Thursday, October 22, 2009

Notes For October 22nd, 2009


This Day In Writing History

On October 22nd, 1964, the legendary French writer Jean-Paul Sartre won a Nobel Prize for literature, which he declined. He was the first person to ever decline the award. When Sartre learned that he was in contention to receive a Nobel Prize, he wrote to the Nobel Institute and asked that his name be removed from the list of candidates. The Swedish Academy had already made its decision to give him the prize.

Sartre didn't want to cause a scandal by refusing the Nobel Prize, nor did he want to offend the Swedish Academy, so he prepared a statement explaining that he always turned down "official distinctions" because he believed that "a writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in an honorable form." He believed that if a writer carried the authority of an institution along with his name, it wasn't fair to the reader, saying that "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner."

Sartre had previously turned down both the French Legion of Honor (the highest award given by his country) and a tenured teaching position at the prestigious College de France.

Jean-Paul Sartre was not only a novelist, he was also a playwright, a screenwriter, and most famously, an existentialist philosopher. He was a founding father of the existentialist movement in 20th century literature, of which his 1945 novel, The Age of Reason, became a classic. It was the first in a trilogy of existentialist novels called The Roads to Freedom. The other two novels in the trilogy were The Reprieve (1947) and Troubled Sleep (1949).


Quote Of The Day

"Words are more treacherous and powerful than we think." - Jean-Paul Sartre


Vanguard Video

Today's video features a clip of Jean-Paul Sartre discussing classic intellectualism. Enjoy!


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