Journey I continue almost 20 years later. Good write-up on him.

Paige Tyler said...

I've never heard of him. Very interesting!


My TT is at

Heather said...

Shelley: Really? World traveler and reader that you are, that does surprise me. I hope you liked learning about him today!

Anita: Definitely! But then, his writings are not at all what one would call light. ;)

Darla: Thanks, I'm glad you liked. *g*

Heather said...

Brenda: Thanks, I'm glad people are finding it informative. And by all means, borrow away. I think I got this header from the old T13 site, many moons ago.

Colleen: Ah, yes...I remember learning about Jung in HS psych class. Another interesting character.

Kwee: Thank you. I'm glad someone else has heard of, read, and appreciates him. *vbg*

Paige: I'm shocked. Oh, all right, I'm not, LOL. I hope you enjoyed learnign a bit about him. ;)

Adelle Laudan said...

I too have never heard of him before. Always up for learning new things.
Thanks for the lesson.
Happy T13!

Dee Bibb said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog....I really enjoyed your post about Jean-Paul Sartre. Happy T13.

Mary Quast said...

Interesting stuff. Amazing he refused the award. Nice post.

Heather said...

Adelle: I'll admit, it does surprise me a bit how many have never heard of him, especially as I encountered his work not only in French and English classes, but psych, sociology, and history. Glad you enjoyed learning about him.

Heather said...

Dee: Thanks, I'm glad you liked! :)

Mary: I think him a fascinating individual, and it is interesting he refused the Nobel prize (which very few have done), but yet maybe not, considering his philosophies on life.

Alice Audrey said...

I had no idea he was a POW. I didn't even know he served.

Heather said...

Alice: I knew he had served during the war in some capacity, but did not know he was a POW until writing this, either. I think he would have been an interesting person to meet.

Suzanna said...

Very interesting post. I knew Sartre was a huge influence on the existentialist movement, and while I've read other works (one of my favorites is Waiting for Godot) I don't think I've read anything by Sartre.

I had no idea he'd rejected the Nobel Prize. It seems very appropriate, though. :)

Heather said...

Suzanna: I *LOVE* Waiting for Godot! It's another of my favorites, which I have read in both French and English, and saw live in Milwaukee. Would love to have seen the NY stage production that starred Robin Williams.

I am Harriet said...

Good info!

Enjoy your day!

Janice said...

I've never heard of him before, but he sounds very interesting.


Xakara said...

Wow, what a wonderful post. I haven't heard his name since Freshman year of college, well back before that meteor wiped out all of my classmates. It's been ages.

The quote that always stuck with me was "Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."

Thank you for this, I might have to dive into him after deadline just to refresh a bit.


13 Circling Thoughts

Heather said...

Thanks, Janice and Harriet.

Xakara: Ah, another kindred spirit! I hope you enjoy rediscovering Sartre!