Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (21 June1905 – 15 April1980), normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre, was a French existentialist philosopher, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist, and critic. He had an enduring personal relationship with fellow philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.
- Dostoevsky once wrote: “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted”; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse.
- He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about with him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no one had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he thought them into being.
- He yawned. He had finished the day and he had also finished with his youth. Various well-bred moralities had already discreetly offered him their services: disillusioned epicureanism, smiling tolerance, resignation, common sense stoicism - all the aids whereby a man may savour, minute by minute, like a connoisseur, the failure of a life.
- We will freedom for freedom’s sake, in and through particular circumstances. And in thus willing freedom, we discover that it depends entirely upon the freedom of others and that the freedom of others depends upon our own. Obviously, freedom as the definition of a man does not depend upon others, but as soon as there is a commitment, I am obliged to will the liberty of others at the same time as my own. I cannot make liberty my aim unless I make that of others equally my aim.
- What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man simply is. Not that he is simply what he conceives himself to be, but he is what he wills, and as he conceives himself after already existing – as he wills to be after that leap towards existence. Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism.
- Existentialism Is a Humanism, lecture  (1946)
- Existentialism is nothing else but an attempt to draw the full conclusions from a consistently atheistic position. Its intention is not in the least that of plunging men into despair. And if by despair one means as the Christians do – any attitude of unbelief, the despair of the existentialists is something different. Existentialism is not atheist in the sense that it would exhaust itself in demonstrations of the non-existence of God. It declares, rather, that even if God existed that would make no difference from its point of view. Not that we believe God does exist, but we think that the real problem is not that of His existence; what man needs is to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God. In this sense existentialism is optimistic. It is a doctrine of action, and it is only by self-deception, by confining their own despair with ours that Christians can describe us as without hope.
- Existentialism Is a Humanism, lecture (1946)
- What then did you expect when you unbound the gag that muted those black mouths? That they would chant your praises? Did you think that when those heads that our fathers had forcibly bowed down to the ground were raised again, you would find adoration in their eyes?
- "Orphée Noir (Black Orpheus)" preface, Anthologie de la Nouvelle Poésie Nègre et Malgache (1948)
- Every age has its own poetry; in every age the circumstances of history choose a nation, a race, a class to take up the torch by creating situations that can be expressed or transcended only through poetry.
- "Orphée Noir (Black Orpheus)"
- Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.
- "On the Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg," Libération (22 June 1953)
- To choose this or that is to affirm at the same time the value of what we choose, because we can never choose evil. We always choose the good, and nothing can be good for us without being good for all.
- Existentialism and Human Emotions (1957)
- If literature isn’t everything, it’s not worth a single hour of someone’s trouble.
- Interview (1960), Quoted in Susan Sontag's introduction to Barthes: Selected Writings, “Writing Itself: On Roland Barthes,” (1982)
- A writer who takes political, social or literary positions must act only with the means that are his. These means are the written words.
- Refusing the Nobel Prize, New York Times (22 October 1964)
- What I see is teeming cohesion, contained dispersal…. For him, to sculpt is to take the fat off space.
- She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist.
- The Words (1964), speaking of his grandmother.
- I hate victims who respect their executioners.
- Loser Wins (Les Séquestrés d'Altona: A Play in Five Acts) (1960)
- You know how much I admire Che Guevara. In fact, I believe that the man was not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age: as a fighter and as a man, as a theoretician who was able to further the cause of revolution by drawing his theories from his personal experience in battle.
- As quoted in Marianne Sinclair's !Viva Che!: Contributions in Tribute to Ernesto 'Che' Guevara (1968)
- La nausée (Nausea)
- When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell a story: the plausible disappears at the same time as the friends. You let events flow by too: you suddenly see people appear who speak and then go away; you plunge into stories of which you can't make head or tail: you'd make a terrible witness.
- Diary entry of Tuesday, 30 January
- People who live in society have learned how to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. I have no friends. Is that why my flesh is so naked?
- Diary entry of Friday (2 February)
- I think they do it to pass the time, nothing more. But time is too large, it can't be filled up. Everything you plunge into it is stretched and disintegrates.
- Diary entry of Friday (2 February), concerning a card game
- As for the square at Meknes, where I used to go every day, it's even simpler: I do not see it at all anymore. All that remains is the vague feeling that it was charming, and these five words that are indivisibly bound together: a charming square at Meknes. … I don't see anything any more: I can search the past in vain, I can only find these scraps of images and I am not sure what they represent, whether they are memories or just fiction.
- Diary entry of Friday 3:00pm (9 February?)
- And we feel that the hero has lived all the details of this night like annunciations, promises, or even that he lived only those that were promises, blind and deaf to all that did not herald adventure. We forget that the future was not yet there; the man was walking in the night without forethought, a night which offered him a choice of dull rich prizes, and he did not make his choice.
- Diary entry of Saturday noon (10 February?)
- I exist. It is soft, so soft, so slow. And light: it seems as though it suspends in the air. It moves.
- Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.
- Ma pensée, c'est moi: voilà pourquoi je ne peux pas m'arrêter. J'existe parce que je pense … et je ne peux pas m'empêcher de penser.
- My thought is me: that's why I can't stop. I exist because I think … and I can't prevent myself from thinking.
- Lundi ("Monday")
- Monsieur … I do not believe in God; his existence has been disproved by Science. But in the concentration camp, I learned to believe in men.
- I wanted for the moments in my life to follow each other and order themselves like those of a life remembered. It would be just as well to try to catch time by the tail.
- As if there could be true stories: things happen in one way, and we retell them in the opposite way.
- I construct my memories with my present. I am lost, abandoned in the present. I try in vain to rejoin the past: I cannot escape.
- The real nature of the present revealed itself: it was what exists, all that was not present did not exist.
- The past is the luxury of proprietors.
- Who can exhaust a man? Who knows a man’s resources?
- For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.
- For the moment, the jazz is playing; there is no melody, just notes, a myriad of tiny tremors. The notes know no rest, an inflexible order gives birth to them then destroys them, without ever leaving them the chance to recuperate and exist for themselves.... I would like to hold them back, but I know that, if I succeeded in stopping one, there would only remain in my hand a corrupt and languishing sound. I must accept their death; I must even want that death: I know of few more bitter or intense impressions.
- All that I know about my life, it seems, I have learned in books.
- Absurd, irreducible; nothing — not even a profound and secret delirium of nature — could explain it. Obviously I did not know everything, I had not seen the seeds sprout, or the tree grow. But faced with this great wrinkled paw, neither ignorance nor knowledge was important: the world of explanations and reasons is not the world of existence. A circle is not absurd, it is clearly explained by the rotation of a straight segment around one of its extremities. But neither does a circle exist. This root, on the other hand, existed in such a way that I could not explain it.
- Reflections on a chestnut tree root.
- How can I, who was not able to retain my own past, hope to save that of another?
- I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating.
- I know. I know that I shall never again meet anything or anybody who will inspire me with passion. You know, it's quite a job starting to love somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment, in the very beginning, when you have to jump across a precipice: if you think about it you don't do it. I know I'll never jump again.
- I grasp at each second, trying to suck it dry: nothing happens which I do not seize, which I do not fix forever in myself, nothing, neither the fugitive tenderness of those lovely eyes, nor the noises of the street, nor the false dawn of early morning: and even so the minute passes and I do not hold it back, I like to see it pass.
- By turning my head slightly, I could see something out of the corner of my eye: it was a hand, the small white hand which slid along the table a little while ago. Now it was resting on its back, relaxed, soft and sensual, it had the indolent nudity of a woman sunning herself after bathing. A brown hairy object approached it, hesitant. It was a thick finger, yellowed by tobacco; inside this hand it had all the grossness of a male sex organ. It stopped for an instant, rigid, pointing at the fragile palm, then suddenly, it timidly began to stroke it. I was not surprised, I was only furious at the Self-Taught Man (L'Autodidacte); couldn't he hold himself back, the fool, didn't he realize the risk he was running?
The Self-Taught Man did not look surprised. He must have been expecting this for years. He must have imagined what would happen a hundred times, the day the Corsican would slip up behind him and a furious voice would resound suddenly in his ears. Yet he came back every evening, he feverishly pursued his reading and then, from time to time, like a thief, stroked a white hand or perhaps the leg of a small boy. It was resignation that I read on his face.
- Tout existant naît sans raison, se prolonge par faiblesse et meurt par rencontre.
- Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.
Being and Nothingness (1943)
- L'être et le néant (Being and Nothingness)
- Nothingness haunts being.
- Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away.... To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives.
- I am responsible for everything … except for my very responsibility, for I am not the foundation of my being. Therefore everything takes place as if I were compelled to be responsible. I am abandoned in the world … in the sense that I find myself suddenly alone and without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.
- To eat is to appropriate by destruction.
- In order to make myself recognized by the Other, I must risk my own life. To risk one's life, in fact, is to reveal oneself as not-bound to the objective form or to any determined existence — as not-bound to life.
- L'existence précède et commande l'essence.
- Existence precedes and rules essence.
- Part 4, chapter 1
- Je suis condamné à être libre.
- I am condemned to be free.
- Part 4, chapter 1
- L'homme est une passion inutile.
- Man is a useless passion.
- Part 4, Chapter 2, III
- Each human reality is at the same time a direct project to metamorphose its own For-itself into an In-itself-For-itself, a project of the appropriation of the world as a totality of being-in-itself, in the form of a fundamental quality. Every human reality is a passion in that it projects losing itself so as to found being and by the same stroke to constitute the In-itself which escapes contingency by being its own foundation, the Ens causa sui, which religions call God. Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion.
- All human activities are equivalent … and … all are on principle doomed to failure.
- Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.
- Life has no meaning a priori … It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.
- It is certain that we cannot escape anguish, for we are anguish.
- The For-itself, in fact, is nothing but the pure nihilation of the In-itself; it is like a hole of being at the heart of Being.
- Man is always separated from what he is by all the breadth of the being which he is not. He makes himself known to himself from the other side of the world and he looks from the horizon toward himself to recover his inner being.
- Generally speaking there is no irreducible taste or inclination. They all represent a certain appropriative choice of being. It is up to existential psychoanalysis to compare and classify them. Ontology abandons us here; it has merely enabled us to determine the ultimate ends of human reality, its fundamental possibilities, and the value which haunts it.
The Flies (1943)
- Les mouches (The Flies)
- But [your crime] will be there, one hundred times denied, always there, dragging itself behind you. Then you will finally know that you have committed your life with one throw of the die, once and for all, and there is nothing you can do but tug our crime along until your death. Such is the law, just and unjust, of repentance. Then we will see what will become of your young pride.
- Clytemnestra to her daughter Electra, Act 1
- Be quiet! Anyone can spit in my face, and call me a criminal and a prostitute. But no one has the right to judge my remorse.
- Fear? If I have gained anything by damning myself, it is that I no longer have anything to fear.
- Admit it, it is your youth that you regret, more even than your crime; it is my youth you hate, even more than my innocence.
- Electra to her mother Clytemnestra, Act 1
- Some men are born committed to action: they do not have a choice, they have been thrown on a path, at the end of that path, an act awaits them, their act.
- They are in bad faith — they are afraid — and fear, bad faith have an aroma that the gods find delicious. Yes, the gods like that, the pitiful souls.
- Ah! Do not judge the gods, young man, they have painful secrets.
- Yes, I am so free. And what a superb absence is my soul.
- You must be afraid, my son. That is how one becomes an honest citizen.
- Mother to her young son, Act 1
- Her face seems ravaged by both lightning and hail. But on yours there is something like the promise of a storm: one day passion will burn it to the bone.
- I felt less alone when I didn’t know you yet: I was waiting for the other. I thought only of his strength and never of my weakness. And now here you are, Orestes, it was you. I look at you and I see that we are two orphans.
- Electra to her brother Orestes, Act 2
- A man who is free is like a mangy sheep in a herd. He will contaminate my entire kingdom and ruin my work.
- Nicias, do you think you can erase with good deeds the wrongs you committed against your mother? What good deed will ever reach her? Her soul is a scorching noon time, without a single breath of a breeze, nothing moves, nothing changes, nothing lives there; a great emaciated sun, an immobile sun eternally consumes her.
- What do I care about Jupiter? Justice is a human issue, and I do not need a god to teach it to me.
- Commoners are weightless. But he was a royal bon vivant who, no matter what, always weighed 125 kilos. I would be very surprised if he didn’t have a few pounds left.
- A soldier in Argos, speaking of the dead King Agamemnon, Act 2
- All-powerful god, who am I but the fear that I inspire in others?
- King Aegistheus to Jupiter, Act 2
- Blood doubly unites us, for we share the same blood and we have spilled blood.
- Orestes to Electra, Act 2
- Suppose that I wish to deserve the title of “robber of remorse” and that I place in myself all [the townspeople’s] repentence?
- Orestes to Electra, Act 2
- But, if it will help ease your irritated souls, please know, dearly departed, that you have ruined our lives.
- It is for the sake of order that I seduced Clytemnestra, for the sake of order that I killed my king. I wanted for order to rule and that it rule through me. I have lived without desire, without love, without hope: I made order. Oh! terrible and divine passion!
- Understand me: I wish to be a man from somewhere, a man among men. You see, a slave, when he passes by, weary and surly, carrying a heavy load, limping along and looking down at his feet, only at his feet to avoid falling down; he is in his town, like a leaf in greenery, like a tree in a forest, argos surrounds him, heavy and warm, full of herself; I want to be that slave, Electra, I want to pull the city around me and to roll myself up in it like a blanket. I will not leave.
- Orestes to Electra, Act 2
- I have no need for good souls: an accomplice is what I wanted.
- Electra to her brother Orestes, Act 2
- He is dead, and my hatred has died with him.
- Electra, before the dead Aegistheus, Act 2
- Jupiter: I committed the first crime by creating men as mortals. After that, what more could you do, you the murderers?
Aegisteus: Come on; they already had death in them: at most you simply hastened things a little.
- Ah! How I hate the crimes of the new generation: they are dry and sterile as darnel.
- Jupiter to Orestes, Act 2
- The painful secret of gods and kings is that men are free, Aegistheus. You know it and they do not.
- Aegistheus, the kings have another secret.... Once liberty has exploded in the soul of a man, the Gods can do nothing against that man. It is a matter for men to handle amongst themselves, and it is up to other men — and to them alone — to let him flee or to destroy him.
- Now I am weary and I can no longer tell good from Evil, and I need someone to show me the way.
- Orestes to Electra, Act 2
- Jupiter: I gave you the liberty to serve me.
Orestes: That is possible, but it has turned against you and there is nothing either one of us can do about it.
- I came to claim my kingdom and you refused me because I was not one of you. Now I am one of you, my subjects, we are bound by blood, and I deserve to be your king. Your sins and your remorse, your mighty anguish, I take all upon myself. Fear your dead no more, they are my dead.
- Remember, Orestes: you were part of my herd, you grazed in the fields along with my sheep. Your liberty is nothing but a mange eating away at you, it is nothing but an exile.
- We were too light, Electra. Now our feet press down in the earth like the wheels of a cart in its groove. Come with me, and we will walk heavily, bending under the weight of our heavy load.
- Your entire universe will not be enough to make me guilty. You are the king of the Gods, Jupiter, the king of the stones and of the stars, the king of the waves of the sea. But you are not the king of men.
- Jupiter: I am not your king, impudent larva? Who then has created you?
Orestes: You. But you should not have created me free.
- I am a man, Jupiter, and each man must invent his own path.
- You are a tiny little girl, Electra. Other little girls dreamed of being the richest or the most beautiful women of all. And you, fascinated by the horrid destiny of your people, you wished to become the most pained and the most criminal … At your age, children still play with dolls and they play hopscotch. You, poor child, without toys or playmates, you played murder, because it is a game that one can play alone.
- Jupiter to Electra, Act 3
Characterizations of Existentialism (1944)
- A propos de l'existentialisme: Mise au Point (Action, 29 December 1944)
- In a world, man must create his own essence: it is in throwing himself into the world, suffering there, struggling there, that he gradually defines himself.
- Man cannot will unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.
- With despair, true optimism begins: the optimism of the man who expects nothing, who knows he has no rights and nothing coming to him, who rejoices in counting on himself alone and in acting alone for the good of all.
- ...man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards.
No Exit (1944)
- Huis-clos (No Exit)
- I will take it all: tongs, molten lead, prongs, garrotes, all that burns, all that tears, I want to truly suffer. Better one hundred bites, better the whip, vitriol, than this suffering in the head, this ghost of suffering which grazes and caresses and never hurts enough.
- Criminals together. We're in hell, my little friend, and there's never any mistake there. People are not damned for nothing.
- Act 1, sc. 5
- Variant translation: Among murderers. We are in hell, my dear, there is never a mistake and people are not damned for nothing.
- If we must absolutely mention this state of affairs, I suggest that we call ourselves “absent”, that is more proper.
- Estelle, refusing to use the word “dead”, Act 1, sc. 5
- Alors, c’est ça l’enfer. Je n'aurais jamais cru... vous vous rappelez: le soufre, le bûcher, le gril... ah! Quelle plaisanterie. Pas besoin de gril, l'enfer, c'est les autres.
- So that is what hell is. I would never have believed it. You remember: the fire and brimstone, the torture. Ah! the farce. There is no need for torture: Hell is other people.
- Garcin, Act 1, sc. 5
- Your crystal? That’s silly. Whom do you think you are fooling? Come on, everyone knows that I threw the baby out of the window. The crystal is shattered on earth, and I do not care. I am no longer anything but a skin, and my skin does not belong to you.
- Estelle to Inès, Act 1, sc. 5
- It is better; heavier, crueler. The mouth you wear for hell.
- Inès to Estelle after she has applied lipstick, Act 1, sc. 5
- As for me, I am mean: that means that I need the suffering of others to exist. A flame. A flame in their hearts. When I am all alone, I am extinguished.
- Inès, describing her path to Hell, Act 1, sc. 5
- You have stolen my face from me: you know it and I no longer do.
- Don’t you feel the same way? When I cannot see myself, even though I touch myself, I wonder if I really exist.
- Estelle, discovering that there are no mirrors in Hell, Act 1, sc. 5
- Ha! to forget. How childish! I feel you in my bones. Your silence screams in my ears. You may nail your mouth shut, you may cut out your tongue, can you keep yourself from existing? Will you stop your thoughts.
- Inès reiterating to Garcin that they cannot ignore one another, Act 1, sc. 5
- On meurt toujours trop tôt - ou trop tard. Et cependant la vie est là, terminée : le trait est tiré, il faut faire la somme. Tu n'es rien d'autre que ta vie.
- One always dies too soon — or too late. And yet, life is there, finished: the line is drawn, and it must all be added up. You are nothing other than your life.
- Inès, Act 1, sc. 5
- We are in hell and I will have my turn!
- Inès warns Garcin and Estelle not to make love in her presence, Act 1, sc. 5
- If only you knew how little I care. Cowardly or not, as long as he is a good kisser.
- Estelle on Garcin, Act 1, sc. 5
- I think of death only with tranquility, as an end. I refuse to let death hamper life. Death must enter life only to define it.
- On est ce qu'on veut.
- A man is what he wills himself to be.
- Eh bien, continuons...
- Well, let's get on with it.
Anti-Semite and Jew (1945)
- The anti‐Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith; at the outset he has chosen to devaluate words and reasons. How entirely at ease he feels as a result. How futile and frivolous discussions about the rights of the Jew appear to him. He has placed himself on other ground from the beginning. If out of courtesy he consents for a moment to defend his point of view, he lends himself but does not give himself. He tries simply to project his intuitive certainty onto the plane of discourse. I mentioned awhile back some remarks by anti‐Semites, all of them absurd: "I hate Jews because they make servants insubordinate, because a Jewish furrier robbed me, etc." Never believe that anti‐ Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti‐Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.
- The anti‐Semite understands nothing about modern society. He would be incapable of conceiving of a constructive plan; his action cannot reach the level of the methodical; it remains on the ground of passion. To a long‐term enterprise he prefers an explosion of rage analogous to the running amuck of the Malays. His intellectual activity is confined to interpretation; he seeks in historical events the signs of the presence of an evil power. Out of this spring those childish and elaborate fabrications which give him his resemblance to the extreme paranoiacs. In addition, anti‐Semitism channels evolutionary drives toward the destruction of certain men, not of institutions. An anti‐Semitic mob will consider it has done enough when it has massacred some Jews and burned a few synagogues. It represents, therefore, a safety valve for the owning classes, who encourage it and thus substitute for a dangerous hate against their regime a beneficent hate against particular people. Above all this naive dualism is eminently reassuring to he anti‐Semite himself. If all he has to do is to remove Evil, that means that the Good is already given. He has no need to seek it in anguish, to invent it, to scrutinize it patiently when he has found it, to prove it in action, to verify it by its consequences, or, finally, to shoulder he responsibilities of the moral choice be has made. It is not by chance that the great outbursts of anti‐Semitic rage conceal a basic optimism. The anti‐Semite as cast his lot for Evil so as not to have to cast his lot for Good. The more one is absorbed in fighting Evil, he less one is tempted to place the Good in question. One does not need to talk about it, yet it is always understood in the discourse of the anti‐Semite and it remains understood in his thought. When he has fulfilled his mission as holy destroyer, the Lost Paradise will reconstitute itself. For the moment so many tasks confront the anti‐Semite that he does not have time to think about it. He is in the breach, fighting, and each of his outbursts of rage is a pretext to avoid the anguished search for the Good.
Dirty Hands (1948)
- Les Mains Sales (Dirty Hands)
- It is the good children, Madame, who make the most terrible revolutionaries. They say nothing, they do not hide under the table, they eat only one sweet at a time, but later on, they make Society pay dearly for it!
- As for us, my little friend, we entered [the Communist Party] because we were tired of dying of hunger.
- I respect orders but I respect myself too and I do not obey foolish rules made especially to humiliate me.
- Hugo to Slick and Georges, Act 3, sc. 2
- They made me take cod liver oil: that is the height of luxury: a medicine to make you hungry while the others, in the street, would have sold themselves for a beefsteak. I saw them passing my window with their signs: “Give me bread”.
- In any case, if you ever leave me with a handsome man, do not tell me that you trust me because, let me warn you: that is not what will prevent me from deceiving you, if I want to. On the contrary.
- Jessica to her husband Hugo, Act 3, sc. 5
- Karsky: I met your father last week. Are you still interested in hearing how he is doing?
Karsky: It is very probable that you will be responsible for his death.
Hugo: It is virtually certain that he is responsible for my life. We are even.
- Listen to me: a family man is never a real family man. An assassin is never entirely assassin. They play a role, you understand. While a dead man, he is really dead. To be or not to be, right?
- It is the same thing: killing, dying, it is the same thing: one is just as alone in each. He is lucky, he will only die once. As for me, for ten days I have been killing him at every minute.
- Hugo to Jessica, on his plans to kill Hoederer, Act 5, sc. 2
- I say a murder is abstract. You pull the trigger and after that you do not understand anything that happens.
- I was your luxury. For nineteen years I have been put in your man’s world and was forbidden to touch anything and you made me think that all was going very well and that I did not have to worry about anything but putting flowers in vases. Why did you lie to me? Why did you keep me ignorant, if it was to admit to me one day that this world is cracking and that you are all powerless and to make me choose between a suicide and a murder?
- Jessica to Hugo, Act 5, sc. 2
- Politics is a science. You can demonstrate that you are right and that others are wrong.
- I do not give a damn about the dead. They died for the [Communist] Party and the Party can decide what it wants. I practice a live man’s politics, for the living.
- What do you want to do with the [Communist] Party? A racing stable? What good is it to sharpen a knife every day if you never use it for slicing? A party is never more than a means. There is only one objective: power.
- Hoederer to Hugo, Act 5, sc. 3
- Intellectuals cannot be good revolutionaries; they are just good enough to be assassins.
- I was not the one to invent lies: they were created in a society divided by class and each of us inherited lies when we were born. It is not by refusing to lie that we will abolish lies: it is by eradicating class by any means necessary.
- The [Communist] Party has one objective: the creation of a socialist economy; and one means: the utilization of the class struggle.
- As far as men go, it is not what they are that interests me, but what they can become.
- You take souls for vegetables.... The gardener can decide what will become of his carrots but no one can choose the good of others for them.
- I entered the [Communist] Party because its cause was just and I will leave it when it ceases to be just.
- Hugo to Hoederer, Act 5, sc. 3
- The best work is not what is most difficult for you; it is what you do best.
- I know nothing, I am neither woman nor girl; I have been living in a dream and when someone kissed me, it made me want to laugh. Now I am here before you, it seems as though I have just awakened and it is morning.
The Devil and the Good Lord (1951)
- Le diable et le bon dieu (The Devil and the Good Lord)
- I tell you in truth: all men are Prophets or else God does not exist.
- If you are not already dead, forgive. Rancor is heavy, it is worldly; leave it on earth: die light.
- I know only one Church: it is the society of men.
- If a victory is told in detail, one can no longer distinguish it from a defeat.
- It is too early to love. We will buy the right to do so by shedding blood.
- Your church is a whore: she sells her favors to the rich.
- It is not the same thing. You are perhaps not lying, but you are not telling the truth.
- I do not understand! I understand nothing! I cannot understand nor do I want to understand! I want to believe! To Believe!
- Lord, you have cursed Cain and Cain’s children: thy will be done. You have allowed men’s hearts to be corrupted, that their intentions be rotten, that their actions putrefy and stink: thy will be done.
- Quand les riches se font la guerre, ce sont les pauvres qui meurent.
- Translation: When the rich make war, it's the poor that die.
- Ah! yes, I know: those who see me rarely trust my word: I must look too intelligent to keep it.
- It is the same: a chosen one is a man whom God’s finger crushes against the wall.
- You see, I divide men into three categories: those who have a lot of money, those who have none at all and those who have a little. The first want to keep what they have: their interest is to maintain order; the second want to take what they do not have: their interest is to destroy the existing order and to establish one which is profitable to them. They each are realist, people with whom one can agree. The third group want to overthrow the social order to take what they do not have, while still preserving it so that no one takes away what they have. Thus, they preserve in fact what they destroy in theory, or they destroy in fact what they seem to preserve. Those are the idealists.
- I can be twenty women, one hundred, if that’s what you want, all women. Ride with me behind you, I weigh nothing, your horse will not feel me. I want to be your whorehouse!
- Catherine: Why commit Evil?
Goetz: Because Good has already been done.
Catherine: Who has done it?
Goetz: God the Father. I, on the other hand, am improvising.
- I am not virtuous. Our sons will be if we shed enough blood to give them the right to be.
- Yes, Lord, you are innocence itself: how could you conceive of Nothingness, you who are plenitude? Your gaze is light and transforms all into light: how could you know the half-light in my heart?
- If you want to deserve Hell, you need only stay in bed. The world is iniquity; if you accept it, you are an accomplice, if you change it you are an executioner.
- There are two types of poor people, those who are poor together and those who are poor alone. The first are the true poor, the others are rich people out of luck.
- I will not be modest. Humble, as much as you like, but not modest. Modesty is the virtue of the lukewarm.
- One cannot become a saint when one works sixteen hours a day.
- I have nothing but contempt for you idiotic chosen ones who have the heart to rejoice when there are the damned in Hell and the poor on earth; as for me, I am on the side of men and I will not leave it.
- We will not go to Heaven,Goetz, and even if we both entered it, we would not have eyes to see each other, nor hands to touch each other. Up there, God gets all the attention.... We can only love on this earth and against God.
- À celui qui donne un baiser ou un coup
Rendez un baiser ou un coup
Mais à celui qui donne sans que vous puissiez rendre
Offrez toute la haine de votre coeur
Car vous étiez esclaves et il vous asservit
- To whomever gives a kiss or a blow
Render a kiss or blow
But to whomever gives when you are unable to return
Offer all the hatred in your heart
For you were slaves and he enslaves you
- Acts 8 & 9
- To whomever gives a kiss or a blow
- If you die, I will lie down beside you and I will stay there until the end, without eating or drinking, you will rot in my arms and I will love you as carcass: for you love nothing if you do not love everything.
- I am no longer sure of anything. If I satiate my desires, I sin but I deliver myself from them; if I refuse to satisfy them, they infect the whole soul.
- Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.
- Night is falling: at dusk, you must have good eyesight to be able to tell the Good Lord from the Devil.
- Adieu les monstres! Adieu les saints! Adieu l'orgueil! Il n'y a que des hommes.
- Farewell to the monsters, farewell to the saints. Farewell to pride. All that is left is men.
- Act 10, sc. 4
- God is the solitude of men. There was only me: I alone decided to commit Evil; alone, I invented Good. I am the one who cheated, I am the one who performed miracles, I am the one accusing myself today, I alone can absolve myself; me, the man.
- Better to have beasts that let themselves be killed than men who run away.
- I wanted pure love: foolishness; to love one another is to hate a common enemy: I will thus espouse your hatred. I wanted Good: nonsense; on this earth and in these times, Good and Bad are inseparable: I accept to be evil in order to become good.
Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr (1952)
- One is still what one is going to cease to be and already what one is going to become. One lives one’s death, one dies one’s life.
- Book 2, "The Melodious Child Dead in Me"
- The French bourgeois doesn’t dislike shit, provided it is served up to him at the right time.
- Book 2, "To Succeed in Being All, Strive to be Nothing in Anything"
- The homosexual never thinks of himself when someone is branded in his presence with the name homosexual. ...His sexual tastes will doubtless lead him to enter into relationships with this suspect category, but he would like to make use of them without being likened to them. Here, too, the ban that is cast on certain men by society has destroyed all possibility of reciprocity among them. Shame isolates.
- I maintain that inversion is the effect of neither a prenatal choice nor an endocrinal malformation nor even the passive and determined result of complexes. It is an outlet that a child discovers when he is suffocating.
- esse est percipi, and he recognizes himself as being only insofar as he is perceived.
- such mad confidence within despair.
- It was a constraint; he makes of it his mission
- But when they have realized that it [society] rejects them forever, they themselves assume the ostracism of which they are victims so as not to leave the initiative to their oppressors
- This inner revolution is realistic because it maintains itself deliberately within the framework of existing institutions; the oppressed reckon with the real situation.
- His business is here, it is here that he is despised and vilified, it is here that he must carry out his undertaking
- Since he is unable to be the beloved, he will become the lover.
- …inversion…is an outlet that a child discovers when he is suffocating.
- In doing Good, I lose myself in Being, I abandon my particularity, I become a universal subject.
- The strangest mores of the most of-the-way societies will, in spite of everything, be relatively comprehensible to the person who has a flesh-and-blood knowledge of man’s needs, anxieties, and hopes. If, on the other hand, this experience is lacking, he will not even be able to understand the customs of those about him.
- The live dead-man is dead as a producer and alive insofar as he consumes
- Abjection is a methodological conversion, like Cartesian doubt and Husserlian epoche: it establishes the world as a closed system which consciousness regards from without, in the manner of divine understanding.
- But since he has decided to have the impossibility of living, every misfortune is an opportunity which lays this importance of living before his eyes and obliges him to decide, once again, to die.
- His obedience is real since he really and truly fulfills his mission, since he runs real risks in order to carry out the beloved’s orders. But, on the other hand, it is imaginary because he submits only to a creature of his mind.
- He chooses the most feared, most hated man in order to worship him as a god, feeling sure that he is alone in perceiving the god’s secret virtues.
- It is freedom, it is particularity, it is solitude that we are aiming at, and not Evil for its own sake
- The consciousness of being betrayed is to the collective consciousness of a sacred group what a certain form of schizophrenia is to the individual…it is a form of madness.
- Only a neutral, who is indifferent to the stake and perhaps to all stakes, can appreciate aesthetically the grandeur of a fine disaster
- Genet is a man-failure: he wills the impossible in order to derive from the tragic grandeur of this defeat the assurance that there is something other than the possible.
- Similarly, individual acts of aristocratic generosity do not eliminate pauperism; they perpetuate it.
For man holds his ground only by surpassing himself, in the same sense in which it is said that one ceases to love if one does not love increasingly everyday.
- The worst of misfortunes is still a stroke of luck, since one feels oneself living when one experiences it/
- For Genet, reflective states of mind are the rule. And although they are of an unstable nature in everyone, in him…reflection is always contrary to the reflected feeling.
- The world is sacred because it gives an inkling of a meaning that escapes us
…for one cannot enter an image unless one makes oneself imaginary
…the impossible must be supposed in order to explain the superdetermination of the event
He wanted to assume his entire condition, to carry the world on his shoulders and to become, in defiance of all, what all have made of him.
- The dreamer must contaminate the others by his dream, he must make them fall into it
- …the prisoner’s dreams is the guard’s spirituality
- Virtue is the death of conscience because it is the habit of Good, and yet the ethic of the honest man infinitely prefers virtue to the noblest agonies of conscience. Thus, being poses nonbeing and eliminates it. There is only being
- For Genet, Beauty will be the offensive weapon that will enable him to beat the just on their own ground: that of value.
- Thus, Beauty is neither an appearance nor a being, but a relationship: the transformation of being into appearance
- …in order to change poverty into wealth, one must start by displaying it.
- That is precisely what we should have expected, since Genet wants to live simultaneously creation, destruction, the impossibility of destroying and the impossibility of creating, since he wants both to show his rejection of the divine creation and to manifest, in the absolute, human impotence as man’s reproval of God and as the testimony of his grandeur.
- I mistrust illuminations: what we take for a discovery is very often only a familiar thought that we have not recognized.
- …the reality of society involves the socialization of certain unrealities.
- I, for my part, do not conceive an act as having causes, and I consider myself satisfied when I have found in it not its ‘factors’ but the general themes which it organizes: for our decisions gather into new syntheses and on new occasions the leitmotif that governs our life
- …and if you are common, you can dress up as a woman, show you behind or write poems: there’s nothing offensive about a naked behind if it’s everybody’s; each person will be mirrored in it.
- the martyr’s reflex
- in order to make himself thoroughly undesirable, he will speak.
- For those who want ‘to change life”, ‘to reinvent love,’ God is nothing but a hindrance.
Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960)
- "This is the contradiction of racism, colonialism, and all forms of tyranny: in order to treat a man like a dog, one must first recognize him as a man."
- "Everything is both a trap and a display; the secret reality of the object is what the Other makes of it."
Preface to The Wretched of the Earth (1961)
Main article: The Wretched of the Earth
- In some places the metropolis makes do with paying a clique of feudal overlords; in others, it has fabricated a fake bourgeoisie of colonized subjects in a system of divide and rule; elsewhere, it has killed two birds with one stone: the colony is both settlement and exploitation.
Les Temps modernes (1961)
- Either the USSR was not the country of socialism, in which case socialism didn’t exist anywhere and doubtless, wasn’t possible: or else, socialism was that, this abominable monster, this police state, the power of beasts of prey.
- To believe is to know you believe, and to know you believe is not to believe.
- [W]e only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.
- From the introduction to The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon.
Quotes about Sartre
Alphabetized by surname
- When I was growing up in the 60s, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were a model couple, already legendary creatures, rebels with a great many causes, and leaders of what could be called the first postwar youth movement: existentialism — a philosophy that rejected all absolutes and talked of freedom, authenticity, and difficult choices. It had its own music and garb of sophisticated black which looked wonderful against a cafe backdrop. Sartre and De Beauvoir were its Bogart and Bacall, partners in a gloriously modern love affair lived out between jazz club, cafe and writing desk, with forays on to the platforms and streets of protest. Despite being indissolubly united and bound by ideas, they remained unmarried and free to engage openly in any number of relationships. This radical departure from convention seemed breathtaking at the time.
- During the last months of the German Occupation in 1944, the young man who was to become France’s most controversial contemporary philosopher and the woman who was to become its most controversial feminist met the professional criminal who was to become its most controversial playwright.
- What is it about the study of philosophy that tends to make brilliant minds stupid when it comes down to what are known as actual cases? Consider Martin Heidegger, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, the four great names in twentieth-century philosophy: the first was a Nazi, the second died certain that America was responsible for all the world’s evil, the third was a Stalinist long after any justification for being so could be adduced, and the fourth lived on the borders of madness most of his life. Contemplation of the lives of philosophers is enough to drive one to the study of sociology.
- According to Jean-Paul Sarte, "hell is other people," but I'm not sure that Sarte wanted to spend the whole of eternity by himself.
- Northrop Frye, in Symbolism In The Bible, Lecture Five, paragraph 3, lines 1-2
- One of the causes of the popularity of Marxism among educated people was the fact that in its simple form it was very easy; even Sartre noticed that Marxists are lazy. Indeed, they enjoyed having one key to open all doors, one universally applicable explanation for everything, an instrument that makes it possible to master all of history and economics without actually having to study either.
- The Frenchman Jean-Paul … Sartre I remember now was — his last name had a dialectical — mind good as a machine for cybernetics, immense in its way, he could peel a nuance like an onion, but he had no sense of evil, the anguish of God, and the possible existence of Satan.
- Norman Mailer, in Evergreen Review, No. 26 (September/October 1962)
- I also have a great intellectual respect for those who followed him (Husserl), Heidegger in particular, and among my countrymen, men like Paul Ricoeur (who, however, I am still far from trusting), and Mircea Eliade (a great explorer but one who does not want to be a guide, thank goodness. I have none for Jean-Paul Sartre, who seems to me too artful, and who besides (and here he pleases me) would be quite sorry to find himself respected. (Yet I like to imagine him elected to the Academie Fancaise, an honor which he certainly deserves.) But he has offered a testimony we would be quite wrong to neglect.
- The nature of Sartre and Beauvoir’s partnership was never a secret to their friends, and it was not a secret to the public, either, after they were abruptly launched into celebrity, in 1945. They were famous as a couple with independent lives, who met in cafés, where they wrote their books and saw their friends at separate tables, and were free to enjoy other relationships, but who maintained a kind of soul marriage. Their liaison was part of the mystique of existentialism, and it was extensively documented and coolly defended in Beauvoir’s four volumes of memoirs, all of them extremely popular in France: “Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter” (1958), “The Prime of Life” (1960), “Force of Circumstance” (1963), and “All Said and Done” (1972). Beauvoir and Sartre had no interest in varnishing the facts out of respect for bourgeois notions of decency. Disrespect for bourgeois notions of decency was precisely the point.
- I could see clearly that this problem could only be solved on the individual and personal level; political revolt is irrelevant. Both Camus and Sartre had been neatly hog-tied by their earlier radicalism. Camus came to see that rebellion is a political roundabout that revolves back to the same old tyranny; too ashamed to admit that he had outgrown his leftism, he found himself in an intellectual cul-de-sac. Sartre accused Camus of being a reactionary; but he paid for his own refusal to reexamine his political convictions by congealing into a grotesque attitude of permanent indignation, shaking his fist at some abstract Authority. Where politics is concerned, he seemed determined to be guided by his emotions.
- Sartre, indeed, blames Christians for the origin of anti-Semitism because they talk of the Jews as the murderers of Jesus. (Yet he destroys the point that he had made by saying in a footnote that Jesus was really killed by the Roman soldiers as an agitator, for, in Sartre's terms, if it could be proved historically that the Jews not the Romans were the actual murderers of Jesus, then anti-Semitism by Christians might be justified.) In his anti-Christianity, Sartre himself appears as the frustrated anti-Semite and treats Christians in accordance with his idea of Christians in general, and not as they are.
- pages 12-13 of French Existentialism A Christian Critique by F. Temple Kingston, University of Toronto Press ISBN 13: 9780802050908
- ↑Quotation #32866 from Michael Moncur's (Cynical) Quotations:
In the most fundamental of ways, Sartre's statement indicates that the only element that exists with human beings is the ability to possess freedom. This creates a situation of agonizing choice because human beings cannot look to another transcendental force to escape the pain of freedom and choice. For Sartre, the critical element that defines human consciousness is the ability to choose. Sartre's brand of existentialism is trademarked with the idea that "existence precedes essence," which is a way of suggesting that human beings enter the world without any force other than freedom to guide them. There is no transcendence, no higher power, no overarching point that eliminates the condition of agonizing freedom that defines human beings and their place in the world. In the Sartrean conception of freedom, one can only think of the student that Sartre teaches who is "condemned to be free." This student has a difficult choice, to say the least. Either he stays with his sick and dying mother, while his nation is overrun by the Nazis, or he joins the resistance to save his country, but his mother will die alone. In this condition, the student is poised between equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action. For Sartre, this is the epitome of the pain of choice. It is this very being that allows him to say that "man is condemned to be free."