This article looks to delineate Jean-Paul Sartre’s entry into the field of drama and the genesis of his prominent theatrical career. While Sartre spoke and wrote a great deal on this subject in interviews with theater critics and articles on theater, the most revealing sources of this information can be found in writings to, with, and by Simone de Beauvoir. This article therefore examines the exchange of letters between Sartre and Beauvoir, her wartime diary, an article and a recording by her from the 1940s, her autobiography, and the lengthy conversations between the two from 1974. The result will shed significant light on the evolution of Sartre’s interest in theater from his childhood, to his adolescence, and during the decade that preceded the creation of his first extant play, Bariona, in 1940.
Dennis A. Gilbert is a lecturer in French at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. His principal areas of scholarly interest include Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, dramatic theory, and literary criticism. His current writing project is entitled “Sartre’s Esthetic of Theater.”