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Jean-Paul Sartre


Jean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris in 1905. His father was a French naval officer, while his mother was a cousin of Albert Schweitzer. His father died when Sartre was fifteen months old and he was brought up by his mother and her parents. While his grandfather, a German professor, could be stern, with his grandson he was both indulgent and playful. He taught his grandson the joys and value of books and the young Sartre was writing from an early age. When he was eleven, his mother remarried – the director of a shipyard – and they moved to La Rochelle. He attended the prestigious Ecole Normale Supérieure, where he started reading philosophy. He was first in his class. Simone de Beauvoir was second. They would remain companions – intellectual and sexual – for the rest of their lives, though each would have other affairs.

After his military service, he became a teacher, teaching philosophy in various parts of the country as well as in Paris. He also studied for a while in Germany. His first work was a philosophical work, based on his study of contemporary Germans. However, during the 1930s, he wrote a lot of criticism and also published his first novel, La Nausée (US: Nausea; UK: The Diary of Antoine Roquentin). This novel which, incidentally, has details of a bad mescalin trip he took, was his manifesto of the tenets of existentialism. In 1939, he was immediately mobilised and served on the Eastern border. He was captured by the Germans in 1940 and spent time in a prisoner-of-war camp, where he wrote a play. His experience politicised him much more and his socialist views developed and stayed with him for the rest of his life.

Back in France, he returned to teaching but was working on his philosophical masterwork, L’Etre et le néant: Essai d’ontologie phénoménologique (Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology), his plays and his Les Chemins de la liberté (The Roads to Freedom) novel trilogy. He was also friends with many of the leading French intellectuals of the day, including, in particular, Albert Camus, till they broke over Camus’ criticism of communism. He also founded the highly influential magazine, Les Temps Modernes.

With his strong left-wing views, giving his opinion on important events like the Algerian War, the Vietnam War (he was involved in the Russell Tribunal) and the 1968 events in France, as well as his influential books of philosophy, plays and novels, he was clearly one of the major left-wing intellectuals in the world. After 1949, he did not write any more fiction but continued to work hard, writing a massive work on Flaubert and his Critique de la raison dialectique (Critique of Dialectical Reason). He was offered but refused the Nobel Prize in 1964. He died in 1980.

Books about Jean-Paul Sartre

Annie Cohen-Solal: Jean-Paul Sartre: A Life
Ronald Hayman: Sartre: A Biography
Donald Palmer: Sartre for Beginners

Other sites

Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980): Existentialism
Jean-Paul Sartre Archive
Sartre, Jean-Paul (1905-1980)
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
My Encounter with Sartre (Edward Said)
Sartre (in French)
Jean-Paul Sartre (in French)
Jean-Paul Sartre à Paris, La Rochelle, Le Havre (in French)
Jean-Paul Sartre et la guerre d’Algérie (in French)
Groupe d’Études sartriennes (in French)
Jean-Paul Sartre (relating to his work with Les Temps Modernes – in French)


1936 L’Imagination (Imagination: A Psychological Critique) (philosophy)
1938 La Nausée (US: Nausea; UK: The Diary of Antoine Roquentin) (novel)
1939 Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (US: The Emotions: Outline of a Theory; UK: Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions) (philosophy)
1939 Le Mur (Intimacy, and Other Stories) (stories)
1940 L’imaginaire: Psychologie phénoménologique de l’imagination (The Psychology of Imagination) (philosophy)
1943 Les Mouches (The Flies) (drama)
1943 L’Etre et le néant: Essai d’ontologie phénoménologique (Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology) (philosophy)
1945 Huis clos (In Camera; No Exit) (drama)
1945 L’Age de raison (The Age of Reason) (novel)
1945 Le Sursis (The Reprieve) (novel)
1946 L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (US: Existentialism; UK: Existentialism and Humanism) (philosophy)
1946 Explication de L’étranger (literary criticism)
1946 Morts sans sépulture (US: The Victors; UK: Men without Shadows) (drama)
1946 La Putain respectueuse (US: The Respectful Prostitute; UK: The Respectable Prostitute) (drama)
1946 Réflexions sur la question juive (US: Anti-Semite and Jew; UK: Portrait of the Anti-Semite) (politics)
1947 Baudelaire: précédé d’une not de Michel Leiris (Baudelaire) (literary criticism)
1947 Situations I (Literary and Philosophical Essays) (literary criticism)
1947 Les Jeux sont faits (The Chips Are Down) (drama)
1948 Situations, II (What Is Literature?; Literature and Existentialism) (literary criticism)
1948 L’Engrenage (In the Mesh) (drama)
1948 Visages, précédé de Portraits officiels (text to portraits by German artist Wols)
1948 Les Mains sales (US: Dirty Hands; UK: Crime Passionnel) (drama)
1949 Entretiens sur la politique (politics)
1949 La mort dans l’âme (UK: Iron in the Soul; US: Troubled Sleep) (novel)
1949 Situations III (Literary and Philosophical Essays) (literary criticism)
1951 Le Diable et le Bon Dieu (UK: Lucifer and the Lord; US: The Devil and the Good Lord) (drama)
1952 Saint Genet, comédien et martyr (Saint Genêt, Actor and Martyr) (literary criticism)
1954 Kean ou désordre et genie (UK: Kean: or Disorder and Genius; US: Kean) (drama)
1954 Nekrassov (Nekrassov) (drama)
1957 La Transcendance de l’ego: Esquisse d’une description phénoménologique (Transcendence of the Ego: An Existentialist Theory of Consciousness) (philosophy)
1960 Les Séquestrés d’Altona (UK: Loser Wins; US: The Condemned of Altona) (drama)
1960 Critique de la raison dialectique, précédé de Question de méthode, volume 1: Théorie des ensembles pratiques (Critique of Dialectical Reason: Theory of Practical Ensembles) (philosophy)
1961 Sartre on Cuba
1962 Bariona ou Le Fils de tonnerre (drama)
1962 Marxisme et existentialisme: Controverse sur la dialectique (Between Existentialism and Marxism) (conversations with Roger Garaudy, Jean Hyppolite, Jean-Pierre Vigier and Jean Orcel – philosophy)
1963 Essays in Aesthetics (philosophy)
1963 Question de methode (US: Search for a Method; UK: The Problem of Method) (philosophy)
1964 Les Mots (UK: Words; US: The Words) (drama)
1964 Situations IV: Portraits (Situations) (criticism)
1964 Situations V: Colonialisme et néo-colonialisme (Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism) (politics)
1964 Situations VI: Problèmes du marxisme, I (The Communists and Peace) (politics)
1965 Situations VII: Problèmes du marxisme, II (The Communists and Peace; The Ghost of Stalin) (politics)
1965 Les Troyennes (The Trojan Women) (drama)
1965 The Philosophy of Existentialism (philosophy)
1967 Essays in Existentialism (philosophy)
1968 On Genocide and a Summary of the Evidence and the Judgments of the International War Crimes Tribunal (drama)
1968 Les communistes ont peur de la révolution (Communists Are Afraid of Revolution) (politics)
1971 L’Idiot de la famille: Gustave Flaubert de 1821 à 1857 (The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1857) (literary criticism)
1971 Situations VIII: Autour de 68 (Between Existentialism and Marxism) (politics)
1972 Plaidoyer pour les intellectuals (politics)
1972 Situations IX: Mélanges (Between Existentialism and Marxism) (politics/philosophy)
1973 Un Théâtre de situations (Sartre on Theater) (literary criticism)
1974 On a raison de se révolter: Discussions (with Philippe Gavi and Benny Lévy – politics)
1976 Situations X: Politique et autobiographie (Life/Situations: Essays Written and Spoken) (essays)
1983 Cahiers pour une morale (Notebooks for an Ethics) (philosophy)
1983 Les Carnets de la drôle de guerre (US: War Diaries of Jean-Paul Sartre: November 1939-March 1940; UK: War Diaries: Notebooks from a Phoney War) (diaries)
1984 Le Scénario Freud (The Freud Scenario) (psychology)
1985 Critique de la raison dialectique volume 2: L’intelligibilité de l’histoire (Critique of Dialectical Reason, Volume II: The Intelligibility of History) (incomplete – philosophy)
1986 Mallarmé: La lucidité et sa face d’ombre (Mallarmé or The Poet of Nothingness) (literary criticism)
1989 Vérité et existence (Truth and Existence) (philosophy)