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By Jean-Paul Sartre

In a probing philosophical exploration of the act of literary production, Sartre asks: “What is writing?,” “Why write?,” and “For whom does one write?” After discussing existentialism because it relates to paintings, human feelings, and psychology, French existentialist thinker Jean-Paul Sartre turns the query of existentialism to the topic of literature through mentioning that he needs to “examine the artwork of writing with out prejudice.” Sartre eschews the assumption of artists and writers evaluating their artworks to each other; as a substitute, he argues, “they exist by means of themselves.” Tying into his concepts on literature, Sartre also delves into Marxist politics, the highbrow hard work of the author, the person reader, and the analyzing public.

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This is the deeper meaning of that tough-luck, of that malediction with which he always claims kinship and which he always attributes to an intervention from without; whereas it is his deepest choice, the source, and not the consequence of his poetry. He is certain of the total defeat of the human enterprise and arranges to fail in his own life in order to bear witness, by his individual defeat, to human defeat in general. Thus, he contests, as we shall see, which is what the prose-writer does too.

And, thirdly, the preceding structures imply a pact between human freedoms, for, on the one hand, reading is a confident and exacting recognition of the freedom of the writer, and, on the other hand, aesthetic pleasure, as it is itself experienced in the form of a value, involves an absolute exigence in regard to others; every man, insofar as he is a freedom, feels the same pleasure in reading the same work. Thus, all mankind is present in its highest freedom; it sustains the being of a world which is both its world and the 56 “external” world.

The object is essential because it is strictly transcendent, because it imposes its own structures, and because one must wait for it and observe it; but the subject is also essential because it is required not only to disclose the object (that is, to make there be an object) but also so that this object might be (that is, to produce it). In a word, the reader is conscious of disclosing in creating, of creating by disclosing. In reality, it is not necessary to believe that reading is a mechanical operation and that signs make an impression upon 41 him as light does on a photographic plate.

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