Jean-Paul Sartre? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Did the famous existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre say the following:
Every word has consequences. Every silence, too.
I am trying to find a citation for the original French version. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: Jean-Paul Sartre believed that writers should be politically engaged. He was a founder of the journal “Les Temps Modernes”, and he presented his viewpoint on activism in the first issue in 1945: 1
L’écrivain est en situation dans son époque: chaque parole a des retentissements. Chaque silence aussi. Je tiens Flaubert et Goncourt pour responsables de la répression qui suivit la Commune parce qu’ils n’ont pas écrit une ligne pour l’empêcher. Ce n’était, pas leur affaire, dira-t-on. Mais le procès de Calas, était-ce l’affaire de Voltaire? La condamnation de Dreyfus, était-ce l’affaire de Zola?
One possible translation into English appeared in the 1982 book “The French Left: A History & Overview” by Arthur Hirsh: 2
The writer is situated in his time. Every word has consequences. Every silence, too. I hold Flaubert and Goncourt responsible for the repression which followed the Commune because they did not write one line to prevent it. One might say that it was not their business. But was the Calas trial Voltaire’s business? Dreyfus’ condemnation Zola’s?
The questions were rhetorical. Voltaire and Zola both took strong political stances, and Sartre argued that other writers should follow a similar policy of advocacy. Intellectuals should not be silent he maintained.
Below are two more citations and a conclusion. Continue reading Every Word Has Consequences. Every Silence, Too
- 1945 October, Les Temps Modernes: Revue Mensuelle, Volume 1, Number 1, Présentation by Jean-Paul Sartre, Start Page 1, Quote Page 5, Publisher: Temps Modernes, Paris, France. (Verified with scans; thanks to the library system of Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana) ↩
- 1982, The French Left: A History & Overview by Arthur Hirsh, Chapter 2: The Existentialist Challenge, Quote Page 41, Black Rose Books, Montréal, Quebéc, Canada. (Google Books Preview) ↩