Existentialism and the Nobel Prize

Fifty years ago … on October 22, 2964 … Sartre turned down the Nobel Prize in Literature. He had been selected “for his 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.” But seven years earlier his fellow existentialist Albert Camus accepted the prize. He had been selected “for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times.” Which of them violated existentialism? Neither did, according to Stefany Anne Goldberg: “What matters most about Existentialism is not the validity of a decision, but following out the responsibilities and implications of that decision. Both Sartre and Camus did that. They lived out the responsibilities of being the rejector and the acceptor, respectively. In making opposite decisions, both writers affirmed the underlying creed, which is that the choice itself is far less important than the life lived according to that choice.”

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