Study Guide

Jean-Paul Sartre Biography

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Basic Information


Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre


The birthfather of existentialism; "The Pope of Existentialism"; Poulou (meaning "the little" or "son of"—Maman gave me that one); Simone's boyfriend; Mr. de Beauvoir; The Merry Prankster (I just love jokes); "dear little being" (Simone's name for me—swoon)


Male. According to Simone de Beauvoir, I was "the first sex"—superior to women, who "the second sex."

Home town

I was born in Paris, but then moved to Meudon and then La Rochelle (where a bunch of jerks bullied me. It didn't help that I was smarter and shorter than everyone else).

Work & Education


Thinking and studying Western philosophers and intellectuals.

I served in the French Army for a spell (1929-1931) and again beginning in 1939, but was captured by Nazi soldiers. I know that's a different kind of "occupation," but it was the destiny I created.

When I got out of that mess, I returned to my teaching position at Lycée Pasteur near Paris, and then got myself a new job at Lycée Condorcet. It had just been vacated by a Jewish teacher who had been barred from teaching by Vichy Law. I'm thinking maybe I should have felt bad about that, but c'est la vie!


I like to think of myself as an autodidact. I just have this crazy curiosity that can't be contained. I read a ton, and I've taught myself from the moment I could pick up a book. I went to seminars (not the self-help kind we have now—this was heady stuff) and then I attended the École Normale, where only the brainiest people go.


Political views

I'm a big fan of the old maxim, ''A writer must have a political commitment.'' Oh wait, I wrote that maxim.

If I had to box myself in, I'd say I'm a diehard lefty and an anti-colonialist (France out of Algiers now!). I'm a bit of a Marxist, although I never officially joined the Communist Party, if you must know. (Down with bourgeois pigs!) Although, looking back, I do regret being so sympathetic to Stalin and the Soviet Union, but let's chalk it up to youthful folly, shall we?

I'm anti-anti-Semitic, and think the Nazis can go take a walk (preferably off a cliff). People had the nerve to accuse me of not showing enough political commitment during the German occupation! The nerve! One of my BFFs, Albert Camus, said I was "a writer who resisted, not a resister who wrote." So take that, doubters.

Religious views

The short answer is: I don't believe in God, but if you want to get fancy, you can call me an "existential atheist," which means that while I believe there's no man upstairs (except my neighbor Bernard, who currently seems to be practicing his clogging), I do believe that human beings are free as the wind blows to make what they want of their lives. Frankly, if you're really asking, I'll tell you that religion is just another bourgeois construct that people need to toss out the window to claim true and authentic freedom.

Activities & Interests


Women (especially young studenty ones) and a good ménage à trois now and again
Radical freedom
Absolute Freedom
Challenging the bourgeoisie


America and all of its war crimes
Domination—racism, colonialism, imperialism, haters of all kinds
Bourgeois constructs of all sorts, especially the institution of marriage
Traditional employment
The Nobel Prize
God and all of his nonsense


Visiting Marxists on their home turf
Writing (but not resisting)
Leading political rallies
Having sex with young women
Studying Flaubert and Baudelaire
Swinging on the horizontal bar
Reading and writing for socialist magazines
Assuming responsibility and acting on it


Lovers of Philosophy/Philosophical Lovers
Friends of Phenomenology
Resistors Anonymous
Nobel Naysayers

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