jean-paul sartre
When Jean-Paul Sartre found out that he was receiving the Nobel Prize, he politely declined it. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 60 years ago, in October 1964, French philosopher and writer Jeal-Paul Sartre declined the Nobel Prize for literature.

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When Sartre read that he was in the running for the award, he wrote to The Swedish Academy, which is responsible for choosing Nobel awardees for literature. Sartre told them that he did not want the honour, but was offered it anyway.

The Frenchman’s reasoning was based on his principles. He is known to have said: “I have always declined official honours. A writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution.” Still, he was awarded the prize 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,” according to the Nobel Prize website.

Here are three other facts about the prominent writer that will help you get to know him better:

1. He was in love with another philosophical powerhouse

If you’re a feminist, you would definitely know of Simone de Beauvoir, the French philosopher and writer, who is known for her two-volume feminist manifesto – The Second Sex. Sartre and de Beauvoir met at university and soon became inseparable. Their relationship lasted from the 1920s until Sartre’s death in 1980.

2. He was a prisoner of war

When he was drafted to serve as a meteorologist during World War II, Sartre was quickly captured by German forces in 1940. He lived in Nancy, France (part of the German-occupied zone) for nine months before he was released back to the French military.

3. He founded an underground group to catch Nazis

Apart from writing, Sartre had a keen interest in political and social activism. With de Beauvoir, he formed the group Socialism and Liberty in 1941, which drew young writers, philosophers and students. Their focus was to catch Nazi collaborators and expose them for their wrongdoings.

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