Jean-Paul Sartre : biography
World War II
In 1939 Sartre was drafted into the French army, where he served as a meteorologist. He was captured by German troops in 1940 in Padoux, and he spent nine months as a prisoner of war—in Nancy and finally in Stalag 12D, Trier, where he wrote his first theatrical piece, Barionà, fils du tonnerre, a drama concerning Christmas. It was during this period of confinement that Sartre read Heidegger’s Being and Time, later to become a major influence on his own essay on phenomenological ontology. Because of poor health (he claimed that his poor eyesight and exotropia affected his balance) Sartre was released in April 1941. Given civilian status, he recovered his teaching position at Lycée Pasteur near Paris, settled at the Hotel Misgiven a new position at Lycée Condorcet, replacing a Jewish teacher who had been forbidden to teach by Vichy law.
After coming back to Paris in May 1941, he participated in the founding of the underground group Socialisme et Liberté with other writers de Beauvoir, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Toussaint Desanti and his wife Dominique Desanti, Jean Kanapa, and École Normale students. In August Sartre and de Beauvoir went to the French Riviera seeking the support of André Gide and André Malraux. However, both Gide and Malraux were undecided, and this may have been the cause of Sartre’s disappointment and discouragement. Socialisme et liberté soon dissolved and Sartre decided to write instead of being involved in active resistance. He then wrote Being and Nothingness, The Flies, and No Exit, none of which was censored by the Germans, and also contributed to both legal and illegal literary magazines.
After August 1944 and the Liberation of Paris, he wrote Anti-Semite and Jew. In the book he tries to explain the etiology of "hate" by analyzing antisemitic hate. Sartre was a very active contributor to Combat, a newspaper created during the clandestine period by Albert Camus, a philosopher and author who held similar beliefs. Sartre and de Beauvoir remained friends with Camus until 1951, with the publication of Camus’s The Rebel. Later, while Sartre was labeled by some authors as a resistant, the French philosopher and resistant Vladimir Jankelevitch criticized Sartre’s lack of political commitment during the German occupation, and interpreted his further struggles for liberty as an attempt to redeem himself. According to Camus, Sartre was a writer who resisted, not a resister who wrote.
In 1945, after the war ended, Sartre moved to an apartment on the rue Bonaparte which was where he was to produce most of his subsequent work, and where he lived until 1962. It was from there that he helped establish a quarterly literary and political review, Les Temps Modernes (Modern Times), in part to popularize his thought.Ann Fulton, Apostles of Sartre: Existentialism in America, 1945-1963 (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999) 12. He ceased teaching and devoted his time to writing and political activism. He would draw on his war experiences for his great trilogy of novels, Les Chemins de la Liberté (The Roads to Freedom) (1945–1949).
Cold War politics and anticolonialism
Jean Paul Sartre (middle) and [[Simone de Beauvoir (left) meeting with Che Guevara (right) in Cuba, 1960]] The first period of Sartre’s career, defined in large part by Being and Nothingness (1943), gave way to a second period—when the world was perceived as split into communist and capitalist blocs—of highly publicized political involvement. His play Les Mains sales (Dirty Hands) (1948) in particular explored the problem of being a politically "engaged" intellectual. He embraced Marxism (but did not join the Communist Party) and took a prominent role in the struggle against French rule in Algeria. He became an eminent supporter of the FLN in the Algerian War and was one of the signatories of the Manifeste des 121. Consequently, Sartre became a domestic target of the paramilitary Organisation de l’armée secrète (OAS), escaping two bomb attacks in the early ’60s. (He had an Algerian mistress, Arlette Elkaïm, who became his adopted daughter in 1965.) He opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and, along with Bertrand Russell and others, organized a tribunal intended to expose U.S. war crimes, which became known as the Russell Tribunal in 1967.