FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?

jean-paul-sartre_

Dear Sartre,

Thank you for refusing the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964, athough, I must say, Harold Pinter made spectacular use of its pulpit by hurling an uncompromising indictment against the Axis of Good.

While the assault on Iraq was disemembering a people and a country, Pinter noted in 2004 that in the collective culture of empire, “Nothing ever happens even as it’s happening.” Therefore, along the ecocidal and homicidal path of empire, the victims—the legions of unremembered dead—remain namelss and uncounted.

Pinter’s speech was a linguistic airstrike of explosive proportions, so the empire ignored it. “Nothing happened.”

Some of the picks since your refusal in 1964 have been good: the awards to Dario Fo and Gabriel Garcia Marquez spring to mind, but this year’s choice vindicates your reasons for refusing the honor. You said that cultural interchange between East and West must flow between people and cultures—not through institutions. You said that the awards of past prizes were not conferred equally on all ideologies and countries. You said that

A writer who adopts political, social, or literary positions must act only with the means that are his own – that is, the written word . . . all the honours he may receive expose his readers to a pressure I do not consider desirable.

In formulating your refusal, you may have recalled Ralph Waldo Emerson’s belief that ‘Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. ” Indeed, the Nobel committee chose you for “for [your] 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.”

Our age, dear Sartre, is not an age basking in the warmth of freedom or journeying in the light of truth—even in spirit, as yours did, after the sobering carnage of WW II. This year’s Nobel Prize for Literature honors an age of intellectual dishonesty, dullness, and opportunism. Even a lethally bathetic intellectual age.

The Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015 goes to a “dissident” Belorussian scribbler who, in the post-communist era, has flattered smug imbeciles with tales of the new Evil Empire of Russia and of its bloodthirsty Tsar Vladimir the Terrible. She joins the canon—past and present– of cultural-imperialist, orientalists, sovietologists, russologists, sinologists, and sundry praise-singers of global racialized Western liberalism with historical and political bollocks that satiate the insatiable logophagia of the self-worshipping West, blood-spattered behind its cardboard shield of human rights.

This year’s prize is a cruel, almost witty inversion of all that you stood for and turns Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” into the evil of banality (there’s one who may have vitiated her prize with that phrase!). With this prize, your and Frantz Fanon’s slain “wretched of the earth,” are mocked by an insincerity calculated to elevate the murderers’ self-esteem, though at the Nobel committee “Nothing happened. Nothing ever happens. It’s not happening.”

Yours respectfully and most sincerely,

Luciana Bohne

More articles by:

Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at: lbohne@edinboro.edu

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail