Sartre 1905 - 1980 (75)

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.


The wall

My life was in front of me, shut, closed, like a bag and yet everything inside of it was unfinished. For an instant I tried to judge it. I wanted to tell myself, this is a beautiful life. But I couldn't pass judgment on it; it was only a sketch; I had spent my time counterfeiting eternity, I had understood nothing. I missed nothing: there were so many things I could have missed, the taste of manzanilla or the baths I took in summer in a little creek near Cadiz; but death had disenchanted everything.

Jean-Paul Sartre (Paris 21 June 1905 - 15 April 1980) was a French philosopher, author, critic, one of the most important representatives of existentialism. His father was in the army and died shortly after his birth, Jean-Paul spent a few years with his mother and stepfather in La Rochelle but in 1921 returned to Paris and stayed with his grandfather so to attend a better school. He studied philosophy faculty at Sorbonne university where he was very active and popular as he was developing, at every opportunity, his revolutionary theories. He met there Simone de Beauvoir, they will be a lifetime couple with an independent, open relationship. After completing his studies, he gave exam and was appointed teacher of philosophy in secondary education, as Simone did, in different cities. He started writing in 1938 and has his first literary success with "Nausea". In 1940 he enlisted in meteorology service and the day of his birthday was arrested, without giving battle, by the Germans. He was locked up in a concentration camp until 1941. He was released for medical reasons with false certificates. He returned to Paris where he participated in the resistance network "Socialism and Freedom." In 1943 publishes “Being and Nothingness”, later he described in an illegal newspaper the liberation of Paris with such patriotism that became famous and was invited to America. There he was received as partisan hero. When he returned, he founded the magazine "Modern Times", started giving lectures filling large auditoriums of the world, wrote ceaselessly reviews and essays on the existentialism, made trips all over the world and met Castro, Che Guevara and other revolutionary figures. He strongly criticized the methods not only of imperialist America but also France as in the case of Algeria, disagreed with the intervention of Russia in Hungary and left the Communist Party as a protest.

In 1964 he refused the Nobel Prize claiming that he would mortgaged his freedom if had accepted. He presided with Russell in a fictional court condemning the U.S. for the Vietnam War and in 1968 went out on the streets along with Simon and students, he interviewing Daniel Cohn-Bendit giving him the opportunity to expose to a major newspaper his ideas on the movement of May 68. Then he travels to Germany where he meets with the leader of the leftist organization Red Army Faction Baanter, in Portugal he thrives near the Carnation Revolution, he participates in the movement for the liberation of Soviet dissidents. He believed that intellectuals must play an active role in society and he was a militant artist throughout his life. In 1972 suffers a severe stroke that leaves him almost blind and stops abruptly his work. Until his death in 1980 Simon took care of him, she was accused that in the end she cut the circle of this friends in order to manipulate him and have him exclusively. A paradox accusation really, for a couple who lived a life away from commitment and exclusiveness. The two of them always had a separate house, had both many sexual partners and sometimes shared erotically girls, scandalizing to its limits, society of their times. But always was there, one for the other. They had no children but each one of them had adopted a daughter. Even while sick, Jean Paul had continued to demonstrate strong humanitarian interest with statements or subscribing texts of other intellectuals.

Sartre was not one of the founders of existentialism, however, brought it to prominence with his work. He was a godless existentialist, believed that man does not have the support of God, "man is condemned to be free", meaning solely responsible for his actions. “Your options are based on your feelings”, “Trust your feelings, which can not be assessed if you don’t act”, "The existence precedes essence," he said, meaning that it depends on us to make our identity, by acting and choosing. We are random born in some circumstances, we manage these circumstances to move forward and create our essence, the total of our features and our actions. We are that. The responsibility is neither God nor nature. It is human’s. We have full responsibility of what we do in our lives.