Jean Paul Sartre was born in Paris in 1905. He was the first child of a marriage between his parents of about over a year. His father, Jean-Baptiste, had died from an infection contracted while he served in the French navy when his son was still very young. Jean Paul grew up in the home of his grandfather, Karl Schweitzer along with his mother, Anne-Marie in Paris.
Other circumstances, other than the death of his father also made Sartre’s childhood difficult. He was noticeably small in stature and visibly cross-eyed besides being over-intelligent and bookish. Sartre found it very hard gaining acceptance, and so he turned to writing. With the help of his grandfather’s tutoring, he wrote a book entitled Les Mots (The Words) which related the experience of himself and his mother in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris in search of buddies to play around with. Another upsetting moment in Sartre’s life was his mother’s re-marriage to Joseph Mancy, after this event Sartre started acting up in school and became a bad behaved pupil.
As Sartre grew up and went to a university, he studied at the Ecole Normale Superieure from 1924 to 1929 and became professor of philosophy at Le Havre in 1931. From 1931 to 1945 he worked as a teacher and traveled in Egypt, Greece, and Italy. In 1933-34 he received some money from the Institute Francais, and studied in Berlin the writings of German philosophers, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger.
During World War II, Sartre was drafted into the French military. He was given a job in the meteorological section in charge of the management of weather balloons. He was later captured in June 1940 and imprisoned for nine months by the Germans. In 1941 he was released on the basis that the German’s did not think he was physically fir for military service. However, for a short time while he was captive, he lost his freedom, which he valued above all. He was later active in the French resistance movement. Sartre gave up teaching after the war and devoted all his time to writing and political activity.
Sartre’s first novel La Nausee’ (Nausea) was published in 1938. This novel expressed under the influence of German philosopher Edmund Husserl’s that human life has no purpose. Sartre has always admired Husserl’s beliefs and he took ideas from his ideology of existentialism. While he was a prisoner of war, Sartre came out with the philosophical work, Being and Nothingness. He wrote that humans create their own world by rebelling against authority and by accepting personal responsibility for their actions; no higher power guides them through life. Sartre’s existentialism explains that in man, and in man alone, existence preceded essence, basically that man must create his own essence.
Jean Paul Sartre was a French novelist, playwright, literary critic, political journalist, and an existentialist philosopher. Sartre was awarded the Noble Prize for literature in 1964, but he refused to accept the award, saying it would limit his achievements as a writer. Many events in Sartre’s life led him to become an existentialist. He believed that a man is thrown into the world, suffers and struggles there and then gradually defines himself. This is exactly what happened to him. He had a difficult life to begin with, starting with his father’s death, his mother’s remarriage, his war experience and more, yet in the end he realized that there was nothing he could do about it and he must accept everything that comes his way.
Jean Paul Sartre damaged his health by smoking and drinking heavily and on April 15, 1980 he died of a smoking related complaint. More than 25,000 people lined the streets of Paris for the funeral procession on April 19, 1980. Sartre’s ashes were buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery.