Jean-Paul Sartre

The French existentialist, dramatist, essayist and novelist, Jean-Paul Sartre, was both in Paris in 1905. He studied at the École Normale Supérieure from 1924 to 1928. He taught philosophy at a number of lycées, both in Paris and elsewhere. From 1933 to 1935, he was a research student at the Institut Français in Berlin and at the University of Freiburg. From 1936 on he published a philosophical novel, La Nausée (1938)), and a collection of stories, Le Mur (1939; The Wall), as well as a number of philosophical studies. At the outbreak of war in 1939, he was called up by the French Army and in 1940 was captured by the Germans. Released after the armistice, he returned to Paris, where he continued to teach philosophy until 1944. During these years he completed L'Être et le néant (1943; Being and Nothingness), his major philosophical work. He was active in the resistance, and at the end of the war he emerged as the dominant figure in the existentialist movement.

During the early post-war years he wrote a number of novels and plays which made him a figure of world renown. As one of the founders (with Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merleau-Ponty) of Les Temps modernes, a review devoted to the discussion of political and literary questions from an existentialist point of view, he took an active part in the ideological controversies of his time. In 1951 he unsuccessfully attempted to found a new political movement that was to be radically to the left but noncommunist.

Sartre's political activities, which provided numerous disputes with his friends Albert Camus and Merleau-Ponty, led him into periods of cooperation with the French Communist Party, of which he was often highly critical. His last major philosophical undertaking was the Critique de la raison dialectique (1960; Critique of Dialectical Reason), of which only Volume I ever appeared, was a restatement of Marxism that is intended to show its underlying harmony with modern existentialism. In 1964 he was awarded, but declined to accept, the Nobel Prize for literature. In the later 1960s he became closely involved in opposition to American involvement in Vietnam, and expressed support for student rebellion in 1968. Sartre died in 1980 and was buried with all the honors of a French national hero.

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