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Jean-Paul Sartre Refuses the Nobel Prize (1964) Options
Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 12:00:00 AM
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Jean-Paul Sartre Refuses the Nobel Prize (1964)

A French philosopher, playwright, and novelist, Sartre was a leading exponent of 20th-century existentialism. His works examine man as a responsible but lonely being, burdened with a terrifying freedom to choose, adrift in a meaningless universe. He served in the army during World War II, was taken prisoner, escaped, and was involved in the resistance, writing his first plays during the occupation. After the war, his writings became increasingly influential. Why did he refuse the Nobel Prize? More...
Sayyed Hassan
Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 2:23:50 PM

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The Nobel Prize in literature has had an interesting and often controversial history since first awarding the prize in 1901. The year 1964 is perhaps one of the more intriguing stories of the Swedish Academy’s tradition.
When rumors surrounding the nominees began circulating during October 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre discovered that he was among the writers being considered for the laureate. Immediately, Sartre wrote to the Swedish Academy to inform them that he wanted to be withdrawn from consideration. At that point, he was unaware that there is no consultation made with nominees. Much to his chagrin, Jean-Paul was indeed announced the winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in literature “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 [the] age.” This is the point at which interest in the 1964 prize is piqued, and a few facts should be noted about both Sartre and the Swedish Academy’s Nobel Prize.
Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015 9:36:35 PM

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Sartre on the Nobel Prize

DECEMBER 17, 1964
Jean-Paul Sartre explained his refusal to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature in a statement made to the Swedish Press on October 22, which appeared in Le Monde in a French translation approved by Sartre. The following translation into English was made by Richard Howard.

"My objective reasons are as follows: The only battle possible today on the cultural front is the battle for the peaceful coexistence of the two cultures, that of the East and that of the West. I do not mean that they must embrace each other—I know that the confrontation of these two cultures must necessarily take the form of a conflict—but this confrontation must occur between men and between cultures, without the intervention of institutions.

I myself am deeply affected by the contradiction between the two cultures: I am made up of such contradictions. My sympathies undeniably go to socialism and to what is called the Eastern bloc, but I was born and brought up in a bourgeois family and a bourgeois culture. This permits me to collaborate with all those who seek to bring the two cultures closer together. I nonetheless hope, of course, that “the best man wins.” That is, socialism.

This is why I cannot accept an honor awarded by cultural authorities, those of the West any more than those of the East, even if I am sympathetic to their existence. Although all my sympathies are on the socialist side. I should thus be quite as unable to accept, for example, the Lenin Prize, if someone wanted to give it to me, which is not the case."

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