Sartre, Jean-Paul (21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980)
Jean-Paul Sartre (21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980)
Catharine Savage Brosman
This entry was expanded by Brosman from her entry in DLB 72: French Novelists, 1930–1960. See also Sartre entries in DLB 296: Twentieth-Century European Cultural Theorists, Second Series, and DLB 321: Twentieth-Century French Dramatists.
La Nausée (Paris: Gallimard, 1938); translated by Lloyd Alexander as Nausea (Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1949); republished as The Diary of Antoine Roquentin (London: Lehmann, 1949);
Le Mur (Paris: Gallimard, 1939); translated by Alexander as The Wall, and Other Stories (New York: New Directions, 1948); republished as Intimacy and Other Stories (New York: New Directions, 1948; London: Nevill Spearman, 1949);
Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (Paris: Hermann, 1939); translated by Bernard Frechtman as The Emotions: Outline of a Theory (New York: Philosophical Library, 1948); retranslated by Philip Mairet as Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions (London: Routledge, 2002);
L’Imaginaire: Psychologie phénoménologique de l’imagination (Paris: Gallimard, 1940); translated by Frechtman as The Psychology of Imagination (New York: Philosophical Library, 1948); original revised by Arlette Elkaïm and translated by Jonathan Webber as The Imaginary: A Phenomenological Psychology of the Imagination, with introductions by Elkaïm and Webber (London & New York: Routledge, 2004);
L’Etre et le néant: Essai d’ontologie phénoméenologique (Paris: Gallimard, 1943); translated in part by Hazel E. Barnes as Existential Psychoanalysis (New York: Philosophical Library, 1953); complete translation by Barnes as Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956; London: Methuen, 1957);
Les Mouches (Paris: Gallimard, 1943); translated by Stuart Gilbert in The Flies and In Camera (Huis clos) (1946), and in No Exit (Huis clos) and The Flies (Les Mouches) (1947);
Huis clos (Paris: Gallimard, 1945); translated by Gilbert in The Flies (Les Mouches) and In Camera (Huis clos) (1946), and in No Exit (Huis clos) and The Flies (Les Mouches) (1947);
L’Age de raison, volume 1 of Les Chemins de la liberté (Paris: Gallimard, 1945; revised, 1960); translated by Eric Sutton as The Age of Reason (New York: Knopf, 1947; London: Hamilton, 1947);
Le Sursis, volume 2 of Les Chemins de la liberté (Paris: Gallimard, 1945); translated by Sutton as The Reprieve (New York: Knopf, 1947; London: Hamilton, 1947);
L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (Paris: Nagel, 1946); translated by Frechtman as Existentialism (New York: Philosophical Library, 1947); translated by Mairet as Existentialism and Humanism (London: Methuen, 1948);
Morts sans sépulture (Lausanne: Marguerat, 1946); revised in Théâtre (1947); translated by Lionel Abel as The Victors in Three Plays (New York: Knopf, 1949), and by Kitty Black as Men without Shadows in Three Plays (London: Hamilton, 1949);
La Putain respectueuse (Paris: Nagel, 1946); translated by Abel as The Respectful Prostitute in Three Plays (New York: Knopf, 1949), and by Black in Three Plays (London: Hamilton, 1949);
Réflexions sur la question juive (Paris: Morihen, 1946); translated by George J. Becker as Antisemite and Jew (New York: Schocken, 1948); translated by Erik de Mauny as Portrait of the Anti-Semite (London: Seeker & Warburg, 1948);
The Flies (Les Mouches) and In Camera (Huis clos), translated by Gilbert (London: Hamilton, 1946); republished as No Exit (Huis clos), a Play in One Act, and The Flies (Les Mouches), a Play in Three Acts (New York: Knopf, 1947);
Baudelaire (Paris: Gallimard, 1947); translated by Martin Turnell (London: Horizon, 1949; Norfolk, Conn.: New Directions, 1950);
Situations, I (Paris: Gallimard, 1947); translated in part by Annette Michelson in Literary and Philosophical Essays (London: Rider, 1955);
Les Jeux sont faits (Paris: Nagel, 1947); translated by Louise Varèse as The Chips Are Down (New York: Lear, 1948; London & New York: Rider, 1951);
L’Homme et les choses (Paris: Seghers, 1947);
Les Mains sales (Paris: Gallimard, 1948); translated by Abel as Dirty Hands in Three Plays (New York: Knopf, 1949), and by Black as Crime passionnel in Three Plays (London: Hamilton, 1949);
Situations, II (Paris: Gallimard, 1948); translated in part by Frechtman as What Is Literature? (New York: Philosophical Library, 1949; London: Methuen, 1950); republished as Literature and Existentialism (New York: Citadel, 1962);
L’Engrenage (Paris: Nagel, 1948); translated by Mervyn Savill as In the Mesh (London: Dakers, 1954);
Visages, précédé de Portraits officiels (Paris: Seghers, 1948);
La Mort dans l’âme (Paris: Gallimard, 1949); translated by Gerard Hopkins as Iron in the Soul (London: Hamilton, 1950); republished as Troubled Sleep (New York: Knopf, 1951);
Situations, III (Paris: Gallimard, 1949); translated in part by Michelson in Literary and Philosophical Essays (London: Rider, 1955);
Nourritures, suivi d’extraits de La Nausée (Paris: Damasé, 1949);
Three Plays, translated by Abel (New York: Knopf, 1949)—comprises Les Mains sales, La Putain respectueuse, and Morts sans sépulture;
Three Plays, translated by Black (London: Hamilton, 1949)—comprises Les Mains sales, La Putain respectueuse, and Morts sans sépulture;
Le Diable et le Bon Dieu (Paris: Gallimard, 1951); translated by Black as Lucifer and the Lord (London: Hamilton, 1953); and as The Devil and the Good Lord in The Devil and the Good Lord, and Two Other Plays (New York: Knopf, 1960);
Saint Genet, comédien et martyr (Paris: Gallimard, 1952); translated by Frechtman as Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr (New York: Braziller, 1963; London: Allen, 1964);
Kean, adapted from Kean ou Désordre et génie, by Alexandre Dumas père (Paris: Gallimard, 1954); translated by Black as Kean; or Disorder and Genius (London: Hamilton, 1954), and in The Devil and the Good Lord, and Two Other Plays (1960);
Literary and Philosophical Essays, translated by Michelson (New York: Criterion, 1955; London: Rider, 1955)—comprises parts of Situations, I and Situations, III; republished as Literary Essays (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957);
Nekrassov (Paris: Gallimard, 1956); translated by Sylvia Leeson and George Leeson (London: Hamilton, 1956), and in The Devil and the Good Lord, and Two Other Plays (1960);
The Transcendance of the Ego, edited and translated by Williams and Robert Kirkpatrick (New York: Noonday, 1957); published in French as La Transcendance de l’ego (Paris: Vrin, 1965);
Les Séquestrés d’Altona (Paris: Gallimard, 1960); translated by Leeson and Leeson as Loser Wins (London: Hamilton, 1960); republished as The Condemned of Altona (New York: Knopf, 1961);
Critique de la raison dialetiique, Volume I: Théorie des ensembles pratiques (Paris: Gallimard, 1960); translated in part by Black as Search for a Method (New York: Knopf, 1963); translated by Alan Sheridan-Smith as Critique of Dialectical Reason: Theory of Practical Ensembles, edited by Jonathan Ree (London: NLB / Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1976); revised edition (Paris: Gallimard, 1985);
The Devil and the Good Lord, and Two Other Plays, translated by Black, Leeson, and Leeson (New York: Knopf, 1960)—comprises Le Diable et le Bon Dieu, Kean, and Nekrassov;
Sartre on Cuba (New York: Ballantine, 1961);
Théâtre (Paris: Gallimard, 1962)—comprises Les Mouches, Huis clos, Morts sans sépulture, La Putain respectueuse, Les Mains sales, Le Diable et le Bon Dieu, Kean, Nekrassov, and Les Séquestrés d’Altona;
Bariona, ou Le Fils du tonnerre (Paris: Atelier Anjou-copies, 1962);
Les Mots (Paris: Gallimard, 1964); translated by Frechtman as The Words (New York: Braziller, 1964); translated by Irene Clephane as Words (London: Hamilton, 1964);
Situations, IV: Portraits (Paris: Gallimard, 1964); translated by Benita Eisler as Situations (New York: Braziller, 1965; London: Hamilton, 1965);
Situations, V: Colonialisme et néo-colonialisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1964);
Situations, VI: Problèmes du marxisme, 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1964); translated in part by Martha H. Fletcher in The Communists and Peace (New York: Brasiller, 1968), and by Clephane in The Communists and Peace (London: Hamilton, 1969);
Qu’est-ce que la littérature? (Paris: Gallimard, 1964);
II Filosofo et la politica, translated by Luciana Trentin and Romano Ledda (Rome: Riuniti, 1964);
Situations, VII.—Problèmes du marxisme, 2 (Paris: Gallimard, 1965); translated in part in The Communists and Peace (New York, 1968), and in The Communists and Peace (London, 1969); translated in part by Fletcher as The Ghost of Stalin (New York: Braziller, 1968);
Les Troyennes, adapted from Euripides’ play (Paris: Gallimard, 1966); translated by Ronald Duncan as The Trojan Women (New York: Knopf, 1967; London: Hamilton, 1967);
On Genocide, by Sartre and Arlette Elkaïm-Sartre (Boston: Beacon, 1968);
The Communists and Peace, translated by Fletcher (New York: Braziller, 1968)—comprises parts of Situations, VI and Situations, VII; reprinted as The Communists and Peace, translated by Clephane (London: Hamilton, 1969)—comprises parts of Situations, VI and Situations, VII;
Les Communistes ont peur de la revolution (Paris: Didier, 1969); translated by Elaine P. Halperin as “Communists Are Afraid of Révolution: Two Interviews,” Midway, 10 (Summer 1969): 41–61;
L’Idiot de la famille: Gustave Flaubert de 1821–1857, 3 volumes (Paris: Gallimard, 1971–1972); translated by Carol Cosman as The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821–1857 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981);
Situations, VIII: Autour de 68 (Paris: Gallimard, 1972); translated in part by John Matthews in Between Existentialism and Marxism (London: NLB, 1974; New York: Pantheon, 1975);
Situations, IX: Mélanges (Paris: Gallimard, 1972); translated in part by Matthews in Between Existentialism and Marxism (London: NLB, 1974; New York: Pantheon, 1975);
Plaidoyer pour les intellectuels (Paris: Gallimard, 1972);
Un Théâtre de situations, edited by Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka (Paris: Gallimard, 1973); translated by Frank Jellinek as Sartre on Theatre (New York: Pantheon, 1976);
Politics and Literature, translated by J. A. Underwood and John Calder (London: Calder & Boyars, 1973);
Between Existentialism and Marxism, translated by Matthews (London: NLB, 1974; New York: Pantheon, 1975)—comprises parts of Situations, VIII and Situations, IX;
Situations, X: Politique et autobiographie (Paris: Gallimard, 1976); translated by Paul Auster and Lydia Davis as Life/Situations: Essays Written and Spoken (New York: Pantheon, 1977);
Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1977); translated by Richard Seaver as Sartre by Himself (New York: Urizen, 1978);
Sartre: Images d’une vie (Paris: Gallimard, 1978);
(Euvres romanesques, edited by Contat and Rybalka (Paris: Gallimard, 1981);
Cahiers pour une morale (Paris: Gallimard, 1983); translated by David Pellauer as Notebooks for an Ethics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992);
Les Carnets de la drôle de guerre (Paris: Gallimard, 1983); translated by Quintin Hoare as The War Diaries of Jean-Paul Sartre: November 1939-March 1940 (New York: Pantheon, 1984); republished as War Diaries: Notebooks from a Phoney War (London: Verso, 1984); new edition, enlarged (Paris: Gallimard, 1995);
Le Scénario Freud (Paris: Gallimard, 1984); translated by Hoare as The Freud Scenario (New York: Pantheon, 1984; London: Verso, 1985);
La Mauvaise Foi, edited by Marc Wetzel (Paris: Hatier, 1985);
Mallarmé, la lucidité et sa face d’ombre (Paris: Gallimard, 1986); translated by Ernest Sturm as Mallarmé, or the Poet of Nothingness (University Park & London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1988);
Vérité et existence, edited by Elkaïm-Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1989); translated by Adrian van den Hoven as Truth and Existence, edited by Ronald Aronson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992);
Ecrits de jeunesse, edited by Contat and Rybalka (Paris: Gallimard, 1990);
La Reine Albemarke, ou, Le Dernier Touriste, edited by Elkaïm-Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1991);
La Responsabilité de l’écrivain (Lagrasse: Verdier, 1998).
PLAY PRODUCTIONS: Bariona, ou Le Fils du tonnerre, Trier, Germany, Stalag XII, 24 December 1940;
Les Mouches, Paris, Théâatre de la Cité, 3 June 1943;
Huis clos, Paris, Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, 27 May 1944;
Morts sans sépulture, Paris, Théâtre Antoine, 8 November 1946;
La Putain respectueuse, Paris, Théâtre Antoine, 8 November 1946;
Les Mains sales, Paris, Théâtre Antoine, 2 April 1948;
Le Diable et le Bon Dieu, Paris, Théâtre Antoine, 7 June 1951;
Kean, Paris, Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt, 14 November 1953;
Nekrassov, Paris, Théâtre Antoine, 8 June 1955;
Les Séquestrés d’Altona, Paris, Théâtre de la Renaissance, 23 September 1959;
Les Troyennes, Paris, Théâtre National Populaire, 10 March 1965.
MOTION PICTURES: Les Jeux sont faits, script by Sartre, dialogues by Sartre and Jacques-Laurent Bost, Gibé-Pathé, 1947;
Les Mains sales, dialogues by Sartre, Rivers, 1951;
La P. … respectueuse, dialogues by Sartre and Bost, Marceau, 1952;
Huis Clos, dialogues by Sartre, Marceau, 1954;
Les Sorcières de Salem, script and dialogues by Sartre, based on Arthur Miller’s play, Borderie, C.I.C.C., S.N. Pathé (France), Defa (Germany), 1957;
Le Mur, dialogues by Sartre, Procinex-Niepce, 1967.
OTHER: Francis Jeanson, Le Problème moral et la pensée de Sartre, preface by Sartre (Paris: Editions du Myrte, 1947); translated by Robert V. Stone as Sartre and the Problem of Morality (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980);
“Orphée noir,” in Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française, edited by Léopold Sédar Senghor (Paris: PUF, 1948); translated by S. W. Allen as Black Orpheus (Paris: Gallimard, 1963);
Hervé Bazin and others, L’Affaire Henri Martin, commentary by Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1953);
Henri Cartier-Bresson, D’une Chine à l’autre, preface by Sartre (Paris: Delpire, 1954); translated by Edward Hyams as China in Transition: A Moment in History (London: Thames & Hudson, 1956);
“Une Victoire,” in La Question, by Henri Alleg (Lausanne: La Cité, 1958; Paris: Pauvert, 1966); translated by John Calder as The Question (London: Calder, 1958);
Roger Garaudy, Perspectives de l’homme: Existentialisme, pensée catholique, marxisme, letter by Sartre (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1959);
Marxisme et existentialisme: Controverse sur la dialectique (Paris: Plon, 1962; revised, 1983)—comprises contributions by Sartre, Garaudy, Jean Hyppolite, and others;
“Doigts et non-doigts,” in Wols en personne, by Wols (Paris: Delpire, 1963); translated by Norbert Guterman as “Fingers and Non-Fingers” in Watercolors, Drawings, Writings (New York: Abrams, 1965);
Ronald D. Laing and David G. Cooper, Reason and Violence: A Decade of Sartre’s Philosophy, 1950–1960, foreword by Sartre (London: Tavistock, 1964);
Que peut la littérature? (Paris: Union Générale d’Editions, 1965)—comprises contributions by Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Pierre Faye, and others;
Georges Michel, La Promenade du dimanche, preface by Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1967);
Matta, Un Soleil, un Viêt-nam, text by Sartre (Paris: Cassé, 1967);
Jean-Paul Sartre, Opening speech at the International Tribunal Against War Crimes in Vietnam, and other texts, in Tribunal Russell: Le Jugement de Stockholm (Paris: Gallimard, 1967); translated as Against the Crime of Silence (New York & London: Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, 1968);
Roger Pic, Au cœur du Vietnam, preface by Sartre (Paris: Maspero, 1968);
Le Procès Régis Debray, text by Sartre (Paris: Maspero, 1968);
Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka, Les Ecrits de Sartre, includes previously unpublished material by Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1970); translated by Richard C. McCleary as The Writings of Sartre (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1974);
“Le Socialisme qui venait du froid,” in Trois Générations: Entretiens sur le phénomène culturel tchécoslovaque, edited by Antonin J. Liehm (Paris: Gallimard, 1970); translated by Helen R. Lane as “The Socialism That Came In from the Cold,” Evergreen Review, 14 (November 1970): 27–32,65–73;
Gisèle Halimi, Le Procès de Burgos, preface by Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1971);
Michèle Manceaux, Les Maos en France, foreword by Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1972);
On a raison de se révolter (Paris: Gallimard, 1974)—comprises contributions by Sartre, Philippe Gavi, and Pierre Victor (pseudonym of Benny Lévy).
The name Jean-Paul Sartre is recognized by millions around the world. For decades, his word carried tremendous authority. Calling him the “intellectuel absolu” (absolute intellectual), “le modèle de l’écrivain total” (the model of the total writer), Bernard-Henri Lévy claimed, in his massive study Le Siècle de Sartre (2000; Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century), that never before had any French intellectual had such prestige—not even Voltaire nor Victor Hugo. Indeed, if Sartre had not long argued that no one can “totalize” history—grasp it totally and objectively—some would claim that he constituted the cultural totalization of France in his century. Adulated by radical intellectuals, Sartre was also a popular author, who did not disdain melodrama and whose most accessible works have been widely distributed. It is said that on the day of his burial, some fifty thousand Parisians followed his coffin to Montparnasse Cemetery. His volumes have been translated into dozens of languages; he gave interviews to countless French and foreign journalists; he supported the political causes of many groups and nations. While his fame underwent a partial eclipse in the late 1960s and 1970s, it revived shortly after his death; he thus avoided critical purgatory and indeed still seemed alive, with six major posthumous publications in five years (although in 1985 critics writing in Débat dismissed him—perhaps in reaction against his previous sway). His name occurs frequently in journals of commentary, erudite publications, and magazines such as The New Yorker. According to Le Monde, approximately six hundred critical works appeared on him between 1945 and 1985 in French and other languages; the rate of publication may have increased since then. Though execrated and attacked by conservative-minded French as dangerous, immoral, hypocritical, turgid, and loathsome, for thousands of other contemporaries, he was, as Patrick Henry wrote in Philosophy and Literature (April 1990), the moral conscience of their century—the “autorité morale planétaire” (global moral authority), in Lévy’s term. While Albert Camus was perhaps more widely admired, especially during his lifetime, no mid-twentieth-century French writer was more controversial than Sartre. If it is true of anyone, it can be said of him that he dominated his age—as Lévy’s title, an echo of Voltaire’s Le Siècle de Louis XIV, suggests by establishing the parallel between Sartre and the great monarch. Even the term “Sartrean era” reflects the writer’s prestige.
When the Swedish Academy named Sartre the Nobel laureate in literature for 1964, it cited his “explosive production,” which “has the impress of a message; it has been sustained by a profoundly serious endeavor to improve the reader, the world at large.” In a highly unusual move, Sartre rejected the award. His refusal must be seen as both personal stance and political act, against the background of the Cold War. The Swedish Academy, he believed, had not chosen to honor his radical political positions but rather, condescendingly, to overlook them. Initially, upon learning his name was on the list, he tried to persuade the Academy to select someone else, according to his statement published in Le Figaro (23 October). He mentioned his dislike and previous refusal of official honors and (probably hypocritically) his reluctance to associate the Academy with his own (radical) undertakings. Simone de Beauvoir confirmed in Tout compte fait (All Said and Done, 1972) that “il avait une orgueilleuse horreur des ‘honneurs’; il n’envisageait pas d’aller faire le singe à Stockholm” (he proudly abominated “honors”; he didn’t see himself going to play the fool in Stockholm). Nor, he argued, should a writer allow himself to be “consecrated.” While it is evident that, from childhood, he had desired success and fame, what he wanted increasingly was fame on his terms, not society’s. He may have wished to dissociate himself particularly from his relative Albert Schweitzer, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize twelve years earlier, and avoid the examples of previous laureates in literature: André Gide, who, for many, lost his prestige as the Great Immoralist when he accepted the award (1947); bourgeois novelist François Mauriac (1952); and Albert Camus (1957), whose antirevolutionary statements and refusal to endorse Algerian rebellion made him anathema to Sartre.
Sartre politicized his refusal by asserting further that interchanges between East and West must take place directly among men and cultures, without the intervention of institutions. Moreover, since in his view the conferment of past prizes did not represent properly writers of all ideologies and nations—that is, was reserved for Western authors or “rebels” (dissidents) from the Eastern bloc—he contended that his acceptance might be inaccurately interpreted. It is obvious that he wished particularly to dissociate himself from the United States, which earlier he had called “rabid,” whose capitalistic economy he had always disliked and which he blamed for the war in Indochina (Vietnam). In other words, as Beauvoir made clear, he feared, along with the ossification the Nobel honor indicated, symbolic appropriation by Western humanism and the bourgeoisie, whose power was, he asserted, founded on capitalism, racism, class exploitation, and imperialism. “The laureate has made it known that he did not wish to accept the prize,” announced Anders Österling, adding, “The fact that he has declined this distinction does not in the least modify the validity of the award. Under the circumstances, however, the Academy can only state that the presentation of the prize cannot take place.” The official citation saluted his work, “which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age.”
Sartre’s refusal merely increased his celebrity; when, later, he was nearly arrested distributing political tracts in the street, sympathizers protested to the authorities that they could not arrest a Nobel Prize winner. (Previously, Charles de Gaulle had quipped that “you don’t imprison Voltaire.”) Some of the press, however, accused Sartre of arrogance, the desire for publicity, and betrayal of French interests. One hostile ideologue took advantage of the brouhaha to assert that Sartre could have lived just as easily under Adolf Hitler as Joseph Stalin. Others criticized the Academy’s choice. In a retrospective article dated 2001, journalist Claude Michel Cluny claimed it illustrated “àquel degré de perversion des valeurs les intellectuels—ou leurs délégués—étaient parvenus” (what degree of perversion the intellectuals—or their delegates—had reached). Calling Sartre a “thuriféraire du stalinisme … du maoïsme sanglant” (a eulogist of Stalinism … of bloody Maoism), Cluny expressed amazement that the Academy’s idealism should have evolved so that it would select one he called an accomplice of daily political crimes and a “démolisseur des valeurs démocratiques” (destroyer of democratic values).
Sartre’s profiles were multiple. He worked in almost every literary genre of his time (poetry being an exception), major and minor, primarily fiction, some quite popular, and drama, successful on the stage and used in school curricula. His creative work can be situated between early-twentieth-century developments— the aesthetic modernism of Marcel Proust, the formal innovations and moral audacity of Gide, the creative, if outrageous, rebellion of surrealism—and the midcentury New Novel, with its apolitical stance and formal experimentation. He was par excellence the spokesman for la littérature engagée (committed literature). For him, at least starting in 1945, writing was intrinsically action, rooted in the present, directed to the present. He assumed in particular Gide’s place as the “Contemporain capital” (preeminent contemporary), with respect to whom, by common, if grudging, consent, other figures were obliged to situate themselves. He is also widely known as a philosopher, whose texts are occasionally included in anthologies despite coolness, even hostility, toward his work among other philosophers. His early thought, including the difficult L’Etre et le néant (1943; translated as Being and Nothingness, 1956) and his popular existentialist writing, occupies a position between, on the one hand, phenomenology (the emphasis on observable evidence and opposition to speculation, which he helped introduce in France and for which he rejected Cartesianism and the philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Henri Bergson), and, on the other, structuralism (the formulation of mental models used to understand physical, cultural, and psychological structures) and neo-Marxism. He is recognized also as a major critic of literature and painting and an important psychological biographer.
Above all, especially in France, the image of Sartre is that of the political essayist and activist, the would-be renewer of Marxism and the supporter of Maoists and other radicals. He used nearly every extra-literary means of publicizing his views—lectures, interviews, committees, journalistic polemics, petitions, personal influence through his band of apostles, agitation, and demonstrations. Memories remain vivid of newspaper photos showing Sartre (often with Beauvoir) distributing radical tracts in the streets; nor have older French readers forgotten his signing of controversial petitions during the Algerian War and other political gestures. The result is that his name still evokes strong reactions; he is anathema to some, nearly sacred to others. Scholars’ opinions are likewise sharply divided, and in the arena of Sartrean studies there have been hostile confrontations, as those investigating what is called “le cas Sartre” (the Sartre case) or “Sartre legend” or “Sartre phenomenon” attempt to reevaluate his career and enormous body of work. Doubtless the man will long remain fascinating for his brilliance, energy, ascendancy, and contradictions.
Jean-Paul-Charles-Aymard Sartre was born on 21 June 1905 in Paris, the son of a naval engineer, Jean-Baptiste Sartre, and his wife Anne-Marie, née Schweitzer, first cousin of Albert Schweitzer. Both families, as Sartre stressed in Les Mots (1964; translated as The Words, 1964), his autobiography (treating his childhood only), were marked by eccentric behavior and difficult relationships, characteristics not unusual for his period and class. Like a naturalistic novelist, he connected the type of people surrounding him to the man he became. His understanding of the relationship between man and milieu goes well beyond naturalism’s cause-and-effect mechanism, however, to become an elaborate method of biographic reading called progressive-regressive. His own reading of himself is not, of course, to be accepted without examination; but critics continue to use it as a foundation for both biographic and psychoanalytic studies. When the child was just over a year old, Jean-Baptiste Sartre died of fever contracted in Indochina. The absence of a father led, Sartre wrote, to his lack of a superego—an absence he interpreted later as advantageous, since he did not have to live up to the paternal image; he viewed himself as his own grounding. (Perhaps Beauvoir later functioned as his superego—the figure whom, he wrote, he wished constantly to impress.) One should observe, nevertheless, that his works are haunted by the question of paternity—viewed negatively almost always—and marked by fascination with father figures. Anne-Marie Sartre returned to live with her parents in Meudon and then Paris. They apparently reared the boy; he and his mother were called “the children.” (In Sartre’s imaginative works incest is a subcurrent, and psychoanalytic critics speak of an Oedipal pulsion.) The commanding figure of Charles Schweitzer, a professor of German, was a relic from the nineteenth century; he took himself, Sartre wrote, for Hugo. With others he was stern; with the boy, indulgent. They shared a world of delight and make-believe—or so Sartre recalls. But the grandfather’s playacting, which Sartre identifies as a reflection of the mendaciousness of middle-class French society, led the boy to make the false assumption that life was a comedy. When he discovered that there were also “serious” things, to which children were not admitted, and “indispensable” people, next to whom his make-believe self counted for nothing, he was devastated. Throughout the rest of his life he had a keen eye for sham, a theme in several of his works. He was similarly so struck by the contingency—groundlessness—of his existence that it became a major philosophical topic for him.
Charles Schweitzer shared the nineteenth-century humanistic sense of the sacred. Among “holy” objects were words and books; the latter lined his study, and the boy supposed that wisdom was contained in them like healing in medicine. His precocious reading experiences soon led to a desire to write—which the grownups indulged with pride. He sensed (or so he indicated later) that writing was a way of overcoming contingency, assuring his being, his place; that is, literature was justification. Somewhat later, however, he discovered that while scholarly books and scholars themselves were acceptable to Schweitzer, anyone who proposed to be a professional man of letters was thought a fool, heading for certain ruin, like the drunkard poet Paul Verlaine. Sartre’s very ambiguous literary career, which illustrates both his adoration and his disdain for the written word, would seem to derive from the ambivalent attitude of Schweitzer; Sartre wrote later that he had covered so many thousands of pages with ink in a futile effort to please the shade of his grandfather—who surely would have disapproved of nearly every line. It is clear that he did not wish only to please him; he wrote against Schweitzer, as he admitted later that he wrote against his stepfather.
The boy’s education was begun at home and continued irregularly at various schools. Having played alone, he had trouble playing with other children. The fact that he was walleyed from early childhood may have made him self-conscious. His life changed radically at age eleven when his mother remarried; when he was twelve, the family moved to La Rochelle, where his stepfather, Joseph Mancy, became director of a shipyard and automobile factory. Sartre’s near-silence on Mancy and the fact that Les Mots concludes with that change suggest that it was traumatic. His stepfather’s interests in science and mathematics and emphasis on discipline, contrasting with the cultivation of letters and music and atmosphere of indulgence at the Schweitzers’, inspired antipathy in the boy. At the lycée, he learned what adolescent cruelty, even violence, were like. He also realized, as an adolescent, that he had none of the religious faith promoted earlier by catechism lessons from a Catholic priest (his grandmother, Louise Schweitzer, was nominally of that church, whereas the other Schweitzers were Protestant). His lifelong atheism was a cruel undertaking, according to Les Mots. After three years at La Rochelle, he returned to Paris and finished his lycée work in 1922 at Henri IV. Whereas Sartre wanted to write, Schweitzer had insisted that he take up teaching. At the Ecole Normale Supérieure he prepared for this career, studying philosophy, which had attracted him at Henri IV when he read Bergson’s works. He wrote a thesis on images and passed the agrégation exams at the head of his class in 1929, after a failure the previous year (perhaps because he had treated the assigned topic idiosyncratically). Taking the exam with him, and passing in second place, was Beauvoir, with whom he and fellow students had formed a close-knit group. Sartre and she became lovers and, according to a deposition she made later, not necessarily reliable, remained so for six years. She wrote that they considered marriage only once—when there was a possibility that Sartre would go to Japan to teach. Their relationship may be viewed as morally monogamous; their lives were closely intertwined, and with rare exceptions he dissimulated nothing from her, since he viewed their relationship as utterly “transparent” (a model of what a new society would create for all human relations). On the intellectual plane, they remained entirely faithful: merciless critics, sometimes, of each other’s writing but vigorously supportive and united by nearly identical views and assumptions. Sartre was the dominant figure of the pair—it was he who elaborated the philosophy which she helped illustrate in her novels and essays—but he acknowledged that she had contributed greatly to his intellectual life.
Each had, however, what Beauvoir called “contingent” (chance or nonessential) loves, usually with younger people; on occasions they established a trio or quartet. These affairs (including simultaneous ones) played a considerable role in Sartre’s life; sexuality and especially seduction were enormously important to him, as readers long suspected and posthumous publications made clear. Mancy had said that Sartre would not be successful with women; the latter’s will to power through writing sprang perhaps in part from his belief that it would get their attention. Beauvoir’s attitude may be viewed as connivance if not that of a procuress, and he related to her in letters many details of his affairs; like the characters in Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782; translated) and other eighteenth-century libertine novels, the pair needed apparently to participate vicariously in the other’s sexual adventures. In the mid 1930s Sartre pursued assiduously Olga Kosakiewicz, a pupil of Beauvoir’s, with whom she later was involved sexually and for whom she and he decided to take practical responsibility; the three were to form a “trio.” (The experiment is reflected in Beauvoir’s novel L’Invitée [She Came to Stay, 1943].) In that same decade Beauvoir took as a lover Jacques-Laurent Bost, a former pupil of Sartre’s, who would eventually marry Olga. Subsequently, Sartre had a liaison with Olga’s sister Wanda. Many other young women followed. Given his rage against the bourgeoisie and its sacred social cell, the family, it is ironic that the terra, family was applied routinely to these groups involving younger people and two older ones—surrogate parents as well as lovers. It is another irony that someone so concerned with ethics as Sartre claimed to be should have cultivated such relationships, for they may be viewed as abusive and quasi-incestuous, if legal, based on sexual exploitation of young admirers by prestigious elders. They were also often founded on lies, in violation of Sartre’s insistence upon transparence in human dealings. He did have mature lovers also. During the period 1946–1950, he and Dolores Vanetti (called M. in Beauvoir’s memoirs), whom he met in New York, carried on a serious liaison, made difficult by long geographic separations and other factors. Later he was involved with a woman from the Soviet Union. After the separation between writer Boris Vian and his wife Michelle, Sartre and Michelle became lovers and were frequent traveling companions.
Sartre’s career may conveniently be divided into several periods. The first covers the 1930s, from the time he finished his military service in 1931 to the beginning of World War II in 1939. He taught philosophy at the Lycée François Premier in Le Havre and in Laon before being assigned in 1937 to the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly, a Paris suburb. He was popular with his students, eschewing an authoritarian, paternal role for a nearly fraternal one. Class discipline displeased him, and it is uncertain how well he fulfilled his pedagogical role. He pursued his philosophical investigations, begun at the Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon, stressing the psychology of the imagination. In 1933–1934 he spent a year at the Institut Français in Berlin, reading contemporary German philosophy, notably the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, whose contribution to epistemology and ontology, interests of Sartre’s theretofore nurtured in Cartesianism and the earlier German idealism, had great appeal for him. Bergson, whose views he would later denounce, remained another influence. Sartre also began writing fiction, some of which is closely connected to his philosophical pursuits. For decades, Sartre viewed literature as privileged; his understanding was like that of Russell Kirk, who asserted that fictional texts were not falsehoods but, rather, were “means for penetrating to the truth by appealing to the moral imagination.”
Sartre’s first publications—excluding short pieces-are an outgrowth of his philosophic reading and personal experience; they all stress the operations and structure of consciousness. In 1936 he published L’Imagination (translated, 1962), in which he took issue with several classic and recent theories of imagination and proposed his own. The study reflected his interest in abnormal psychological phenomena; he had experienced hallucinations produced by mescaline. “La Transcendance de l’ego” (published in 1937 in the journal Recherches Philosophiques and in 1965 in book form) similarly aimed at showing flaws in the concept of the self in works by Kant, Husserl, and others. Sartre argued for a self that was essentially posterior rather than prior to experience, that is, reflexive. A third essay of the period is Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (1939; translated as The Emotions: Outline of a Theory, 1948), which sets forth his phenomenological method as well as his thesis that emotion is chosen behavior. He also published critical articles on such recognized or emerging literary figures as Mauriac, Jean Giraudoux, Camus, and the Americans John Dos Passos and William Faulkner, whose narrative technique and approach to time influenced his fiction and that of other French writers. Sartre did not then write political essays. While he was already antiestablishment to the core, probably by reaction to his family and class, and was convinced that European capitalism and bourgeois democracy were doomed to failure, he was inactive politically, unlike his close friend Paul Nizan. In his later work a certain malaise is apparent when he mentions the Spanish Civil War, betraying perhaps the feeling that he should have protested actively against French nonintervention.
Sartre’s first fiction also dates from the 1930s. La Nausée (1938; translated as Nausea, 1949), originally entitled “Melancholia” (after Albrecht Dürer’s engraving), seems to have developed from writings dealing with contingency. It also reflects the influence of the surrealists, Proust, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. The common assumption that the work expresses Sartrean existentialism and the core of L’Etre et le néant is incorrect. Its primary source is not philosophical reflection but imagination (that faculty in which he was so interested); critics speak even of fantasmes (escapist delusions). It was, however, an occasion for working out phenomenological insights that later reappeared, including those concerning embodiment, and it illustrates a type of dupery to be dismantled later. It is thus not a philosophical exemplum but a work of art—precisely the sort that the boy Sartre had dreamed of creating, which would impose itself (and, by extension, its author) as having an autonomous existence.
Like Les Mots, La Nausée is both self-castigation and self-justification. Purportedly a “found manuscript” (an old literary device), in the form of an erratically kept journal with “editor’s notes,” it records the intellectual adventure of Roquentin, a scholar who has settled in Bouville (Mudville; that is, Le Havre) to do research on a minor eighteenth-century figure. Of independent means, he has only minimal contact with others: a few words, a superficial sexual encounter; Sartre has set him up as a loner, the better to show what man really is when the social layers are peeled off. Realizing, part way through the diary, that he will not write his proposed book because it is meaningless as well as false to resuscitate the dead and live by them (that is, justify oneself thereby), he goes through a profound crisis prepared since the inception of the story. It is both emotional and intellectual. He experiences loss of function and ground. He discovers that the past is dead and the future does not exist; he cannot live through others (as in love) or through beliefs (he has none, and beliefs have no grounding anyway); everything is contingent, and no explanation for existence can be found. “Tout existant naît sans raison, se prolonge par faiblesse et meurt par rencontre” (Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance). There are no values, and those who persuade themselves otherwise and live in function of them (usually to their own advantage) are “salauds” (bastards). The apparent instrumentality of things is only a human invention; the world, a random assemblage of disquieting objects, has no purpose. This groundlessness is the Sartrean form of the absurd. Roquentin’s reaction is profound disgust or nausea, a variety of existential angoisse or angst. His sometime companion, an autodidacte (Self-Taught Man) who haunts libraries and is both a closet socialist and a pederast, is a mirror figure: maladjusted, trying to kill time and fill the void in his life, looking for meaning in books. His ultimate unmasking as a pervert and his disgrace reflect, in the mode of pathos, the meaninglessness of his project and the solitude of the individual. Roquentin ultimately despises him as much as those who condemn him and seems to identify, disquietingly, with an exhibitionist who may have raped and murdered a child—who took action rather than remaining passive.
When Roquentin lunches with the Autodidacte, and thus is confronted directly with the bookworm’s pathetic but irritating self-deception, the result is an acute attack of nausea. Activity no longer means anything at all; the food is disgusting; and Roquentin realizes he could just as well stab his companion with his knife as eat his cheese with it. In a state of panic he leaves the restaurant, runs through the streets, gets on a streetcar for no reason, and ends up in the public garden, where, in a trance-like state, he has a revelation of existence and the world, emptied of meaning when the observer no longer “intends” or projects his meaning onto it. He decides to leave Bouville for Paris, where he will live meagerly on his income and do nothing. He hopes that his former mistress will rescue him from utter futility, but she denounces their past and goes away with another man. However, Sartre, in entire seriousness (although in hindsight it seems ironic), does not end the novel on this failure, for Roquentin discovers the aesthetic solution. It comes to him by way of a recorded jazz song, which seems to have its own raison d’être and to surpass in the mode of the ideal the disk on which it is preserved. He resolves to try to do something similar in the form of a book, not history, but a fiction that will refer to nothing outside itself, be hard like steel, and, as he says, make people ashamed of their existence, while redeeming his, because “jamais un existant ne peut justifier l’existence d’un autre existant” (no existing thing can ever justify the existence of another).
La Nausée fits the traditional pattern of the quest novel but entirely on the intellectual plane. Roquentin begins his diary because something seems changed, and he wants to discover what and why. Even though the search is mental, there are parallels to the traps and monsters of old quest romances, developed linearly but with detours and false starts. The Sartrean equivalent of an epiphany comes when Roquentin discovers the utter meaninglessness of things. But instead of ending there, the novel provides the added dimension of redemption, through a project that surpasses the individual. While very little seems to happen, the mental events and rare external ones lead to the disclosure of reality, which is the true plot.
The work does not lack drama, humor, vividness, even coarseness, although the publisher obliged Sartre to tone down its original vulgarity (as well as its anarchism). The vein of social criticism, introduced as the hero depicts the hypocritical, right-wing bourgeoisie who built Bouville and dominate its industry and institutions, includes, with acid dismissals, superb characterizations (by speech and gesture) reminiscent of Proust’s character sketches. Scenes such as Roquentin’s crisis of paranoia and the lunch with the Autodidacte are very funny. The first-person narration allows the reader to experience these episodes as Roquentin does, and yet the book constantly provides ironic qualification of the hero’s (or antihero’s) insights, save the final one. The most dramatic moments may be those when, studying a chestnut tree in the garden, he realizes that the world is occupied by existants— things: meaningless, nameless phenomena that are utterly absurd. This meditation is highly poetic, for the world is transformed before his eyes, each thing being a metaphor for another, with no ultimate referent. A tramway seat, for instance, could just as well be a dead, bloated donkey, with thousands of tiny feet sticking up; a root is a giant serpent or a seal.
Sartre wrote in Les Mots that he had achieved in his first novel the tour de force of making others ashamed of their existence while vindicating his own. Only later did he denounce the aesthetic project, which La Nausée, somewhat like Proust’s masterpiece, both announces and illustrates. Even then, it remained a favorite of his—although he asserted that it (like all literature) did not count when weighed against the suffering of one child. It was favorably received by discerning readers and was a considerable success; it remains his best piece of fiction. Both the hero’s character and the phenomenological approach to things influenced the New Novel of the 1950s. The style, ranging from pithy Cartesian deductions to surrealistic impressionism, is one of Sartre’s best literary achievements.
The five stories of Le Mur, collected in 1939 (translated as The Wall, 1948), display the power of Sartre’s fantasmes, while reflecting concerns of the 1930s. Like La Nausée, the stories were morally offensive to many because of crude language and topics still considered unsuitable for print. Similarly, they deal with varieties of what Sartre would later call inauthenticity, which includes the mode of the salaud and any kind of self-deception. The subjects range from the Spanish Civil War to sexual impotence and insanity. The tension between the unquestionable authorial mastery of plot, scene, and dialogue, on the one hand, and, on the other, the loss of control experienced by most of the characters, is one of the collection’s strengths.
The title story seems to reflect Ernest Hemingway’s example, not only in its crisp sentences but also in the hero’s sense of himself as he tries to remain “dur” (hard) as he approaches death before a firing squad. Yet this toughness is not just derivative; it is also an element of Sartre’s view of the self, founded partly on a sense of malaise with his own body (perhaps a reflection of his oft-noted ugliness) and his general ambivalence concerning embodiment. The repugnance Pablo feels when confronting butterlike flesh and faces turned ashen with fright, a reaction which mirrors his own fear of resembling them, is one of many Sartrean passages in which the flesh is felt as obscene. Similarly characteristic is the theme of absurdity, visible when the hero, in jest, unintentionally reveals to the Fascists his leader’s hiding place—thereby condemning him to death and producing his own release. The O. Henry-like ending does not seem out of place in Sartre’s absurd, ironic world, which is seen by Pablo as a colossal joke.
“La Chambre” (The Room) and “Intimité” (Intimacy) concern human relationships, explored in characteristic Sartrean ways. In the first a wife is emotionally tied to her insane husband Pierre, whose hallucinations she attempts to espouse by denying that they are delusions; yet, she cannot really convince herself, and the project is a failure. In “Intimité” a wife considers leaving her impotent husband for her lover but— as she sensed all along without admitting it—will not do so because she prefers, ultimately, a man who is dependent. In both stories, as in La Nausée, fantasy plays an enormous role: characters dream of accomplishing things but do not carry out their desires and thus, in Sartre’s terms, are inauthentic. The same applies to “Erostrate,” which takes its title from Erostratus, the Greek who gained lasting fame by burning down the temple at Ephesus. Paul Hilbert, a loner and sexual pervert, a would-be superman, dreams of a similar act, which will impose him on others and destroy, in the process, a few of the consciousnesses that have been judging him. But his plan to shoot six people fails because, as he approaches the act, it appears empty, absurd; in the end he is cornered in a public toilet.
In “L’Enfance d’un chef” (“The Childhood of a Leader”) Lucien, the hero, overcomes the difficulties of childhood and obstacles of adolescence to become a proper young man of the bourgeoisie, the worthy heir to his father’s business. Those who know Les Mots immediately recognize the story as partly autobiographic; the situation is that of Mancy and his stepson, except that youngJean-Paul cut his ties entirely with the bourgeois world. The boy Lucien feels that he has no being, no justification. Efforts to gain a sense of self produce only an experience of nothingness or shame. His solution is to adopt a political position—anti-Semitism— which guarantees him by allowing him to define himself as what he is not. This choice gives him such confidence that he can claim his place in society, becoming the “leader” he was born to be, a member of an oppressive class, a prig and a true salaud. The story must be read in the light of other Sartrean texts, especially Roquentin’s judgment on the “leaders” he sees in the famous museum scene of La Nausée: Sartre castigates not only an abusive social class but also any other choice by which one lives an external imperative.
As the 1930s drew to a close Sartre was known chiefly in intellectual circles—by readers who bought his fiction, published by Gallimard, and the smaller number who knew his philosophical essays. Such novelists as Céline and André Malraux were considerably better known, not to mention giants from previous decades, such as Proust, Gide, Mauriac, and Roger Martin du Gard. The outbreak of war in September 1939, when he was immediately mobilized, changed his art as well as his circumstances. For a while he was posted at the Eastern border, where Beauvoir visited him several times. Their letters from this period reflect his vast reading and intellectual activity even in wartime; Les Carnets de la drôle de guerre (1983; translated as The War Diaries of Jean-Paul Sartre: November 1939-March 1940, 1984) is an even better record of his ongoing intellectual development.
Sartre was captured on 21 June 1940, after having seen no real action. Until late winter of the next year he was a prisoner of war, first in a French camp, then a German stalag near Trier. According to his claim, the experience changed him deeply. He discovered, he wrote, his solidarity with his fellow prisoners, as for the first time he belonged to a unit neither family-based nor intellectual. Testimony from fellow prisoners has suggested, however, that he exaggerated this populist camaraderie. At Christmastime he wrote and produced a play, Bariona, ou Le Fils du tonnere (unpublished until 1962, when it appeared in a limited edition), his first attempt at theater since his university days. He became friends with a priest, Marius Perrin, and discussed with him Martin Heidegger’s philosophy, which he later claimed to have discovered years before but probably did not read extensively until after imprisonment and may have misunderstood. After his repatriation in March 1941 (procured by a falsified medical card—a transparent ruse, to which the authorities apparently turned a blind eye), he told Beauvoir that he no longer saw his work as separate from the surrounding social and political circumstances; he was convinced that it must be rooted in the present situation and directed toward the cause of socialist revolution. This conviction marks the beginning of a new period in his career, characterized by awareness of historicity and leading, gradually, to radical politicization.
Back in German-occupied Paris, Sartre taught until 1944, first at the Lycée Pasteur, then the Lycee Condorcet, a more desirable post. Not only did this employment make him (like all public teachers) a functionary of the collaborationist Vichy government and require him to sign a Vichy oath stating that he was Aryan, the Condorcet position was open to him because its previous occupant, like more than eleven hundred other Jewish teachers, had been dismissed. (Contrary claims concerning Sartre’s hiring have been effectively countered by Ingrid Galster in Sartre, Vichy et les intellectuels.) He thus profited from Nazi policies. In 1945, however, he wrote that the writer “est complice des oppresseurs s’il n’est pas l’allié naturel des opprimés” (is an accomplice of the oppressors if he is not the natural ally of the oppressed), and he later said in a UNESCO speech that German teachers should have resigned rather than work for the Nazi government when it prevented Jews from teaching. This disparity—one of many between Sartre’s stated rigorous moralism and his own conduct—has been viewed by Sartrean enthusiasts as minor; but for more critical readers, such an act of what he called “bad faith” is significant.
Sartre’s Resistance activities were unimportant, although he and his admirers later identified the theme of freedom in his writings then as a call to overthrow the occupiers. His small, short-lived, and marginal anti-Nazi group called Socialisme et Liberté (Socialism and Freedom) apparently had no impact. According to Annie Cohen-Solal, he composed a lengthy constitution for governing France after the war. Since all copies have disappeared, it cannot be assessed, though witnesses later said it was anachronistic and Sartre was a political illiterate. In 1943 he became associated with the Comité National des Ecrivains, a communist-dominated underground organization, and wrote for its paper, Les Lettres Françaises. He also wrote repeatedly, however, for the collaborationist weekly Comoedia; he published with Gallimard, composed film scripts for Pathé, and had two plays produced at theaters that, like Gallimard and Pathé, operated only with German approval, excluded “undesirables,” and underwent censure. It should be noted, however, that he was not the only writer or artist to compromise with the Nazis while professing anti-Nazi sentiments then or later or claiming, as Sartre did, that he belonged to the “intellectual Resistance.”
The 1940s are par excellence the decade of Sartrean existential writing—novels, plays, philosophy, criticism. He was lionized on the Left Bank, where he could often be found at the Café de Flore, and was widely known as the apostle of a new philosophy that gave to nihilism its definitive form and yet was, paradoxically, also a vigorous call to action; he was seen also as a spokesman for a new society, rejecting inherited values and the politics of the Third Republic, politics whose bankruptcy seemed even more striking than after World War I because the old attitudes appeared responsible for the defeat of France. He became friends with Jean Genet and, later, Camus (until they quarreled in 1952). In 1945 he helped found what was to become an influential journal of commentary, Les Temps Modernes, and gave a public lecture on existentialism, which was then published as L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (1946; translated as Existentialism, 1947), a popularization of his views, which gave currency to the term existentialism (not of his coining). It promoted basic concepts of Sartrean philosophy, especially the idea (made current earlier by Malraux) that man is the sum of his acts. That is, while things have defining essences, he argued (a knife being essentially a cutting tool), human beings have only existence and cannot be reduced to any given. Sartre’s use of the term humanism misrepresented his position somewhat, conflicting with his rejection in previous works, notably La Nausée, of humanist commonplaces, including the belief in fixed values and human nature.
His major philosophic text of the decade is L’Etre et le néant, a systematic presentation, in sometimes specialized language, of what he calls phenomenological ontology, that is, the examination of being (the world and mankind, or en-soi and pour-soi) via the phenomenological method. It owes a great deal to his reading of Husserl, which suggested especially Sartre’s method of reduction, or epochè. It also has Cartesian elements and echoes of Heidegger. It develops systematically insights and concepts from Sartre’s philosophical essays of the 1930s, plus his longer volume L’Imaginaire: Psychologie phénoménologique de I’imagination (1940; translated as The Psychology of Imagination, 1948) and his fiction. It has literary qualities itself: after pages of abstract argumentation, the reader comes upon sections that are highly concrete, and others in which concepts are illustrated by fictional situations. It reveals Sartre’s conviction that philosophy must be rooted in experience, thus close to literature. Indeed, many of its concerns are familiar literary themes: for instance, the fundamental problems of how people perceive reality, of how they view themselves (including their bodies) and others, and especially how they relate to others, including sexually.
Such classic problems of philosophy and psychology as time, reality, knowledge, and free will receive very particular treatment at Sartre’s hands. He stresses especially the utter, radical freedom of what he calls human reality and the consequent total responsibility of each person. As he put it bluntly elsewhere, “Chacun de mes actes met en jeu le sens du monde et la place de l’homme dans l’univers” (Each of my acts brings into play the meaning of the world and man’s place in the universe). Some of his statements on being and especially human beings have been so frequently quoted that they are almost clichés: “L’homme est condamné â être libre” (Man is condemned to be free); “L’homme est une passion inutile” (Man is a useless passion). The volume does not purport to furnish an ethics, only an ontological investigation; Sartre suggests that any valid ethics must be founded on human freedom and the absence of God. In subsequent years he wrote parts of what was to become a treatise on morality, published posthumously as Cahiers pour une morale (1983; translated as Notebooks for an Ethics, 1992), followed by a sequel, Vérité et existence (1989; translated as Truth and Existence, 1992). Another long posthumous essay on ethics appeared in Les Temps Modernes in 2005.
Five of Sartre’s plays, which revealed his dramatic talents, were staged in Paris during the 1940s. In Les Mouches (produced and published in 1943; translated as The Flies, 1946), based on the Electra and Orestes myth, his characters discover freedom; even Jupiter is powerless before human choice. The intention was partly philosophical, following the ontology of L’Etre et le néant, but the drama was interpreted also in political terms, as an oblique anti-Nazi rallying cry. Reception was mixed, reviewers being rather harsh on its formal qualities. Huis clos (produced in 1944, published in 1945, and translated as In Camera, 1946, and as No Exit, 1947) grew from Sartre’s desire to write a play with three main roles, each of which would have equal importance; Camus was to have taken one, before plans changed. The play became a tense, incisive dramatization of key philosophical concepts concerning human relationships. All of its dynamics come from competition among different images of self and others in perpetual conflict. The discovery made by the three characters, ostensibly dead and in hell together, that “l’enfer c’est les autres” (hell is other people) arises from the desire and failure of each consciousness to impose itself on others and thereby achieve ratification. Each consciousness tries then to “kill” the others, that is, to eliminate their freedom. The pattern of the trio is not the classic love triangle but rather embodies the complication of subject-object relationships whereby each pair, itself in continuous sadomasochistic conflict, is always an object to an observer, or voyeur. Sartre later said that he had not meant to indicate that all human relationships were doomed to failure but rather that they would continue to be so as long as they were fundamentally twisted.
La Putain respectueuse (produced and published, 1946; translated as The Respectful Prostitute, 1949), which gave rise to the euphemism “la respectueuse,” is much less accomplished than the first two plays because of its reliance on stereotypes and its melodramatic plot; but even using such stock characters as the generous prostitute and the hypocritical senator (the action takes place in an unnamed southern state), the playwright illustrates how a person’s being is a function of his or her role or presence for others, and is thus inauthentic. A fourth play, Morts sans sépulture (produced and published, 1946; translated as The Victors and as Men without Shadows, 1949), was not successful when it premiered, doubtless because it dealt with the sensitive subject of torture practiced by the Vichy militia during the Occupation. Like Le Mur and Huis clos, it presents characters who are sequestered, and their awful drama arises from the necessity of making choices under duress for which they are nevertheless utterly responsible. The play illustrates well the dread and anguish analyzed in L’Etre et le néant, which come from one’s discovery of both responsibility and inadequacy and the ironic absurdity of action.
The last play of the 1940s is the most complex. Les Mains sales (produced and published, 1948; translated as Dirty Hands, 1949, and as Crimepassionnel, 1949), favorably received on the stage, is Sartre’s version of the Hamlet dilemma in a modern political setting. Modeled considerably on the dramatist himself, at least as a child, Hugo, the young bourgeois hero, an idealist and a political absolutist, wants to prove to his comrades in the Communist Party that he is truly one of them, responsible and capable. Yet, when faced with the difficult task he has been assigned—the assassination of Hoederer, an opportunistic leader too ready for compromises and Realpolitik—he hesitates, not through cowardice but because Hoederer, something of a substitute father, has converted him to his own views. However, the assassination is ultimately carried out when Hugo shoots Hoederer as a result of sexual jealousy. The political conflict between idealism and pragmatism is left unresolved, though the audience’s sympathies may go toward Hoederer, who argues that human action can never be pure. The philosophical dilemma is even more difficult: when the political winds blow in favor of expediency and the dead Hoederer becomes a hero, should Hugo assume responsibility for his act and thereby identify what he is with what he has done, or denounce his act as an error? His final refusal to denounce it—to let the Party call it a mistake and thus explain it away— marks one of the few moments in Sartre’s theater when an existentialist choice resembles what is usually understood by heroism.
In composing these plays Sartre was concerned with the social function of drama. Following his politicization after wartime captivity, he wished to change the function of theater in France from one of entertainment for the middle and upper classes, revolving often around love triangles and other sentimental topics, to that of provoking social change, with plays addressed to the proletariat and petite bourgeoisie. He wanted a drama of praxis, or action, to be accomplished not through didacticism but what he called a theater of situations, which would deal with crucial issues in a way that would have meaning for the audience and in which it would be clear that, instead of deriving from absolutes, ethical choice was a function of situation, always characterized by conflict. Ironically, although Sartre’s drama had a wide general appeal, mostly to middle-class audiences, it seems to have had no political effect; nor did it change French theater, which remained much the same after the war until the advent of the theater of the absurd and, later, a new political theater under the influence of Bertolt Brecht.
Before the war, Sartre had planned another novel; he pursued it while he was in uniform and even in prison. The project became Les Chemins de la liberté (The Roads to Freedom). In 1945 the first two volumes appeared: L’Age de raison (translated as The Age of Reason, 1947) and Le Sursis (translated as The Reprieve, 1947). Volume three, La Mort dans l’âme (translated as Iron in the Soul, 1950, and as Troubled Sleep, 1951), appeared in 1949, followed by a long fragment, “Drôle d’amitié” (Strange Friendship) in Les Temps Modernes (1949). Fragments published posthumously in (Euvres romanesques (1981) show the proposed development of characters but omit any precise resolution to the dialectical problem of the conflict between personal freedom and social responsibility; the series thus remains problematical both aesthetically and ideologically.
Like fiction by writers such as Malraux and Camus, Les Chemins de la liberté marks the confrontation of the traditional enlightenment view of human rights with contemporary concern for the rights of groups and political bodies. This dialectic between individual and collective freedom is paralleled by the theme of ontological liberty and the resulting moral dread. Sartre begins with a hero, Mathieu Delarue, who resembles him—a philosophy professor, with a few friends and a mistress but no real ties—and who is obsessed with remaining free. This is negative freedom, or freedom misunderstood, whereas true freedom, as L’Etre et le néant shows, means total responsibility for oneself in a valueless world. Mathieu’s project is simply to remain unmarried and, thanks to his teaching, enjoy an assured income. His progress toward genuine freedom, or quest, is paralleled by the sentimental and political adventures of a wide range of other characters, mainly middle-class.
L’Age de raison, which is closely tied to Sartre’s philosophic works of the 1940s, turns on Mathieu’s efforts to arrange for an abortion for his mistress to avoid the responsibility of paternity. (Beauvoir claimed later, during a campaign to legalize abortion, that she had undergone the procedure; whether there is a connection is unknown.) Subplots similarly deal with denial of responsibility: Boris tries to avoid the commitment required when one accepts being loved; the exasperating Ivich fails in her university work so that she will not have to accept the self-definition and duties associated with a degree. A related theme is bad faith, in which all the characters live, notably Mathieu’s homosexual friend Daniel, who tries to hide his penchant from himself; Mathieu similarly attempts to avoid making decisions in existential dread by denying the need for such choices. The characters are vividly portrayed, especially through conversation and interior monologues in the first or third person. The multiple plots, developed in parallel chapters but connected via Mathieu (a technique inspired perhaps by Gide or American models), convey well the flavor of the prewar Left Bank. The sense of lived experience is very strong. Scenes such as Daniel’s masochistic efforts to drown his cats and mutilate himself, and Ivich’s and Mathieu’s stabbing of their hands in a nightclub, are powerful dramatizations of moral and existential sickness.
In volume two, Le Sursis, Sartre adopted a radical technique for which he was clearly indebted to Dos Passos. Whereas in the first volume the multiple characters and plots are kept distinct by chapter organization, here, more numerous plots are woven together, often in the same passage, even sentence, with no explicit transitions. Puzzling on first reading, Le Sursis suggests the simultaneity and ubiquity of action, or what Sartre called multidimensionality. As he argued in “Qu’est-ce que la littérature?” first published in 1947 (later collected in Situations, II, 1948, and translated as What Is Literature? 1949), this is consistent not only with modern physics but also with his atheistic philosophy, which denies a single god-like point of view, and with contemporary political realities, according to which isolation is impossible and Europe must be seen as a whole. In other words, the novel presents what Sartre would later call a detotalized totality: a Hegelian synthesis in the making, in which dialectical forces operate on all levels, but which cannot be completed.
The title Le Sursis refers to the days in September 1938 when the Nazi armies invaded Czechoslovakia to annex territory where the Sudeten Germans were a majority and, in a notorious act of appeasement, Great Britain and France signed with Hitler the Munich Pact, which Sartre rightly takes as the end of the interwar period. Briefly, Europeans live on the brink of war and then, when it is averted, believe that the return to normal living conditions will be permanent. As a political novel, the work suggests the folly of such appeasement and necessity of commitment, and attacks the upper classes, who were more apprehensive about communism than fascism and, above all, sought to protect their investments. As the continuation of Mathieu’s story, it shows how his awareness of responsibility, deriving from his freedom and gratuitousness, makes him uneasy, although not yet ready to commit himself, unlike his Communist friend Brunet. Others from L’Age de raison reappear in circumstances that situate them with respect to themselves and also the collectivity. New characters, including the historical figures Hitler, Edouard Daladier, and Neville Chamberlain, illustrate reactions to events that vary between appropriate, responsible action and bad faith. Jacques Delarue, Mathieu’s brother, illustrates middle-class fear of communism. The masochistic Daniel, who wishes for war, has married Mathieu’s pregnant mistress, who disgusts him; Boris hopes to escape through military service the unacceptable demands of being loved; Philippe, a coward, prepares to flee to Switzerland; Gomez, who fought as a volunteer in Spain on the Republican side, argues against yielding to Hitler’s blackmail.
The third volume may be the least satisfactory, although Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka, in Les Ecrits de Sartre (1970; translated as The Writings of Sartre, 1974), consider it the best. It matches neither the technical achievement of Le Sursis nor the varied themes of L’Age de raison and seems dated. Yet, Sartre’s effort to develop the theme of freedom is not without historical and political interest. The title, La Mort dans l’âme, refers to the discouragement of those who fought, briefly and futilely, against the Germans in May and June 1940 and those who wished to build a socialist France. Part one deals with the final days of the war, as refugees stream along provincial roads; part two, with French captives in an internment camp and as they are transferred to a German stalag. But the interest is less military than political and moral. The first part is structured like L’Age de raison. Daniel is in Paris, rejoicing in the German occupation and proposing to “reeducate” Philippe (who did not cross the border after all) after saving him from a suicide attempt. Gomez is in New York, suffering so from the defeat that what he has cherished most previously—painting—loses all significance. After the rout of his squad, Mathieu participates in a heroic, though obviously futile, defense of a village. Freed at last from his near-paralysis of action, he shoots at the invading Germans from the church belfry, each shot identified with an act he had not had the courage to perform before. (Posthumous fragments show, however, that Mathieu is not killed.) This action is often taken as the perfect expression of freedom, but Sartre specified elsewhere that it was still negative. In the second part the emphasis is not on physical hardship but on the reaction of prisoners to their condition, with contrasts drawn particularly between Communists, such as Brunet, and the others, who have neither discipline nor political faith and think only of their comfort. The main questions are how to deal with the defeat and what attitude to adopt toward the U.S.S.R. after the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact (a problem that Nizan had to face), which put in an ideological strait French patriots who were also Communists. Brunet’s conclusion that internment is better than liberation for French captives is based on his conviction that only deprivation and hardship can bring about the radical change in their attitude necessary if France is ever to be rebuilt on a socialist foundation.
Les Chemins de la liberté created a sensation; though a few perceptive critics saw its value, Sartre was again attacked for his immorality. Such attacks would not have deterred him from completing the series. But, as he realized, it referred to a period that, while barely a few years distant, seemed almost foreign after 1945; psychologically, the tone had changed. While he desired to write for his own time, he concluded that he could not express the ambiguities of the present moment in terms of even the recent past. For many readers, in fact, the series did not carry the moral weight of Camus’s 1947 allegorical novel La Peste (The Plague). Sartre apparently had difficulty also in developing fictionally what he understood by true existential freedom and showing how it could be realized in contemporary society.
By 1950 Sartre’s name was had become well known outside France. His works had been placed on the Vatican’s index of prohibited books in 1948. His fame in the United States was in part the result of his first trip there in 1945, which, like many subsequent travels abroad—Asia, Africa, and South America—produced provocative essays. His brand of existentialism, for which Beauvoir offered further illustrations in her work, was publicized in many different organs as the philosophy of the hour. It informed Les Temps Modernes and innumerable journalistic articles and critical essays, including those collected in Sartre’s important ten-volume series Situations (1947–1976). Christian commentators on the one hand and Communist critics on the other felt obliged to respond to his positions, giving rise to important polemics; and some in his circle, such as Raymond Aron, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Camus, disagreed with him publicly, especially after the Korean War started. While he had not previously endorsed any political movement except, briefly in 1948, the Rassemblement Démocratique Révolutionnaire (RDR), he had criticized vigorously the conflict in Indochina and what seemed to him to be the warmongering of the United States and right-wing elements in France. Successful as a playwright, novelist, essayist, and philosopher, he was nevertheless on the verge of an intellectual crisis, which would have lasting ramifications throughout the 1950s (roughly, his third period) and beyond. The crisis amounted, very broadly speaking, to putting aside his “negative freedom” and individualistic, artistic enterprises, with their privileged status, in favor of political commitment and communitarian concerns—that is, to renouncing his place as an intellectual in the traditional French sense to assume the role of popular, activist intellectual. It may be viewed as a Sartrean version of passing from what Søren Kierkegaard— whose influence Sartre later acknowledged—had called the aesthetic stage to the Kierkegaardian ethical stage.
While the crisis may have been a delayed development of Sartre’s experiences in 1940 and in occupied Paris, it was precipitated by new factors, it would seem. In a France increasingly divided after the brief euphoria of post-Liberation accord among Resistance groups, he had been unable to create a nonaligned leftist movement; caught in the Cold War, the country was polarized between Communists, with their allegiance to the Soviet Union, and the parties of the West. Fearing war, Sartre had to hope for a Soviet victory, though it would mean the end of France as he knew it. Starting in 1952, he began to align himself with Communism, first in its rigid Stalinist form, later in the sometimes virulent form of French Maoism. He did not, however, join the French Communist Party, which was generally hostile to him. In 1952 he attended the Congress for World Peace in Vienna and forbade the staging of Les Mains sales there for fear it would offend the Stalinists. He praised the Soviet Union lavishly after his first trip there (1954). While he criticized Soviet actions at the time of the 1956 Hungarian uprising and on other occasions, he never renounced thenceforth his approval of revolutionary dialectic, and he displayed obstinate obtuseness regarding the evils of totalitarian regimes. In fact, his own thought may be called totalitarian. In 1972, for instance, he stated in an interview that the death penalty for unrepentant bourgeois in socialist nations was appropriate and that during the French Revolution probably not enough people were killed.
Another probable source of the crisis was, paradoxically, his success. Whether because he was the descendant of strict Protestants and could not help looking upon fame as suspect, even diabolical, or because his pride was so great that success—that is, popular ratification— represented to him appropriation and denigration, or whether it was simply a question of always going beyond himself in a nihilation of the past and re-creating a present self ex nihilo, according to his existentialist understanding of man as project, Sartre attempted to reject the image of himself as successful creative writer. This was tantamount to a self-radicalization— what he called self-contestation or thinking against himself—which he practiced throughout the rest of his career.
During the 1950s, though he abandoned fiction, he composed four dramas—more direct and visceral than fiction—and several major essays, including those on Stéphane Mallarmé, published in Les Ecrivains célèbres in 1953 and collected in Situations, IX, and Tintoretto, “Le Séquestré de Venise,” in 1957, published in Les Temps Modernes and later collected in Situations, IV. His continued rereading of Karl Marx and Marxist historians culminated in the 755-page study, Critique de la raison dialectique (1960; translated as Critique of Dialectical Reason, 1976), on which he worked compulsively, often under the influence of amphetamines, to which he became addicted. He also published his lengthy study of Genet. Titled Saint Genet, comédien et martyr (1952; translated as Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr, 1963), it is a creative application of principles from L’Etre et le néant to the criminal who became a famous and admired author. It insists upon Genet’s self-creation as comédien or actor, by his so-called original choice to assume his identity as thief in accordance with society’s labeling of him, by his homosexuality, and by his choice of social evil as good. The argumentation relies on the sort of dialectical reasoning that Sartre had learned from Marx, transferred to the areas of existentialist psychoanalysis and ethics. The volume illustrates how, for Sartre, genius is a response to a situation; Genet’s lay in his creative forming of himself, which then gave rise to literary expressions.
Critique de la raison dialectique is a review, in a quasi-existentialist perspective, of classical Marxism, considered by Sartre ossified. It proposes a new method for historical analysis, based on Hegelian and Marxist thought but departing from it, especially by insisting on the freedom of subjects. Neither entirely politics, nor history, anthropology, sociology, nor philosophy, it draws on all these disciplines in its aim of understanding class struggle and providing the means for social revolution. Verbose and obscure, it was written with the conviction that Europe and civilization were on the edge of disaster. It denounces, in addition to bourgeois capitalism and Western democratic structures, almost all the social relationships and institutions (called “series”) of the modern world (including those in socialist societies such as the U.S.S.R.) considered inauthentic and tyrannical; it calls for new relationships based on structures identified at certain dynamic moments in history, notably the French Revolution. Analytic reason— the type of Cartesian logic that gave rise to modern science and mathematics and is found in the everyday notion of cause and effect—is denounced in favor of dialectical reason, which proceeds by triads and which Sartre illustrates at length. (Although he rejects the concept of universal human nature, he admits that of universal historical reason.) Departing from his earlier position, he acknowledges freedom as conditional and conditioned by circumstance, but it remains as both a given and an end.
The reception given Critique de la raison dialectique varied. Some critics found it derivative, others obscure, others brilliantly creative. It is so complex and difficult that early appraisals were necessarily incomplete and biased, and it continues to provoke arguments; Marxist critics in English-speaking countries have been particularly attentive readers. Sartrean revisionist Marxism has, however, since been overshadowed by newer revisionist readings of classical Marxist texts and new theories; moreover, the fall of the Soviet Union and changes in Eastern bloc nations have thrown additional critical light on Sartre’s reading of history.
Sartre’s two principal plays of the 1950s are closely connected to the dialectical reasoning set out in Critique de la raison dialectique. Le Diable et le Bon Dieu (published, 1951; translated as Lucifer and the Lord, 1953, and as The Devil and the Good Lord, 1960), is a long, complex drama with many scenes, violent language and action, and strong contrasts; these characteristics, which are signs of the baroque, make it conform well to its setting and subject matter—the religious and political conflicts in pre-Reformation Germany, especially the violence among temporal powers and princes of the church. The play introduces one of Sartre’s favorite figures, the bastard (also visible in Saint Genet, a closely related work). The theme of the bastard is related to that of treason, an important current in the play and a recurring theme elsewhere.
The main topics, however, are good and evil as absolutes—hence the existence of God—and the foundation for human action. The hero, Goetz, the natural son of a peasant and a noblewoman, has systematically practiced evil, like Genet. On a bet he vows henceforth to pursue only good, including the emancipation of serfs and the seizing of lands belonging to the nobility. The impossibility of doing only good—not through human frailty but because of the nature of action in and on the world—is illustrated in a rich and complex plot development. In particular, it becomes clear that all action, being rooted in an historical moment, must fit that moment to be effective: a premature revolt is worse than none, because of its negative consequences. Sartre illustrates thereby the limits of action or praxis, set by what he calls the practico-inert, that is, the counteraction of “objects” (matter, series, individuals) in response to action. Goetz’s failure is both personal and practical (he cannot free the peasants). His response is to denounce evil and good alike as absolutes and choose pragmatic action, situated and directed toward a specific end. On the philosophical plane this means the denial of God’s existence, and Le Diable et le Bon Dieu is Sartre’s most dramatic and, in a sense, positive expression of atheism. Successfully produced in Paris with an impressive cast, it was vociferously criticized, notably by Mauriac, who found its contents morally offensive, and Elsa Triolet, a famous Communist writer who attacked it for political reasons.
Les Séquestrés d’Altona (produced, 1959; published, 1960; translated as Loser Wins, 1960, and as The Condemned of Altona, 1961) is Sartre’s last play, excluding his 1965 adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women. Like Le Diable et le Bon Dieu, it is lengthy, difficult to produce, and somewhat unwieldy in plot. Despite shocking subject matter, it was very successful on the stage. The dramatist had difficulty finishing it, partly because of poor health, and production was postponed. Although such is not immediately obvious, it reflects the historical moment, that is, the Algerian war, which had expanded since 1954. By 1957 it had become clear that torture had been practiced systematically by French units in Algeria against civilians and rebel soldiers alike. The consequent debate on the means of conducting the war and on the war itself tore France asunder. Knowing that censorship under the Gaullist Fifth Republic would not allow him to depict the conflict directly, Sartre chose instead a World War II context to treat the topics of torture and a commercially inspired war. The concerns of the play go well beyond these moral questions, however, important as they are, to embrace subjects ranging from madness to a dialectical view of history.
The drama deals with a German family after defeat in 1945 and especially the son Frantz (a name generally interpreted as standing for France), who has sequestered himself in an attempt to maintain the illusion of German victory and prosperity. His madness, which represents a free choice, springs partly from his having seen a Jew handed over to the SS and beaten to death and having himself tortured Russian partisans. Tense family relationships involving the father, the other son, the sister Leni, and the sister-in-law recall those in Huis clos; hostility alternates with dependence and need for the other, which in the case of Leni and Frantz is full-blown incest. Frantz’s delusions are not only a fully conscious choice, they are also prophetic, as he envisages what in Sartre’s view of militaristic capitalism is inevitable—the destruction of the human race. Many of the author’s concerns and obsessions are woven into the text: fascination with the sister and the father, the oppressiveness of the bourgeois family, problems of authenticity and self-identity, crab motifs (frequent throughout his work), food images, the functioning of capitalism, the theme of treachery, and an apocalyptic view of history that incorporates concepts from Critique de la raison dialectique.
Two other dramas date from the 1950s. For a 1953 staging, Sartre adapted very freely Alexandre Dumas père’s play Kean ou Désordre et génie, concerning the great English actor, born illegitimate. Brilliant, although melodramatic in plot, Sartre’s Kean (published, 1954; translated as Kean; or Disorder and Genius, 1954) presents several favorite themes: identity, role playing, the relationship between self and others, authenticity, and social oppression. This adaptation was followed by a political farce, Nekrassov (published, 1956; translated, 1956; republished in The Devil and the Good Lord, and Two Other Plays, 1960), which, in a Cold War context, attacked the press and public paranoia about the Soviet Union; it closed after a few performances and now seems very dated.
By 1960 it was clear that a radical reorientation had indeed taken place in Sartre’s career and that he had largely carried out the implications of the crisis ten years before. Gone was the novelist; gone also was the philosopher preoccupied chiefly with phenomenological and ontological questions; even the playwright, who had seen in theater a sort of collective intellectual communion, would compose no more original dramas. He had discarded the idealistic conviction—which he called his imposture—that art represented personal redemption because the status of the art object was superior to that of lived experience. Writing was to serve the cause of revolution. Yet, as Les Mots (begun 1953, finished in the early 1960s and published in book form in 1964, the same year he was selected for the Nobel Prize) showed, he was unable to renounce wholly the words by which he had so long lived. “Je me suis ligoté à mon désir d’ecrire” (I bound myself to my desire to write). Even as, at the conclusion, he identified himself with all others, and others with him, his singularity as a writing subject was obvious, as was the value he gave to style; Les Mots, a renunciation of literature, is a superb literary achievement.
In his last productive period (1960 until the early 1970s, when his eyesight deteriorated markedly), Sartre’s writings were chiefly political and biographical, including important essays reprinted in Situations. His most substantial achievement was the three-volume L’ldiot de la famille (1971–1972; translated as The Family Idiot, 1981). The idiot is Gustave Flaubert, who, like Mallarme, had long interested Sartre, perhaps because of resemblances between the author of Madame Bovary and his twentieth-century critic. Sartre had undertaken biographies before: his 1947 study Baudelaire (translated into English in 1949), the book on Genet, his own. Like them, L’ldiot de la famille emphasizes childhood, for even though he rejected much of Freud, Sartre saw the crucial relationship between a writer’s first years and his development. L’ldiot de la famille studies at length, in a difficult style reminiscent of Critique de la raison dialectique and using its concepts, the milieu into which Flaubert was born—not just his family and the professional upper class but nineteenth-century industrial society, whose neuroses were mirrored in the profoundly maladjusted Gustave. The biography is thus primarily social criticism, and although Flaubert’s achievement in fiction did interest Sartre—he wanted to pursue the investigation by concentrating on Madame Bovary but was unable to do so—what concerned him chiefly was castigating French structures in both the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, and the analytic reason and capitalism on which they were based.
Sartre was very active politically, supporting many different causes in France and elsewhere. He signed, for instance, the 1960 “Manifeste des 121” (Letter of 121), which urged French military recruits to refuse obedience, and stating that he would, if necessary, “porter des valises” (carry suitcases, that is, transport incendiary material) in the cause of Algerian independence. He spoke against American involvement in Vietnam and presided over the Russell Tribunals, formed to judge American war crimes. He generally supported Israel and had a striking number of Jewish friends, including the Algerian Jewish woman Arlette Elkaim, at one point his young mistress, whom he adopted legally in 1965 (one of the rare events when Beauvoir was taken by surprise and greatly angered) and who became his executor. He also wrote, however, in favor of the Palestine Liberation Authority and attempted briefly to serve as intermediary between Arab nations and the Israeli state. He denounced the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. During the May student uprisings that year—another stage, according to Beauvoir, in his transformation from classical intellectual into new or “popular” intellectual—he supported the insurgents publicly. It was clear by then, however, that his brand of revolutionary thought had been replaced by one even more radical, and more energetic. Few of the new revolutionaries cited him as inspiration, mentioning instead figures such as Karl Marx, Mao Tse-Tung, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara. He did, though, remain involved politically, especially with the young Maoists and the Gauche prolétarienne movement, and ended by serving as titular editor of the inflammatory La Cause du Peuple and also writing for Libération. As long as he could travel, he spent summers in Rome, a custom adopted in 1953. In 1976 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Jerusalem.
After Sartre lost his eyesight entirely and became increasingly infirm, with small strokes, edema, and serious circulatory deficiencies, he was cared for by friends. The relationship between him and Beauvoir resembled that of devoted spouses who have held the same values and pursued identical undertakings for fifty years. Between Elkaïm and Beauvoir, however, there was antagonism; Elkaïm and Benny Lévy (known also as Pierre Victor), a quasi-disciple, increasingly marginalized the older woman, and excluded her at the time of Sartre’s death. Sartre spent much time listening to music (of which he was very fond). Conversations with Lévy led to L’Espoir maintenant (published in Le Nouvel Observateur in 1980; republished in 1991; translated as Hope Now, 1996). In these pages Sartre appears transformed, denouncing violence as an instrument of justice and envisioning an ethics founded on obligations to others. Critics have seen here evidence of Sartre’s senility or Lévy’s manipulation, noting especially Sartre’s new interest in Judaism, but the principles are just as clearly Christian. He died on 15 April 1980.
Jean Paul Sartre’s legacy remains under review. Books on him continue to proliferate, ranging from biographic investigations and psychoanalytic treatments to political commentaries to narrowly-defined literary studies. Some display skepticism toward his thought, even Sartre-bashing, as in Gilbert Joseph’s study of Sartre in wartime. Somewhat younger philosophers, among them Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault, denounced his brand of Marxist thought and use of structuralism, as he had attacked them. The intellectuals who came of age after 1970 were old enough to have known his influence, young enough to have gone beyond it; some turned against it mercilessly. Although Sartre told Beauvoir late in life that he considered his literary work more important than his philosophy, his stature as a novelist has been questioned. He was not the only novelist of his generation to condemn the selfishness and corruption of the bourgeoisie; Céline insisted even more clearly on the cruelty of the upper classes and misery of the lower. Nor was Sartre the first to emphasize authenticity: Gide, whose example he acknowledged, had sounded that note earlier in the century, before Heidegger made it central to his thought. Malraux and Camus had written of silent heavens and the absurd. But Sartre did so much, and of so many kinds. He renewed old literary themes such as the love triangle and ennui, introduced new ones, created striking characters and situations in his plays and novels, used dialogue brilliantly, and gave a name to experiences of dread, shame, hostility, solitude, embodiment, and emptiness, which readers recognized as their own. He combined irony, crisp analysis, and pithy formulas with passages of impressionistic prose that render the very feel and taste of experience. He was indefatigable in supporting causes in which he believed, illustrating what it meant truly to be a committed writer. Of all twentieth-century French writers he succeeded best at rationalizing his own positions on art, politics, ethics, and the human situation, and his career illustrates better than that of any other French figure since the eighteenth century the union of fiction and drama with philosophy.
Lettres au Castor et à quelques autres, 2 volumes (Paris: Gallimard, 1983); translated in part by Matthew Ward, Irene Ilton, and Marilyn Myatt as Thoughtful Passions: Jean-Paul Sartre’s Intimate Letters to Simone de Beauvoir, 1926–1939 (New York: Macmillan, 1987); partly retranslated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAffee as Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir, 1926–1939 (New York: Scribners / Toronto and New York: Macmillan, 1992); other parts translated by Fahnestock and MacAffee as Quiet Moments in a War: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir, 1940–1960 (New York: Scribners / Toronto and New York: Macmillan, 1993);
“Lettres à Wanda,” Les Temps Modernes, two volumes, nos. 531–533 (October-December 1990), II: 1292–1433.
“Existentialist,” New Yorker, 22 (16 March 1946): 24–25;
Paul Carrière, “Les Feux sont faits? Tout le contraire d’une pièce existentialiste,” Figaro, 29 April 1947, p. 4;
Roderick McArthur, “Author! Author?” Theatre Arts, 33 (March 1949): 11–13;
Joseph A. Barry, “Sartre Enters a New Phase,” New York Times Magazine, 30 January 1949, pp. 12, 18–19;
Gabriel d’Aubarède, “Rencontre avec Jean-Paul Sartre,” Nouvelles Littéraires, 1 February 1951, p. 6;
“Avant la création de Nekrassov au Théâtre Antoine, Sartre nous dit …,” Le Monde, 1 June 1955, p. 9; translated by Rima Drell Reck as “Said Jean-Paul Sartre,” Yale French Studies, 16 (Winter 1955–1956): 3, 7;
“Jean-Paul Sartre nous parle du théâtre,” Théâtre Populaire, 15 (September-October 1955): 1–9;
“Sartre Views the New China,” New Statesman and Nation, 50 (3 December 1955): 737–739;
“Après Budapest, Sartre parle,” Express, 281 (9 December 1956, supplement); translated as “After Budapest,” Evergreen Review, 1 (1957): 5–23;
Olivier Todd, “Jean-Paul Sartre on His Autobiography,” Listener, 57 (6 June 1957): 915–916;
“Deux heures avec Sartre,” Express (17 September 1959); translated by Richard Seaver as “The Theater,” Evergreen Review, 4 (January-February 1960): 143–152;
Madeleine Chapsal, “Jean-Paul Sartre,” in her Les Ecrivains enpersonne (Paris: Julliard, 1960);
Oreste F. Pucciani, “An Interview with Jean-Paul Sartre,” Tulane Drama Review, 5 (March 1961): 12–18;
Kenneth Tynan, “Sartre Talks to Tynan,” Observer, 18 (June 1961);
Jacqueline Piatier, “Jean-Paul Sartre s’explique sur Les Mots,” Le Monde, 18 April 1964, p. 13; translated by Anthony Hartley as “A Long, Bitter, Sweet Madness,” Encounter, 22 (June 1964): 61–63;
“L’Ecrivain doit refuser de se laisser transformer en institution,” Le Monde, 24 October 1964, p. 13; translated by Richard Howard as “Sartre on the Nobel Prize,” New York Review of Books, 17 December 1964, pp. 5–6;
“Pourquoi je refuse d’aller aux Etats-Unis: II n’y a plus de dialogue possible,” Nouvel Observateur, 1 April 1965; translated in part by Lionel Abel as “Why I Will Not Go to the United States,” Nation, 200 (19 April 1965): 407–411;
“Jean-Paul Sartre,” Playboy, 12 (May 1965): 69–72, 74–76;
Madeleine Gobeil, “Sartre Talks of Beauvoir,” translated by Bernard Frechtman, Vogue, 146 (July 1965): 72–73;
Léonce Peillard, “Entretien avec Jean-Paul Sartre,” Biblio-Livres de France, 17 (January 1966): 14–18; translated by Elaine P. Halperin as “Communists Are Afraid of Revolution,” Midway, 10 (Summer 1969): 53–61;
“L’Intellectuel face à la révolution,” Le Point (Brussels), 13 (January 1968); translated by Bruce Rice as “Intellectuals and Revolution,” Ramparts, 9 (December 1970): 52–55;
Arturo Schwarz, “Sartre: Israël, la Gauche et les Arabes,” Arche, 152 (26 October 1969): 32–40, 73, 75; translated as “Sartre Looks at the Middle East Again,” Midstream, 15 (August-September 1969): 37–38;
“Itinerary of a Thought,” New Left Review, 58 (November-December 1969): 43–66;
John Gerassi, “Sartre Accuses the Intellectuals of Bad Faith,” New York Times Magazine, 17 October 1971;
Sartre and Benny Lévy, L’Espoir maintenant: Les entretiens de 1980 (Paris: Verdier, 1991); translated by Adrian van den Hoven as Hope Now: The 1980 Interviews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Allen J. Belkind, Jean-Paul Sartre and Existentialism in English: A Bibliographical Guide (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1970);
Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka, Les Ecrits de Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1970); translated by Richard C. McCleary as The Writings of Jean-Paul Sartre, 2 volumes (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1974);
François H. Lapointe and Claire Lapointe, “A Bibliography of Jean-Paul Sartre, 1970–1975: The Anglo-American Response to Jean-Paul Sartre,” Philosophy Today, 19 (Winter 1975): 341–357;
Robert Wilcocks, Jean-Paul Sartre: A Bibliography of International Criticism (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1975);
Lapointe and Lapointe, “A Selective Bibliography with Notations on Sartre’s Nausea (1938–1980),” Philosophy Today, 24 (Fall 1980): 285–296;
Lapointe, Jean-Paul Sartre and His Critics: An International Bibliography (1938–1980), revised and enlarged edition (Bowling Green, Ohio: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1981);
Gernot U. Gabel, Sartre: A Comprehensive Bibliography of International Theses and Dissertations, 1950–1985 (Cologne: Gemini, 1992);
Rylbaka and Contat, Sartre: bibliographie 1980–1992 (Paris: CNRS / Bowling Green, Ohio: Philosophy Documentation Center, 1993).
Francis Jeanson, Sartre par lui-même (Paris: Seuil, 1959);
Philip Thody, Sartre: A Biographical Introduction (New York: Scribners, 1971);
Jeanson, Sartre dans sa vie (Paris: Seuil, 1974);
Axel Madsen, Hearts and Minds: The Common Journey of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir (New York: Morrow, 1977);
Simone de Beauvoir, La Cérémonie des adieux, suivi de Entretiens avec Jean-Paul Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 1981); translated by Patrick O’Brien as Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre (New York: Pantheon, 1984);
Kenneth Thompson and Margaret Thompson, Sartre, Life and Works (New York: Facts on File, 1984);
Annie Cohen-Solal, Sartre: 1905–1980 (Paris: Gallimard, 1985); translated by Anna Cancogni as Sartre: A Life (New York: Pantheon, 1987);
Ronald Hayman, Sartre: A Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987);
Liliane Siegel, La Clandestine (Paris: Editions Maren Sell, 1988); translated by Barbara Wright as In the Shadow of Sartre (London: Collins, 1990);
John Gerassi, Jean-Paul Sartre: Hated Conscience of His Century, volume 1: Protestant or Protestor? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989);
Beauvoir, Journal de guerre: septembre 1939-janvier 1941 (Paris: Gallimard, 1990);
Gilbert Joseph, Une Si Douce Occupation: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre 1940–1944 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1991);
Bianca Lamblin, Mémoires d’une jeune file dérangée (Paris: Balland, 1993); translated by Julie Plovnick as A Disgraceful Affaire: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Bianca Lamblin (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1996);
Kate Fulbrook and Edward Fulbrook, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre: The Remaking of a Twentieth Century Legend (New York: Basic Books, 1994);
Juliette Simont, Jean-Paul Sartre, un demi-siècle de liberté (Brussels: De Boeck Université, 1998);
Denis Berthelot, Sartre (Paris: Plon, 2000);
Claudine Monteil, Les Amants de la liberté (Paris: Editions 1,2000).
Thomas C. Anderson, The Foundations and Structure of Sartrean Ethics (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1979);
Anderson, Sartre’s Two Ethics: From Authenticity to Integral Humanity (La Salle, III.: Open Court Press, 1993);
Ronald Aronson, Camus and Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel That Ended It (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004);
Aronson, Jean-Paul Sartre—Philosophy in the World (London: NLB, 1980);
Aronson, Sartre’s Second Critique (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1981);
Aronson and Adrian van den Hoven, eds., Sartre Alive (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991);
Hazel E. Barnes, The Literature of Possibility: A Study in Humanistic Existentialism (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1959); republished as Humanistic Existentialism: The Literature of Possibility (Lincoln, Neb.: Bison, 1962);
Barnes, Sartre (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1973);
Barnes, Sartre and Flaubert (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981);
George H. Bauer, Sartre and the Artist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969);
Ian H. Birchall, Sartre Against Stalinism (New York & Oxford: Berghahn, 2004);
Harold Bloom, ed., Jean-Paul Sartre (Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001);
Denis Boak, Sartre: “Les Mots” (London: Grant & Cutler, 1987);
Anna Boschetti, Sartre et “Les Temps Modernes”: Une entreprise intellectuelle (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1985); translated by Richard C. McCleary as The Intellectual Enterprise: Sartre and “Les Temps Modernes” (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1988);
Jean-Jacques Brochier, Pour Sartre: le jour où Sartre refusa le Nobel (Paris: J. C. Lattès, 1995);
Catharine Savage [Brosman], Malraux, Sartre, and Aragon as Political Novelists (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1964);
Brosman, Jean-Paul Sartre (Boston: Twayne, 1983);
Brosman, Existential Fiction (Detroit: Gale Group, 2000);
Michel-Antoine Burnier, Les Existentialistes et la politique (Paris: Gallimard, 1966); translated as Choice of Action: The French Existentialists on the Political Front Line (New York: Random House, 1968);
Thomas W. Busch, The Power of Consciousness and the Force of Circumstances in Sartre’s Philosophy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990);
Betty Cannon, Sartre and Psychoanalysis: An Existentialist Challenge to Clinical Metatheory (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991);
Ronald A. Carson, Jean-Paul Sartre (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson, 1974);
Joseph S. Catalano, A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness” (New York: Harper & Row, 1974);
Catalano, A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume 1, Theory of Practical Ensembles” (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1986);
Peter Caws, Sartre (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979);
Robert Champigny, Sartre and Drama (Columbia, S.C.: French Literature Publications, 1982);
Champigny, Stages on Sartre’s Way (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1959);
Max Charlesworth, The Existentialists and Jean-Paul Sartre (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1976);
Stuart L. Charmé, Meaning and Myth in the Study of Lives: A Sartrean Perspective (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984);
Charmé, Vulgarity and Authenticity: Dimensions of Otherness in the World of Jean-Paul Sartre (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991);
Pietro Chiodi, Sartre and Marxism, translated by Kate Soper (London: Harvester, 1976);
Claude Michel Cluny, “Le Prix Nobel: est-il toujours juste?” Le Figaro, 11 October 2001, p. 5;
Douglas Collins, Sartre as Biographer (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980);
Michel Contat, Pourquoi et comment Sartre a écrit “Les Mots” (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1996);
Ian Craib, Existentialism and Sociology: A Study of Jean-Paul Sartre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976);
Arthur Danto, Jean-Paul Sartre (New York: Viking, 1975);
Howard Davies, Sartre and “Les Temps modernes” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987);
Débat, issue on Sartre, 35 (May 1985);
Wilfrid Desan, The Marxism of Jean-Paul Sartre (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1965);
David Detmar, Freedom as a Value: A Critique of the Ethical Theory of Jean-Paul Sartre (La Salle, III.: Open Court, 1988);
Max Deutscher, Genre and Void: Looking Back at Sartre and Beauvoir (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2003);
Andrew Dobson, Jean-Paul Sartre and the Politics of Reason: A Theory of History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993);
Paul John Eakin, Fictions in Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985);
Esprit Créateur, issue on Sartre, 17 (Spring 1977);
Joseph P. Fell, Heidegger and Sartre (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979);
Thomas R. Flynn, Sartre and Marxist Existentialism: The Test Case of Collective Responsibility (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1984);
Flynn, Sartre, Foucault, and Historical Reason (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997);
Jean-François Fourny and Charles D. Minahen, eds., Situating Sartre in Twentieth-Century Thought and Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997);
Nik Farrell Fox, The New Sartre: Explorations in Postmodernism (New York & London: Continuum, 2003);
French Review, issue on Sartre, 55 (Summer 1982);
Marc Froment-Meurice, Sartre et I’existentialisme (Paris: Nathan, 1984);
Ingrid Galster, Le Théâtre de Jean-Paul Sartre: devant ses premiers critiques. 1: Les Pièces créées sous I’Occupation allemande, “Les Mouches” et “Huis clos” (Tübingen: Gunter Narr / Paris: Jean-Michel Place, 1986);
Galster, La Naissance du ‘phénomène Sartre’: Raisons d’un succès (Paris: Seuil, 2001);
Galster, Sartre, Vichy et les intellectuels (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001);
Simon Glynn, ed., Sartre: An Investigation of Some Major Themes (Brookfield, Vt.: Gower, 1987);
Rhiannon Goldthorpe, Sartre: Literature and Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984);
Hayim Gordon and Rivca Gordon, Sartre and Evil: Guidelines for a Struggle (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995);
Gila J. Hayim, The Existential Sociology of Jean-Paul Sartre (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980);
Steve Hendley, Reason and Relativism: A Sartrean Investigation (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991);
Charles G. Hill, Jean-Paul Sartre: Freedom and Commitment (New York: Peter Lang, 1992);
Denis Hollier, Politique de la prose: Jean-Paul Sartre et I’an quarante (Paris: Gallimard, 1982); translated by Jeffrey Mehlman as The Politics of Prose: Essay on Sartre (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986);
Christina Howells, Sartre’s Theory of Literature (London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 1979);
Howells, The Cambridge Companion to Sartre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992);
Howells, ed., Sartre: The Necessity of Freedom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988);
John Ireland, Sartre, un art déloyal: théâtralité et engagement (Paris: Jean-Michel Place, 1994);
Francis Jeanson, Sartre et le problème moral (Paris: Gallimard, 1947; revised, 1965); translated by Robert V. Stone as Sartre and the Problem of Morality (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980);
Niilo Kauppi, French Intellectual Nobility: Institutional and Symbolic Transformations in the Post-Sartrian Era (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996);
Edith Kern, ed., Sartre: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice-Hall, 1962);
Douglas Kirsner, The Schizoid World of Jean-Paul Sartre and R. D. Laing (St. Lucia, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1976);
Dominick LaCapra, A Preface to Sartre (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978);
James Lawler, The Existential Marxism of Jean-Paul Sartre (Amsterdam: Grüner, 1976);
Andrew N. Leak, The Perverted Consciousness: Sexuality and Sartre (London: Macmillan / New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989);
Benny Lévy [Pierre Victor], Le Nom de l’homme: Dialogue avec Sartre (Lagrasse, France: Verdier, 1984);
Bernard-Henri Lévy, Le Siècle de Sartre; Une enquête philosophique (Paris: Grasset, 2000); translated by Andrew Brown as Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Polity, 2003);
Gail Evelyn Linsenbard, An Investigation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Posthumously Published “Notebooks for an Ethics” (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000);
Jean-François Louette, Sartre centre Nietzsche: “Les Mouches,” “Huis clos,” “Les Mots” (Grenoble, France: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 1996);
Christopher Macann, Four Phenomenological Philosophers: Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty (London & New York: Routledge, 1993);
William L. McBride, Sartre’s Political Theory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991);
McBride, ed., Sartre’s Life, Times, and Vision du Le Monde (New York: Garland, 1997);
Dorothy McCall, The Theater of Jean-Paul Sartre (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969);
Joseph H. McMahon, Humans Being: The World of Jean-Paul Sartre (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971);
Istvân Mészâros, The Work of Sartre, Volume 1: Search for Freedom (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1979; Brighton, U.K.: Harvester, 1979);
Phyllis Sutton Morris, Sartre’s Concept of a Person: An Analytic Approach (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1976);
Julien S. Murphy, ed., Feminist Interpretations of Jean-Paul Sartre (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999);
Obliques, issue on Sartre, nos. 18–19 (1979);
Josette Pacaly, Sartre au miroir: Une lecture psychanalytique de ses écrits biographiques (Paris: Klincksieck, 1980);
Papers in Romance, issue on Sartre, 3 (Spring 1981);
Marius Perrin, Avec Sartre au Stalag 12D (Paris: J. P. Delarge, 1980);
Philippe Petit, La Cause de Sartre (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2000);
Philosophy Today, issues on Sartre, 19 (Winter 1975), 24 (Fall 1980);
William Plank, Sartre and Surrealism (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1981);
Catherine Poisson, Sartre et Beauvoir: du je au nous (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002);
Gerald Prince, Métaphysique et technique dans l’oeuvre romanesque de Sartre (Geneva: Droz, 1968);
Tilottama Rajan, Deconstruction and the Remainders of Phenomenology: Sartre, Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 2002);
Alain D. Ranwez, Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Les Temps Modernes”: A Literary History, 1945–1952 (Troy, N.Y.: Whitston, 1981);
W. D. Redfern, Sartre: “Huis-Clos” and “Les Séquestrés d’Altona” (London: Grant & Cutler, 1995);
Paul Reed, Sartre, “La Nausée” (London: Grant & Cutler, 1987);
Reed, Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mains sales (Glasgow: University of Glasgow French and German Publications, 1988);
Peter Royle, The Sartre-Camus Controversy: A Literary and Philosophical Critique (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1982);
Ronald E. Santoni, Bad Faith, Good Faith, and Authenticity in Sartre’s Early Philosophy (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995);
Santoni, Sartre on Violence: Curiously Ambivalent (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003);
Paul A. Schilpp, ed., The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre (La Salle, III.: Open Court, 1981);
William Ralph Schroeder, Sartre and His Predecessors: The Self and the Other (London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984);
Michael Scriven, Politics and Culture in Postwar France (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999);
Scriven, Sartre’s Existential Biographies (London: Macmillan, 1984);
Scriven, Sartre and the Media (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993);
Hugh Silverman and Frederick Elliston, eds., Jean-Paul Sartre: Contemporary Approaches to His Philosophy (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1980);
Rosalind Silvester, Seeking Sartre’s Style: Stylistic Inroads into “Les Chemins de la liberté” (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003);
Jean-François Sirinelli, Deux intellectuels dans le siècle, Sartre et Aron (Paris: Fayard, 1995);
George Stack, Sartre’s Philosophy of Social Existence (St. Louis, Mo.: Green, 1977);
Benjamin Suhl, Jean-Paul Sartre: The Philosopher as a Literary Critic (New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1970);
“Témoins de Sartre,” Les Temps Modernes, two volumes, nos. 531–533 (October-December 1990) (triple issue);
Le Temps Modernes, nos. 632–634 (July-October 2005) special triple issue ’devoted to Sartre’;
Michael Theunissen, The Other: Studies in the Social Ontology of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, and Buber, translated by Christopher Macann (Cambridge: Mass.: MIT Press, 1984);
Philip Thody, Jean-Paul Sartre (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992);
H. W. Wardman, Jean-Paul Sartre: The Evolution of His Thought and Art (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992);
Mary Warnock, ed., Sartre: A Collection of Critical Essays (Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1971);
Margaret Whitford, Merleau-Ponty’s Critique of Sartre’s Philosophy (Lexington, Ky.: French Forum Monographs, 1982);
Olivier Wickers, Trois aventures extraordinaires de Jean-Paul Sartre (Paris: Gallimard, 2000);
Kathleen Virginia Wider, The Bodily Nature of Consciousness: Sartre and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1997);
Robert Wilcocks, ed., Critical Essays on Jean-Paul Sartre (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988);
Colin Wilson, Anti-Sartre (San Bernadino, Cal.: Borgo, 1981);
Philip R. Wood, Understanding Jean-Paul Sartre (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1990).
The Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris has manuscripts of several of Sartre’s works. Many of his papers remain in private collections.