Today In History: Sartre Wins, Declines Nobel Prize

Today In History |

October 22, 1964

Scraps from the loft

Today in 1964, philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and then declined to accept the award.

In an article he published to explain his decision in the midst of an ensuing controversy, Sartre explained,

"The writer who accepts an honor of this kind involves as well as himself the association or institution which has honored him. My sympathies for the Venezuelan revolutionists commit only myself, while if Jean-Paul Sartre the Nobel laureate champions the Venezuelan resistance, he also commits the entire Nobel Prize as an institution."

The School of Life

"The writer must therefore refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution, even if this occurs under the most honorable circumstances, as in the present case.

This attitude is of course entirely my own, and contains no criticism of those who have already been awarded the prize. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for several of the laureates whom I have the honor to know."

Sartre is best remembered as one of the figureheads of the existentialist school of philosophy, which posits that life has no inherent meaning, and the individual must depend on him or herself to furnish their own life's meaning.

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.