A Sartre and de Beauvoir screener from the 1950s.
On this date in 1964 Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he refused.
Frye in notebook 12 offers a qualified estimation of Sartre as the last of the “great thinkers” (elsewhere he calls him “an intellectual juvenile delinquent”):
I had the usual childish fantasies, when very young, of wanting to be a “great man” — fantasies that in our day only Churchill had realized. But Churchill’s greatness was archaic: his funeral really buried that whole conception of greatness as a goal of ambition. Then I had fantasies of wanting to be a great composer & a great novelist–both obsolete conceptions today. The novel is breaking up into other forms & is no longer central as it was in the 19th c: the great composers ended with Bartok, and Boulez & Varese & Cage are not “great composers,” they’re something else. When I settled into my real line I naturally wanted to be “great” there too: but maybe greatness is obsolete. In the 19th century one wants to read Hegel & Marx & Kierkegaard & Nietzsche; are there really any 20th c. equivalents of that kind of “great thinker”? Maybe Sartre. But something about greatness ended around 1940. We’re doing different things now. Marshall McLuhan is a typical example: a reputation as a great thinker that doesn’t think at all. (CW 9, 146)