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Summary Article: Sartre, Jean-Paul
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French author and philosopher. He was a leading proponent of existentialism. He published his first novel, La Nausée/Nausea (1937), followed by the trilogy Les Chemins de la liberté/Roads to Freedom (1944–45) and many plays, including Les Mouches/The Flies (1943), Huis clos/In Camera (1944), and Les Séquestrés d'Altona/The Condemned of Altona (1960). L'Etre et le néant/Being and Nothingness (1943), his first major philosophical work, sets out a radical doctrine of human freedom. In the later work Critique de la raison dialectique/Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) he tried to produce a fusion of existentialism and Marxism. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964, which he declined.

Sartre was born in Paris, and was the long-time companion of the feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir. During World War II he was a prisoner for nine months, and on his return from Germany joined the Resistance. As a founder of existentialism, he edited its journal Les Temps modernes/Modern Times, and expressed its tenets in his novels and plays. According to Sartre, people have to create their own destiny without relying on powers higher than themselves. Awareness of this freedom takes the form of anxiety, and people therefore attempt to flee from awareness into what he terms mauvaise foi (‘bad faith’); this is the theory he put forward in L'Etre et le néant. In Les Mains sales/Crime passionel (1948) he attacked aspects of communism while remaining generally sympathetic. In his later work Sartre became more sensitive to the social constraints on people's actions. He refused the Nobel Prize for ‘personal reasons’, but allegedly changed his mind later, saying he wanted it for the money.

His other philosophical publications include L'Imagination/Imagination (1936), Esquisse d'une théorie des émotions/Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions (1939), L'Imaginaire/The Imaginary (1940), L'Existentialisme est un humanisme/Existentialism and Humanism 1946, and Situations (1947–76). Le Mur/The Wall and Other Short Stories appeared in 1939 and the play Les Jeux sont faits/The Chips are Down in 1944; his other plays include Morts sans sépulture/Men without Shadows (1947), La Putain respectueuse/The Respectable Prostitute (1946), Le Diable et le bon Dieu/The Devil and the Good Lord (1951), and Nekrassov (1953). He also wrote literary criticism, Qu'est-ce que la littérature?/What is Literature? (1948), and biographies of Charles Baudelaire in 1947, Jean Genet in 1952, and Gustave Flaubert in 1971. Les Mots/Words (1963) is an autobiographical fragment.

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