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Jean-Paul Sartre

The "philosopher without faith" was born in Paris in 1905 and passed on in 1980. In those 75 years, Sartre was not just a philosopher but a playwright, novelist, and a left-wing activist. He lost his father at an early age and was raised by his maternal grandfather. He graduated from the Ecole Normal Superieure, Paris, in 1929 but was far from normal! Sartre taught in secondary schools from 1931 to 1945. Also, during this time, he spent a year studying in Berlin and in 1939, was drafted to serve in World War II. He was captured as a prisoner of war from 1940 to 1941.

In the 30's and 40's, influenced by philosophers Martin Heidegger and Edmund Husserl, he made Existentialism well known in France and later all over the world through his writings. Sartre has drawn a lot of attention to individual freedom and creativity, and through his essay, Being and Nothingness, he places human conciousness, or no-thingness, in opposition to being, or thingness (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

The philosopher took part in the Resistance until the end of the war. He also became interested in French politcal movements and an admirer of the Soviet Union, however, he did not join the Communist Party. He quit teaching and slowed his writing to a bare minimum in 1971 and participated in rioting, in the sale of left-wing literature, and other activities to promote "the revolution."

After the war, Sartre began to intertwine his ethical message to the world through his literature. His message was now that freedom implied social responsibility. All of his plays, including the 1944 play Huis-clos (No Exit),seem predominantly pessimistic in their emphasis on the hostility between man. However, according to Sartre, their content does not exclude the possibility of a "morality of salvation" (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Also, in 1964, he refused to accept a Nobel Prize for literature.

Sartre wrote many novels and plays one of which is a biography of Flaubert, a French novelist who became well known for his novel of Madame Bovary (this review can be found through the AP Homepage link). It has been viewed by some critics that Sartre's works about Flaubert reveal his discovery of himself in Faubert and Faubert in himself.

Sartre turned the last page of his book in a hospital for a pulmonary edema in 1980. His condition worsened until he died in a coma in mid-April. He will, however, be remembered through his vast contributions to both literature and philosophy.

Sartre is an internationally known figure and has made Existentialism well-known as well. Some of his other works include Nausea, Imagination: A Psychological Critique, Iron in the Soul, The Flies, Dirty Hands, and Lucifer and the Lord. If you like No Exit, you may want to explore some of these works, as well.

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