“Jumping Jean Sartre”
“It is certain that we cannot escape anguish, for we are anguish”.
“I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating”.
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980), normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre, was a French existentialist philosopher, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist, and critic.
“You must be afraid, my son. That is how one becomes an honest citizen”. – Mother to her young son, Act 1 – The Flies (1943) – Les mouches (The Flies)
“Every age has its own poetry; in every age the circumstances of history choose a nation, a race, a class to take up the torch by creating situations that can be expressed or transcended only through poetry”. – “Orphée Noir (Black Orpheus)”
“He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about with him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no one had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he thought them into being”. – L’âge de raison (The Age of Reason) (1945)
Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone Berriau et Hélèna Bossis
“What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man simply is. Not that he is simply what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives himself after already existing – as he wills to be after that leap towards existence. Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism”. Existentialism Is a Humanism, lecture (1946)
Aside from the impact of Nausea, Sartre’s major work of fiction was The Roads to Freedom trilogy which charts the progression of how World War II affected Sartre’s ideas. In this way, Roads to Freedom presents a less theoretical and more practical approach to existentialism.
Despite their similarities as polemicists, novelists, adapters, and playwrights, Sartre’s literary work has been counterposed, often pejoratively, to that of Camus in the popular imagination. In 1948 the Roman Catholic Church placed Sartre’s oeuvre on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (List of Prohibited Books).
Nausea (1938) – La nausée (Nausea)
“I construct my memories with my present. I am lost, abandoned in the present. I try in vain to rejoin the past: I cannot escape”.
1630s, “to feel sick, to become affected with nausea,” from nauseat- past participle stem of Latin nauseare “to feel seasick, to vomit,” also “to cause disgust,” from nausea (see nausea). Related: Nauseated; nauseating; nauseatingly. In its early life it also had transitive senses of “to reject (food, etc.) with a feeling of nausea” (1640s) and “to create a loathing in, to cause nausea” (1650s). Careful writers use nauseated for “sick at the stomach” and reserve nauseous (q.v.) for “sickening to contemplate.”
early 15c., vomiting, from Latin nausea “seasickness,” from Ionic Greek nausia (Attic nautia) “seasickness, nausea, disgust,” literally “ship-sickness,” from naus “ship” (see naval). Despite its etymology, the word in English seems never to have been restricted to seasickness.
“As if there could be true stories: things happen in one way, and we retell them in the opposite way”.
“This indifference of “things in themselves” (closely linked with the later notion of “being-in-itself” in his Being and Nothingness) has the effect of highlighting all the more the freedom Roquentin has to perceive and act in the world; everywhere he looks, he finds situations imbued with meanings which bear the stamp of his existence. Hence the “nausea” referred to in the title of the book; all that he encounters in his everyday life is suffused with a pervasive, even horrible, taste—specifically, his freedom. The book takes the term from Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where it is used in the context of the often nauseating quality of existence”.
“For the moment, the jazz is playing; there is no melody, just notes, a myriad of tiny tremors. The notes know no rest, an inflexible order gives birth to them then destroys them, without ever leaving them the chance to recuperate and exist for themselves…. I would like to hold them back, but I know that, if I succeeded in stopping one, there would only remain in my hand a corrupt and languishing sound. I must accept their death; I must even want that death: I know of few more bitter or intense impressions”.
In Letter on Humanism, Heidegger criticized Sartre’s existentialism: “Existentialism says existence precedes essence. In this statement he is taking existentia and essentia according to their metaphysical meaning, which, from Plato’s time on, has said that essentia precedes existentia. Sartre reverses this statement. But the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement. With it, he stays with metaphysics, in oblivion of the truth of Being.”
Brian C. Anderson denounced Sartre as an apologist for tyranny and terror because of his support for Stalinism, Maoism, and Castro’s regime in Cuba.
Paul Johnson denounced Sartre’s ideas for their influence on the Khmer Rouge: “The events in Cambodia in the 1970s, in which between one-fifth and one-third of the nation was starved to death or murdered, were entirely the work of a group of intellectuals, who were for the most part pupils and admirers of Jean-Paul Sartre – ‘Sartre’s Children’ as I call them.”
“I would like [people] to remember Nausea, [my plays] No Exit and The Devil and the Good Lord, and then my two philosophical works, more particularly the second one, Critique of Dialectical Reason. Then my essay on Genet, Saint Genet…. If these are remembered, that would be quite an achievement, and I don’t ask for more. As a man, if a certain Jean-Paul Sartre is remembered, I would like people to remember the milieu or historical situation in which I lived,… how I lived in it, in terms of all the aspirations which I tried to gather up within myself”
“I know. I know that I shall never again meet anything or anybody who will inspire me with passion. You know, it’s quite a job starting to love somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment, in the very beginning, when you have to jump across a precipice: if you think about it you don’t do it. I know I’ll never jump again”.
Sartre wrote successfully in a number of literary modes and made major contributions to literary criticism and literary biography. His plays are richly symbolic and serve as a means of conveying his philosophy. The best-known, Huis-clos (No Exit), contains the famous line “L’enfer, c’est les autres,” usually translated as “Hell is other people.”
“I am a man, Jupiter, and each man must invent his own path”. Orestes, Act 3 – The Flies (1943) – Les mouches (The Flies)