The Nobel Prize in Literature 1964
Born: 21 June 1905, Paris, France
Died: 15 April 1980, Paris, France
Residence at the time of the award: France
Prize motivation: “for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age”
Jean-Paul Sartre declined the Nobel Prize.
Prize share: 1/1
Jean-Paul Sartre studied at the École Normale Superieur in Paris. He was a key figure in the existentialism philosophical movement, and his work has had a significant influence on 20th-century sociology, postcolonial theories and general literary studies. Sartre had a lifelong, open relationship with writer, philosopher and feminist icon Simone Beauvoir. They became a couple in 1929 and are buried together in Paris. Sartre chose to decline the Nobel Prize, just as he had previously declined other distinctions.
Sartre was a philosopher and playwright but also wrote novels and short stories. Through the protagonist Antoine Roquentin, his first novel Nausée (1938) (Nausea) articulates the existentialist themes of alienation, devotion and loneliness. His play Huis Clos (1944) (No Exit) depicts hell as a perpetual co-existence with other people, while Les Mouches (The Flies) is an adaptation of the ancient Electra myth. His autobiography Les Mots (1964) (The Words), in which the author tries to distance himself from his writing and reconstruct his childhood, was received with great acclaim when it came out.