--Jean Paul-Sartre. From his essay, "The Republic of Silence."
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
SARTRE ON LIVING IN NAZI OCCUPIED FRANCE
WE HAVE NEVER BEEN SO FREE AS UNDER GERMAN OCCUPATION. We had lost every right, and above all the right of speech: we were insulted every day and we had to remain silent; we were deported as laborers, as jews, as political prisoners; everywhere, on the walls, in the newspapers, and on the screen, we saw the foul and listless face which our oppressors wanted to give us. Because of all of this we were free. Since the Nazi venom penetrated our very thoughts, every true thought was a victory. Since an all powerful police tried to force us to be silent, each word became as precious as a declaration of principle. Since we were hounded, every one of our movements had the importance of commitment. The often atrocious circumstances of our struggle had at last put us in a position to live our life without pretences--to live in this torn, unbearable condition which we call the human condition. Exile, captivity, and above all death, which is ably disguised in periods of happiness, became the perpetual object of our concern; we discovered that they were not inevitable accidents or even constant but external threats: they had become our lot, our destiny, the source of our reality as men. Each second we fully realized the meaning of that trite little phrase "All men are mortal."