Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sartre

We visited Sartre's grave in the Montparnasse cemetery when we visited Paris in 2005. I wanted to be certain that the old bastard was still safely dead. My suspicion that he might have risen from the dead to walk among us again was aroused by the fact that, as we wandered the streets of Paris, we saw his little petit-bureaucrat mug on magazines and newspapers everywhere. It wasn't until I got back to the US that I discovered the reason was that it was the centennial of Sartre's birth. I was happy to learn that, upon her death, Simone de Beauvoir was interred in the same grave. Rumor has it that she was buried on top of Sartre. I don't know if this is true or not, but considering how much he screwed around on Beauvoir during their life together, you kind of want it to be true that she gets to spend eternity on top of the old bastard. Am I right?

From the Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of Jean-Paul Sartre born in Paris, France (1905). His father died when he was 15 months old. When he was eight, he started writing plays, which he performed with hand puppets in the bathroom. In college, he fell in love with philosophy and literature. He kept a portrait of James Joyce on his dorm room wall. He met Simone de Beauvoir there, who became the love of his life. They promised never to tell each other lies, and also agreed that if they wanted they could take other lovers.

Sartre became a teacher. At a time when the European teaching style was lecturing from a distance, he drank with his students at local bars, played cards and ping-pong with them, and joined them for picnics on the beach. In his spare time he began to write a novel called Nausea (1938). The book was his first major success, and it made him famous. People called him the French Kafka. He went on to write Being and Nothingness (1943), about the meaning of freedom. He wrote, "Hell is other people." And, "If you are lonely when you're alone, you are in bad company."

No comments: