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Sartrean Quotes : The Words

Sartre, Jean-Paul. The Words. Trans. Bernard Frechtman. New York: George Braziller, 1964.

LIFE

In 1904, at Cherbourg, the young naval officer, who was already wasting away with the fevers of Cochin-China, made the acquaintance of Anne Marie Schweitzer, took possession of the big, forlorn girl, married her, begot a child in quick time, me, and sought refuge in death. [15]

Following her mother's example, my mother preferred duty to pleasure… The sleepless nights and the worry exhausted Anne Marie; her milk dried; I was put out to nurse not far away and I too applied myself to dying, of enteritis and perhaps of resentment… Her marriage of convenience found its truth in sickness and mourning. [16]

The death of Jean Baptiste was the big event of my life.: it sent my mother back to her chains and gave me freedom. [18]

I did not even have to forget; in slipping away, Jean Baptiste had refused me the pleasure of making his acquaintance… I know him by hearsay, like the Man in the Iron Mask, and the Chevalier d'Eon, and what I do know about him never has anything to do with me. Nobody remembered whether he loved me, whether he took me in his arms, whether he looked at his son with his limpid eyes, now eaten by worms. [20]

Things would have been fine if my body and I had got on well together. But the fact is that we were an odd couple. When the child is unhappy, he doesn't asks himself questions. If he suffers bodily as a result of needs and sickness, his unjustifiable state justifies his existence. His right to live is based on hunger, on the constant danger of death. As for me, I was neither rich enough to think I was predestined nor poor enough to feel my desires as demands… Breathing, digesting, defecating unconcernedly, I lived because I has begun to live. I was unaware of the violence and savage demands of that gorged companion, my body, which made itself known by a series of mild disturbances, much in demand among grown-ups…I had almost died at birth. [88-89]

At the age of nine, an operation took from me the means of feeling a certain pathos which is said to be peculiar to our condition. Ten years later, at the Ecole Normale, this pathos would suddenly seize some of my best friends; they would wake with a start, in a state of fear and anger; I snored like a log.[196]

At the age of ten, I was not yet aware of my quirks and repetitions, and I was untouched by doubt. [242]

At the age of ten, I was sure of myself. Modest and insufferable, I saw my defeats as conditions for my posthumous victory. [234]

He had been entrusted with her little wonder and had brought back a toad (104)].

I grew older in the darkness, I became a lonely adult, without father and mother, without home or hearth, almost without a name. [115]

I was both the creature who despairs and the God who has always saved him since the beginning of time. [128]

I did continue to believe that one is born superfluous unless one is brought into the world with a special purpose of fulfilling an expectation. My pride and forlornness were such at the time that I wished I were dead or that I were needed by the whole world. [166] Men of letter must face the greatest dangers and render the most distinguished service to mankind. [169]

Death was my vertigo because I had no desire to live. [192]

I was a child prodigy who was not a good speller, that was all." [77]

I thought it distinguished to be bored at M. Barrault's side while they played prisoners' base. [79]

I led two lives; both of them were untrue. Publicly, I wan an impostor: the famous grandson of the celebrated Charles Schweitzer; alone, I sank into imaginary mopping. [133]

In any case, things were not going right. I was saved by my grandfather. He drove me, without meaning to, into a new into a new imposture that changed my life. [135]

Feminized by maternal tendencies, dulled by the absence of the stern Moses who has begotten me, puffed with pride by my grandfather's adoration, I was a pure object, doomed par excellence to masochism if only I could have believed in the family play-acting. But no. It perturbed me only on the surface, and the depths remained cold, unjustified. The system horrified me. [112]

In order to make me fully aware of my good fortune, my mother learned and taught me the rules of prosody… I wrote in imitation, for the sake of the ceremony, in order to act like a grown-up; above all, I wrote because I was Charles Schweitzer's grandson. [140-141] In short, I wrote for my own pleasure. [146]

Such were my beginnings: I fled; external forces shaped my flight and made me. Religion which served as a model, could be discerned through an outmoded conception of culture. Being infantile, it is closer to a child than anything else. I was taught Sacred History, the Gospel, and the catechism without being given the means of believing. The result was a disorder which became my particular order. [248-9]

Things would have been fine if my body and I had got on well together. But the fact is that we were an odd couple. When the child is unhappy, he doesn't asks himself questions. If he suffers bodily as a result of needs and sickness, his unjustifiable state justifies his existence. His right to live is based on hunger, on the constant danger of death. As for me, I was neither rich enough to think I was predestined nor poor enough to feel my desires as demands… Breathing, digesting, defecating unconcernedly, I lived because I has begun to live. I was unaware of the violence and savage demands of that gorged companion, my body, which made itself known by a series of mild disturbances, much in demand among grown-ups…I had almost died at birth. [88-89]

I wanted to be missed, like water, like bread, like air, by all other men in all other places. [92]

A bourgeois child lives in the eternity of the instant., that is, in the state of inaction. I wanted an Atlas right away, forever, and since the beginning of time. It did not even occur to me that one could work to become one. I needed a Supreme Court, a decree restoring my rights to me. But where were the magistrates? My natural judges had fallen into discredit through their hamming; I objected to them, but I saw no others. [92-92]

But my family had been affected by the slow movement of dechristianization that started among the Voltairian upper bourgeoisie and took a century to spread to all levels of society. [97]

I had been baptized, like so many others, in order to preserve my independence; in denying me baptism, the family would have feared that it was doing violence to my soul. As a registered Catholic, I was free, I was normal. "Later," they said, "he'll do as he likes." It was deemed at that time that it was much harder to gain faith than to lose it. [99]

I was led to disbelief not by the conflict of dogmas, but by my grandparents' indifference. [100-101]

I was taught Sacred History, the Gospel, and the catechism without being given the means of believing. The result was a disorder which became my particular order. [249]

One morning in 1917, in La Rochelle, I was waiting for some schoolmates with whom I was to go to the lycee. They were late. After a while, not knowing what else to occupy my mind, I decided to think of the Almighty. Immediately He tumbled into the blue and disappeared without giving any explanation. He doesn't exist, I said to myself with polite surprise, and I thought the mater was settled. In a way, it was, since never have I had the slightest temptation to bring Him back to life. [250-1]

My long hair got on my grandfather's nerves Anne Marie stuck to her guns. She would, I think, have liked me to be a girl really and truly. That would have revived her sad childhood, and she would have been able to heap blessings on it. But since Heaven has not heard her prayer, she made her own arrangements: I would have the sex of the angels, indeterminate, but feminine around the edges. Being gentle, she taught me gentleness; my solitude did the rest and kept me away from violent games. [103]

Idolized by all, rejected by each, I was left out of things, and my sole recourse, at the age of seven, was within myself, who did not yet exist, a glass palace in which the budding century beheld its boredom. [110]

I lived in a state of uneasiness: at the very moment that their ceremonies convinced me that nothing exists without reason and that everyone, form the highest to the lowest, has his place marked out for him in the universe, my own reason for being slipped away; I would suddenly discover that I did not really count, and I felt ashamed of my unwonted presence in that well-ordered world. [86-87]

I developed a dislike for ceremonies, I loved crowds. I have seen crowds of all kinds, but the only other time I witnessed that nakedness, that sense of everyone's direct relationship to everyone else, that waking dream, that dim consciousness of the dangers of being a man, was in 1940, in Statag XII D.

I had met my true judges, my contemporaries, my peers, and their indifference condemned me. I could not get over discovering myself through them: neither a wonder nor a jelly-fish. [134]

I forgot about the war and my mandate. When I was asked: "What are you going to be when you grow up?", I would reply amiably and modestly that I would be a writer; but I had given up my dreams of glory and my spiritual exercises. For that reason, my war years were the happiest of my childhood. [217]

I was too loved to have doubts about myself. [220] Because I did not love myself sufficiently, I fled forward. [238]

I left school everyday every day in the company of the three Malaquins, Jean, Rene and Andre, of Paul and Norbert Meyre, Brun, and Max Bercot. We run yelling around the Place du Pantheon. It was a moment of grave happiness. I dropped the family play-acting. [222]

At the age of ten, I was sure of myself. Modest and insufferable, I saw my defeats as conditions for my posthumous victory. [234]


THE LOOK/BAD FAITH

Could a person be born condemned? In that case, I was told a lie. The order of the world concealed intolerable disorders. [82]

My truth, my character, and my name were in the hands of adults. I had learned to see myself through their eyes. I was a child, that monster which they fabricated with their regrets. When they were not present, they left their gaze behind, and it mingled with the light. I would run and jump across that gaze, which preserved my nature as a model grandson, which continued to give me my toys and the universe. My thoughts swam around in my pretty glass globe, in my soul. Everyone could follow their play. Not a shadowy corner. Yet, without words, without shape or consistency, diluted in that innocent transparency, a transparency certainly spoiled everything: I was an impostor. [83]

Play-acting robbed me of the world and of human beings. I saw only roles and props. Serving the activities of adults in a spirit of buffoonery, how could I have taken their worries seriously? I adapted myself to their intentions with a virtuous eagerness that kept me from sharing their purposes. A stranger to the needs, hopes and pleasures of the species, I squandered myself coldly in order to charm it. It was my audience; I was separated from it by footlights that forced me into a proud exile which quickly turned to anguish. [84]

I had been convinced that we were created for the purpose of laughing at the act we put on for each other. I accepted the act, but I required that I be the main character. But when lightning struck and left me blasted, I realized that I had a false major role, that though I had lines to speak and was often on stage, I had no scene of my own, in short, that I was giving the grown-ups their cues. [85-86]

I lived in a state of uneasiness: at the very moment that their ceremonies convinced me that nothing exists without reason and that everyone, form the highest to the lowest, has his place marked out for him in the universe, my own reason for being slipped away; I would suddenly discover that I did not really count, and I felt ashamed of my unwonted presence in that well-ordered world. [86-87]


RELIGION - 97FF

I needed a Creator; I was given a Big Boss. [97]

I had been baptized, like so many others, in order to preserve my independence; in denying me baptism, the family would have feared that it was doing violence to my soul. As a registered Catholic, I was free, I was normal. "Later," they said, "he'll do as he likes." It was deemed at that time that it was much harder to gain faith than to lose it. [99]

I was led to disbelief not by the conflict of dogmas, but by my grandparents' indifference. [100-101]

As I was both Protestant and Catholic, my double religious affiliation kept me from believing in the Saints, the Virgin, and finally in God Himself as long as they were called by their names… But the Other One remained, the Invisible One, the Holy Ghost, the one who guaranteed my mandate and who ran my life with his great anonymous and sacred powers. [250-1]



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