FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail