Sartre .. On reading, writing and the Nobel Prize, “The Kiss of Death”

Reading and writing are what led the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) to the existential philosophy that swept the world in the sixties and seventies of the last century, and whose impact transcended the cultural space to the daily lifestyle and direct thinking of the new generations in Europe, including the French students who descended They took to the streets in May 1968, calling for change while raising slogans with a human taste rather than a demand or a political one. From existentialism, intellectual and cultural currents emerged across the world, and new philosophers emerged from Sartre’s coat, which was not constrained by existentialism and distanced him from the committed intellectual, who kept interfering in “everything that does not concern him”, and rejecting everything that could constitute a restriction, including the lucrative financial prizes, and honorary medals that Granted by states and institutions. The magazine (Modern Times), which he issued, played an important enlightening role, and attracted the great writers of that period, such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Raymond Aron.

One of the books marking a significant milestone in the career of this twentieth-century writer is his childhood biography, The Words, published in 1963 and widely hailed, unanimously, as a stunning “literary success” and the masterpiece of a talented writer. and polyamorous (philosophy, literature, theatre, cinema, literary or artistic criticism), while Sartre considered it a farewell to literature, “literature as the bourgeois end of real commitment in the world”. And thus stepped on the illusions of the literary profession, and torpedoed the legend of the writer, and the sanctification of literature. If he keeps writing, that’s the profession now. “What I love about my madness is that it protects me, from day one, from the temptations of the ‘elite’: I have never believed myself the happy owner of talent. My only job was to save myself – nothing in my hand, nothing in my pocket. With this pleading, the “committed writer” condemned this “laughable priesthood” and the absurd religion inherited from another century. Sartre bid farewell to literature and also buried childhood “the reader understood that I hated my childhood and all that was left of it.” By reading The Words we discover that we are far from the traditional autobiography of nostalgia for the “beautiful lost years,” but rather a stern satire of it “at once sarcastic, destructive, and dangerous. Lonely, aloof, in a vague setting, a simple sentence , a bit brutal, at the end of the page”, so that Sartre’s mother commented on the book, “Polo did not understand anything about his childhood”, even though her son devoted long and beautiful pages to her in the writings. He admits that “the most beautiful thing about his childhood” is ten years He was thrilled when with his mother he discovered cinema, bought dozens of picture book albums, watched puppet shows, deciphered countless piano notes, and wrote his first literary texts. Little Polo with long curly blond hair, and Anne-Marie playing muse, copyist or reader, devoted, enthusiastic and persistent.Having later developed a particular sensitivity to women, Sartre, looking at the world through their eyes, was surely under the fascination of his mother, she tells me about her tragedies and I listen to her tenderly.”

And the surprise came in October of 1964, when the book was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, which she described as “rich in ideas and full of the spirit of freedom and the pursuit of truth, it has had a far-reaching impact on our time.” But Sartre refused the award, and it came in documents The Swedish Academy, which was released after 50 years, said that the writer sent her a message before the award was announced when his name was circulated in the short list, in which he said that he “does not wish to be included in the list of award winners, neither in 1964 nor in the future, and that he will not be able to to accept this award. But the Nobel Committee did not take the writer’s message, and assigned him the award, which he insisted on rejecting, and he did not attend the traditional ceremony on December 10 of the same year, and he refused to receive the bank check for the award, amounting to 273,000 Swedish kronor, and justified the reasons for his refusal of the award as having nothing to do with it. In the Swedish Academy, not with the award per se, but rather because he used to refuse official honors and honors, including the Legion of Honor in 1945 after World War II, for his role in the resistance to Nazism. Sartre explained his opinion in press interviews, and he believes that the writer should adopt political, social or literary positions only by his own means, that is, the written word, adding that honoring exposes his ideas to pressure he does not want. The best summed up by the French writer Jean Genet, whom Sartre singled out for a distinguished study, was the one who was rejected by the literary community because of his departure from the mainstream. Genet, author of the text “Four Hours in Sabra and Chatila”, said that for Sartre the Nobel Prize is a “kiss of death”, an award awarded by “mortal institutions”, citing Sartre’s own saying that “no one deserves glory while he is alive.” Above all, Sartre was committed to his freedom and independence, and did not wish to depend on any institution whatsoever.

In his book, the writer records his childhood in the home of his maternal grandfather (Anne-Marie), the famous French scientist, musician and Christian missionary Albert Scheffzer, in which he lived after the death of his father when he was in the second year of his life alongside his mother, and there he learned to read, which had its role and impact on him and his childhood and his personal nature. The writer is not satisfied with stopping in front of the events with narration and detail, but also by applying his philosophical concepts about the ego and existence through writing and conscious reading of minute details in his early age “When my father died, Anne-Marie and I woke up from a common nightmare”, and in front of him was a big question “Who do I obey?” They referred to him as a young giant and told him that she was his mother. “If it were up to me, I would consider her my older sister, this fixed and submissive virgin. I see very well that she is here to serve me, I love her, but how can I respect her and no one respects her?” Sartre says that his childhood was full of illusions. , that he lived within the confines of the French provinces in the years leading up to the First World War.

A report in the “New York Times” on Sartre’s rejection of the Nobel Prize (October 25, 1964)

The book is distinguished by presenting the memoirs through a special technique of narrating the memoirs in which the literary genres intertwine between the novel, the autobiography and the philosophical vision. It is divided into two parts: reading and writing, through which Sartre reviews his life from his birth until he reaches the age of 12, passing through his family formation, shedding light on some members of his family to his mother, reviewing their cultural formation through the era in which they lived, and the grandfather occupies a special place in the life of The child, who affected his loneliness and deepened his isolation from society “I stayed at home because of my grandfather’s selfishness and possessive position.” The grandfather intervenes in Sartre’s future choices, which should not be writing, but rather teaching for his certainty that writing does not provide bread. It was from the grandfather’s view that Sartre should become a teacher of French literature, and write for the Sunday newspaper if he liked. It is during this period that Sartre becomes aware that “we are the product of what others wanted us to be”. This is what prompted him to rebel against the authority of the grandfather by choosing writing, which he saw as useful in all cases, and in his opinion, culture may not save anyone, and it may not find global solutions, but it is the production of the human being, through which one recognizes and finds himself.

More than half a century (58 years) after its publication, the book is still the subject of very different readings, some of which tend to see it as a simple continuation of Sartre’s radical doctrine, while others see it as part of a comprehensive abandonment of the positions we find in his early texts. Other critics assert that most of these readings ignore the real tensions in “words” between the freedom of consciousness and the weight of circumstances. The book is a literary text whose writing shows us that we simply cannot let go of our past. The ability to approach it in ways that present it in somewhat different directions emerges through writing. Regardless of what we do today, that past has its unceasing presence, and may lead to a Nobel Prize, whether the writer accepts it or not.