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MonkeyNotes-No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

JEAN PAUL SARTRE

Jean Paul Sartre was born in Paris on June 21, 1905 to Jean- Baptiste and Anne Marie Sartre. His father, a naval officer, died shortly after Sartre's birth. The young Sartre and his mother moved in with his maternal grandfather, Charles Schweitzer. The famous scientist and philosopher, Albert Schweitzer, was Sartre's cousin.

As a youth, Sartre was brought up in the Catholic faith. Since he suffered from delicate health and crossed-eyes, he could not pursue many childhood activities and had few friends. He attended school in Paris until his mother remarried and moved him to Rochelle with her new husband. Sartre was always a good student with a lively imagination. Even though he disliked mathematics, he graduated from high school with good marks. After graduation, he went to Paris to study philosophy at the famous and demanding Ecole Normale Superieure; he graduated first in his class. While there he also met Simone de Beauvoir, another famous French author; his long-time friendship with her was the longest relationship he ever had with a woman.

After leaving Ecole Normale, Sartre taught high school from 1931 to 1939. He took a one-year sabbatical leave from teaching in 1934 to study German philosophy in Berlin. Upon his return from Germany, he began to formulate his own philosophies and devote himself to writing. He published his first novel, Nausea, in 1938; many critics consider this somewhat autobiographical work to be his best. In it he expresses his belief that a person feels nauseated when exposed to a meaningless existence.


In 1939, Sartre was drafted into the French army and served for sixteen months, fighting in World War II. In 1940, he was captured by the enemy and imprisoned; however, he was released in 1941 because of his poor health. His war experiences still helped to shape his leftist philosophies. His imprisonment also gave him the opportunity to write his first play, a Christmas tale that was presented to the other prisoners-of-war. After his release from the army, Sartre returned to his teaching post in Paris. He resigned in 1946 to devote himself full time to his writing career.

In 1943, Sartre published his first play, The Flies, which met with critical acclaim. In the same year, he also wrote Being and Nothingness, one of his most famous philosophical treaties that investigates the nature of existence and man's choice to become whatever he chooses to be. In 1944, No Exit was published, firmly establishing him as a playwright. In 1945, he founded a monthly review, entitled Les Temps Modernes (Modern Times).

Sartre's other major works include The Age of Reason and The Reprieve, two novels of a trilogy published in 1945; Existentialism and Humanism, a philosophical treatise published in 1946; The Chips are Down, a play published in 1947; Dirty Hands, a play published in 1948; Iron in the Soul, the third novel in the trilogy published in 1949; Saint Genet, a biography published in 1953; The Condemned of Altona, a play published in 1959; Critique of Dialectical Reason, a political treatise published in 1960; The Words, his autobiographical work published in 1963; and Flaubert, a three-volume biography published in 1971 and 1972.

In 1964, Sartre was granted the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he refused to accept it. Sartre died in 1980, at the age of seventy-five. Today, he is considered one of the greatest thinkers and philosophers of the twentieth century; he is probably most remembered for his theories of existentialism.

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