Free Download: They Might Be Giants Play Their Entire First Album Live


They Might Be Giants released their epony­mous debut album in Novem­ber, 1986 and it imme­di­ate­ly attract­ed the atten­tion of Vil­lage Voice music crit­ic, Robert Christ­gau, who, in giv­ing the album an “A,” said “the hits just keep on com­ing in an exu­ber­ant­ly annoy­ing show of cre­ative super­abun­dance”. Almost thir­ty years lat­er, the band per­formed the sem­i­nal first album live in its entire­ty dur­ing its 2013 world tour. And now, as a spe­cial gift to fans old and new, they’re mak­ing avail­able a record­ing of those per­for­mances for free. It runs 47 min­utes. To get the record­ing, click the “Free Album Down­load” but­ton below, and fol­low the instruc­tions. Or click here.

via Laugh­ing Squid/Boing­Bo­ing

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Stephen Fry Reads the Legendary British Shipping Forecast

If you live in Eng­land, you’re prob­a­bly famil­iar with the Ship­ping Fore­cast, a night­ly BBC radio broad­cast that details the weath­er con­di­tions for the seas sur­round­ing Britain. The broad­cast has been on the air­waves since 1911. And many Brits will tell you that the fore­cast, always read in a soporif­ic voice, can lull you to sleep quick­er than a dose of Ambi­en. The broad­cast has a strict for­mat. It can’t exceed 350 words, and it always begins: “And now the Ship­ping Fore­cast, issued by the Met Office on behalf of the Mar­itime and Coast­guard Agency at [fill in the time] today.” Below y0u can lis­ten to a record­ing of actu­al fore­casts. (Or catch the one from 6/29/2014 here.) Don’t lis­ten to it while dri­ving, or oper­at­ing heavy machin­ery. A primer that decodes the unfa­mil­iar ter­mi­nol­o­gy in the radio trans­mis­sion can be found here.

All of this gives you just enough con­text to appre­ci­ate Stephen Fry’s par­o­dy read­ing of the Ship­ping Fore­cast. It was record­ed in 1988, for the first episode of his radio show Sat­ur­day Night Fry. (Full episode here.) You can read along with the tran­script, while lis­ten­ing to the clip up top:

And now, before the news and weath­er, here is the Ship­ping Fore­cast issued by the Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal Office at 1400 hours Green­wich Mean Time.
Fin­is­terre, Dog­ger, Rock­all, Bai­ley: no.
Wednes­day, vari­able, immi­nent, super.
South Utsire, North Utsire, Sheer­ness, Foul­ness, Eliot Ness:
If you will, often, emi­nent, 447, 22 yards, touch­down, stu­pid­ly.
Malin, Hebrides, Shet­land, Jer­sey, Fair Isle, Tur­tle-Neck, Tank Top, Courtelle:
Blowy, quite misty, sea sick­ness. Not many fish around, come home, veer­ing sug­ges­tive­ly.
That was the Ship­ping Fore­cast for 1700 hours, Wednes­day 18 August.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stephen Fry Reads Oscar Wilde’s Children’s Sto­ry “The Hap­py Prince”

Shakespeare’s Satir­i­cal Son­net 130, As Read By Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry Pro­files Six Russ­ian Writ­ers in the New Doc­u­men­tary Russia’s Open Book

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Jack Kerouac’s On the Road Turned Into an Illustrated Scroll: One Drawing for Every Page of the Novel

illustrated on the road scroll
A great deal of mythol­o­gy has built up around the life of Jack Ker­ouac, and espe­cial­ly around the expe­ri­ences that went into his best-known work, the 1957 nov­el On the Road. Even the very act of its com­po­si­tion — per­haps espe­cial­ly the act of its com­po­si­tion — has, in the imag­i­na­tions of many of Ker­ouac’s read­ers, turned into an image of the man “writ­ing the book on a long scroll of tele­type paper in three cof­fee-soaked-ben­zedrine-fueled days.” With this image in mind, illus­tra­tor Paul Rogers of Pasade­na’s Art Cen­ter Col­lege of Design cre­at­ed On the Road, the illus­trat­ed scroll, fea­tur­ing “a draw­ing for every page” of the nov­el, and depict­ing the his­tor­i­cal­ly researched “cars, bus­es, road­side archi­tec­ture, and old signs” from Ker­ouac’s Amer­i­ca of the late 1940s and ear­ly 50s, one that “looked awful­ly dif­fer­ent than it does now.” You can scroll, as it were, through this work in progress at Rogers’ site.


We’ve here includ­ed only four of the over 100 draw­ings Rogers has so far made, but these exam­ples cap­ture the nov­el­’s multi­gen­er­a­tional­ly intox­i­cat­ing mix of Amer­i­cana and pure momen­tum. You’ll also notice that, under­neath each image, Rogers excerpts a pas­sage of Ker­ouac’s. “Adding Ker­ouac’s words as cap­tions to the draw­ings makes the series feel like a jour­nal and not a care­ful­ly planned out illus­trat­ed book,” he writes, “and it seems to cap­ture some of the spir­it of Ker­ouac’s ‘this-hap­pened-then-this-then-this’ writ­ing style.”


You can read the scroll part-by-part on these pages: one through three, four, five, six, sev­en. Though I nev­er took quite the lifestyle inspi­ra­tion from On the Road some have, I can’t wait to see what visu­al inspi­ra­tion Rogers draws from the bit about fab­u­lous yel­low roman can­dles explod­ing like spi­ders across the stars.

souvenir folder

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jack Kerouac’s Hand-Drawn Map of the Hitch­hik­ing Trip Nar­rat­ed in On the Road

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Dri­ving Direc­tions & Pub­lished as a Free eBook

Jack Ker­ouac Lists 9 Essen­tials for Writ­ing Spon­ta­neous Prose

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Ernest Hemingway’s Summer Camping Recipes


With regard to writ­ing, Ernest Hem­ing­way was a man of sim­ple tastes. Were I to employ a metaphor, I’d describe Hem as the kind of guy who’d pre­fer an unadorned plum from William Car­los Williams’ ice­box to Maki­ni How­ell’s Pesto Plum Piz­za with Bal­sam­ic Arugu­la.

Don’t mis­take that metaphor for real life, how­ev­er. Judg­ing by his 1920 Toron­to Star how-to on max­i­miz­ing com­fort on camp­ing vaca­tions, he would not have stood for charred wee­nies and marsh­mal­lows on a stick. Rather, a lit­tle cook­ery know-how was some­thing for a man to be proud of:

“…a fry­ing pan is a most nec­es­sary thing to any trip, but you also need the old stew ket­tle and the fold­ing reflec­tor bak­er.”

Clear­ly, the man did not trust read­ers to inde­pen­dent­ly seek out such sources as The Per­ry Ladies’ Cook­book of 1920 for instruc­tions. Instead, he painstak­ing­ly details his method for suc­cess­ful prepa­ra­tion of Trout Wrapped in Bacon, includ­ing his pre­ferred brands of veg­etable short­en­ing.

Would your mouth water less if I tell you that lit­er­ary food blog Paper and Salt has updat­ed Hem’s trout recipe à la Emer­il Lagasse, omit­ting the Crisco and toss­ing in a few fresh herbs? No camp­fire required.  You can get ‘er done in the broil­er:

Bacon-Wrapped Trout: (adapt­ed from Emer­il Lagasse)
2 (10-ounce) whole trout, cleaned and gut­ted
1/2 cup corn­meal
Salt and ground pep­per, to taste
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lemon, sliced
6 slices bacon
Fresh pars­ley, for gar­nish

1. Pre­heat broil­er and set oven rack 4 to 6 inch­es from heat. With a paper tow­el, pat trout dry inside and out. Dredge out­side of each fish in corn­meal, then sea­son cav­i­ty with salt and pep­per. Place 4 sprigs of thyme and 2 lemon slices inside each fish.

2. Wrap 3 bacon slices around the mid­dle of each fish, so that the edges over­lap slight­ly. Line a roast­ing pan with alu­minum foil, and place fish on pan. Broil until bacon is crisp, about 5 min­utes. With a spat­u­la, care­ful­ly flip fish over and cook anoth­er 5 min­utes, until flesh is firm.

Like any thought­ful host­ess (sim­i­le!), Hem­ing­way did­n’t leave his guests to starve whilst wait­ing for the main event. His choice of hors d’oeu­vres was lit­tle pan­cakes made from a mix, and again, he leaves noth­ing to chance, or Aunt Jemi­ma’s instruc­tions…

With the pre­pared pan­cake flours you take a cup­ful of pan­cake flour and add a cup of water. Mix the water and flour and as soon as the lumps are out it is ready for cook­ing. Have the skil­let hot and keep it well greased. Drop the bat­ter in and as soon as it is done on one side loosen it in the skil­let and flip it over. Apple but­ter, syrup or cin­na­mon and sug­ar go well with the cakes.

Here, Paper and Salt’s Nicole Vil­leneuve does us all a sol­id by doing away with prepack­aged mix. Bonus points for using ingre­di­ents that would’ve been avail­able in 1920’s Michi­gan, beloved site of Hem­ing­way’s trout and pan­cake cam­pouts.

Corn Cakes:
1 1/2 cups corn ker­nels (either fresh off the cob or thawed)
2 green onions, white parts only, coarse­ly chopped
2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup stone-ground yel­low corn­meal
1 tea­spoon bak­ing pow­der
1/2 tea­spoon red chile flakes
1/2 tea­spoon salt
1 tea­spoon sug­ar
1 egg, light­ly beat­en
2/3 cup but­ter­milk
2 table­spoons but­ter, melt­ed and cooled
Canola oil, for fry­ing

1. In a food proces­sor, add corn and green onions and pulse 4 to 5 times, until fine­ly chopped. In a large bowl, stir togeth­er corn mix­ture, flour, corn­meal, bak­ing pow­der, red chile flakes, salt, and sug­ar.

2. In a small bowl, com­bine egg, but­ter­milk, and but­ter. Add to corn mix­ture, stir­ring until just com­bined.

3. Coat a large skil­let or pan­cake grid­dle with oil. Over medi­um heat, spoon bat­ter onto pan in 1/4 cups and fry until cakes are gold­en on both sides, 1 to 2 min­utes per side.

Vil­leneuve opts out of recre­at­ing Hem­ing­way’s dessert, an al fres­co fruit pie so good “your pals … will kiss you” (pro­vid­ed, of course, that they’re French­men). Because I, too, aim high­er than wee­nies and marsh­mal­lows, here are his lengthy, rather self-con­grat­u­la­to­ry  instruc­tions:

In the bak­er, mere man comes into his own, for he can make a pie that to his bush appetite will have it all over the prod­uct that moth­er used to make, like a tent. Men have always believed that there was some­thing mys­te­ri­ous and dif­fi­cult about mak­ing a pie. Here is a great secret. There is noth­ing to it. We’ve been kid­ded for years. Any man of aver­age office intel­li­gence can make at least as good a pie as his wife.

All there is to a pie is a cup and a half of flour, one-half tea­spoon­ful of salt, one-half cup of lard and cold water. That will make pie crust that will bring tears of joy into your camp­ing partner’s eyes.

Mix the salt with the flour, work the lard into the flour, make it up into a good work­man­like dough with cold water. Spread some flour on the back of a box or some­thing flat, and pat the dough around a while. Then roll it out with what­ev­er kind of round bot­tle you pre­fer. Put a lit­tle more lard on the sur­face of the sheet of dough and then slosh a lit­tle flour on and roll it up and then roll it out again with the bot­tle.

Cut out a piece of the rolled out dough big enough to line a pie tin. I like the kind with holes in the bot­tom. Then put in your dried apples that have soaked all night and been sweet­ened, or your apri­cots, or your blue­ber­ries, and then take anoth­er sheet of the dough and drape it grace­ful­ly over the top, sol­der­ing it down at the edges with your fin­gers. Cut a cou­ple of slits in the top dough sheet and prick it a few times with a fork in an artis­tic man­ner.

Put it in the bak­er with a good slow fire for forty-five min­utes and then take it out.

Remem­ber, campers:  The real woods­man is the man who can be real­ly com­fort­able in the bush. — Ernest Hem­ing­way

 via Paper and Salt

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Ham­burg­er Recipe

Sev­en Tips From Ernest Hem­ing­way on How to Write Fic­tion

Ernest Hem­ing­way Cre­ates a Read­ing List for a Young Writer, 1934

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author who once designed a course on out­door cook­ing, just so she could order pie irons online. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Sonny Rollins Describes How 50 Years of Practicing Yoga Made Him a Better Musician

Indi­an mys­tic and philoso­pher Patan­jali sup­pos­ed­ly cre­at­ed mod­ern yoga by trans­mit­ting his doc­trine and dis­ci­plines to sev­en sages. In the mid-1950s, those teach­ings came down through the cen­turies to anoth­er sage, Son­ny Rollins, who, like his good friend John Coltrane, incor­po­rat­ed his exper­i­ments with East­ern spir­i­tu­al­i­ty into his jazz impro­vi­sa­tions. In Rollins’ case, yoga has giv­en him, as he recounts in the short video above, “spir­i­tu­al under­stand­ing” and “direc­tion.” Set­ting out for India in 1967 to find “uplift­ment,” Rollins checked him­self into an Ashram, with noth­ing but a bag and his horn, “and it worked out well,” he says. Rollins and his jazz “com­pa­tri­ots” like Coltrane “were try­ing to find a way to express life through our impro­vi­sa­tions,” he tells NPR. “The music has got to mean some­thing,” he says, “Jazz impro­vi­sa­tion is sup­posed to be the high­est form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and get­ting that to the peo­ple is our job as musi­cians.”

In his new set of live record­ings, Road Shows, Vol. 3, Rollins plays a “mantra-like” song called “Patan­jali,” a trib­ute to the dis­ci­pline that keeps him phys­i­cal­ly and musi­cal­ly vital. In his “Morn­ing Edi­tion” inter­view above, Rollins describes his yoga prac­tice as help­ing his “con­cen­tra­tion lev­el.” “The thing is this,” he says, “When I play, what I try to do is to reach my sub­con­scious lev­el. I don’t want to overt­ly think about any­thing, because you can’t think and play at the same time—believe me, I’ve tried.” At age 83, and still sound­ing as fresh as he does, one imag­ines he’s tried it all and learned some valu­able lessons. In 1963, Rollins met the Oki Yoga group in Japan, who com­bine yoga, Zen, and mar­tial arts prin­ci­ples, and he’s also stud­ied Rosi­cru­cian­ism, Bud­dhism, and “Kab­bal­ah, even—I was real­ly into those philoso­phies of life.”

As for whether Son­ny Rollins con­sid­ers him­self a mem­ber of any par­tic­u­lar sect, hear his thoughts on orga­nized reli­gion in answer to a recent Google Hang­out ques­tion (above). While he may not sub­scribe to a spe­cif­ic belief sys­tem, he’s cer­tain­ly found spir­i­tu­al tech­niques that give him—as he puts it in an inter­view with Yoga Jour­nal—“a cen­ter.” Rollins “still prac­tices asana [pos­es] every day, includ­ing Halasana (Plow Pose) and Urd­h­va Dha­nurasana (Upward Bow Pose).” Want to learn more about yoga? You could always read Patanjali’s famous sutras. For more prac­ti­cal instruc­tion in this peace­ful phys­i­cal dis­ci­pline, per­haps take a look at the rather iron­i­cal­ly named Les­ley Fightmaster’s Youtube chan­nel, with free lessons for vir­tu­al­ly every­one.

Of course, no one teacher should be con­sid­ered the author­i­ty on yoga. Like every spir­i­tu­al prac­tice, yoga has its many schisms and divi­sions, even so-called “Yoga Wars”: among Hin­dus and Chris­tians, between cor­po­rate giants like Lul­ule­mon (and West­ern teach­ers like Fight­mas­ter) and tra­di­tion­al Indi­an prac­ti­tion­ers, between “Hot Yoga” (and its con­tro­ver­sial founder) and every­one else…. I doubt Son­ny Rollins has time to get enmeshed in these squab­bles, and maybe nei­ther do you. For a much less uptight fusion of East­ern prac­tice and West­ern spir­it, per­haps try some Star Wars Yoga. In this video, instruc­tor Eri­ca Vetra offers a free beginner’s class for those who “A. love Star Wars, B. have nev­er seen Star Wars, C. love yoga, or D. have nev­er done yoga.” The ecu­meni­cal Son­ny Rollins might approve, though the ven­er­a­ble Patan­jali, indif­fer­ent to “fan­cy” and “illu­sion,” may not have been amused.

via A Piece of Mono­logue

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Son­ny Rollins’ New York City Bridge Sab­bat­i­cal Recre­at­ed in 1977 Pio­neer Elec­tron­ics Ad

Free Guid­ed Med­i­ta­tions From UCLA: Boost Your Aware­ness & Ease Your Stress

David Lynch Talks Med­i­ta­tion with Paul McCart­ney

Alan Watts Intro­duces Amer­i­ca to Med­i­ta­tion & East­ern Phi­los­o­phy (1960)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Internet’s Own Boy: New Documentary About Aaron Swartz Now Free Online

On Boing­Bo­ing today, Cory Doc­torow writes: “The Cre­ative Com­mons-licensed ver­sion of The Inter­net’s Own Boy, Bri­an Knap­pen­berg­er’s doc­u­men­tary about Aaron Swartz, is now avail­able on the Inter­net Archive, which is espe­cial­ly use­ful for peo­ple out­side of the US, who aren’t able to pay to see it online.… The Inter­net Archive makes the movie avail­able to down­load or stream, in MPEG 4 and Ogg. There’s also a tor­rentable ver­sion.”

Accord­ing to the film sum­ma­ry, the new doc­u­men­tary “depicts the life of Amer­i­can com­put­er pro­gram­mer, writer, polit­i­cal orga­niz­er and Inter­net activist Aaron Swartz. It fea­tures inter­views with his fam­i­ly and friends as well as the inter­net lumi­nar­ies who worked with him. The film tells his sto­ry up to his even­tu­al sui­cide after a legal bat­tle, and explores the ques­tions of access to infor­ma­tion and civ­il lib­er­ties that drove his work.”

The Inter­net’s Own Boy will be added to our col­lec­tion, 285 Free Doc­u­men­taries Online, part of our larg­er col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Fol­low Open Cul­ture on Face­book and Twit­ter and share intel­li­gent media with your friends. Or bet­ter yet, sign up for our dai­ly email and get a dai­ly dose of Open Cul­ture in your inbox. And if you want to make sure that our posts def­i­nite­ly appear in your Face­book news­feed, just fol­low these sim­ple steps.

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Steve Buscemi’s Top 10 Film Picks (from The Criterion Collection)


Ah, sum­mer sun­shine. It’s love­ly, but so is the idea of draw­ing the drapes while Steve Busce­mi schools me in some of the dark­er cor­ners of cin­e­ma and the human psy­che.

The man who’s met his onscreen end so fre­quent­ly (and hor­ri­bly) as to mer­it a Youtube trib­ute titled The Many Deaths of Steve Busce­mi is one of dozens of lumi­nar­ies who’ve com­piled top 10 lists from the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion’s film cat­a­log.

What do Buscemi’s 10 picks reveal?

A fond­ness for black-and-white, a doc­u­men­tary sen­si­bil­i­ty, and an appre­ci­a­tion for any­thing deft­ly strad­dling the divide between hor­ror and humor…

If, like me, you’re unfa­mil­iar with some of his picks, take a look at the trail­ers. I would­n’t be sur­prised to find him crop­ping up in any one of them.

Bil­ly Liar

This shin­ing exam­ple of the British New Wave can be referred to as a kitchen sink dra­ma, but Busce­mi calls it a com­e­dy, with “one of the sad­dest end­ings” he’s ever seen.

Brute Force

Pic­ture a remake with Busce­mi fill­ing the shoes of sadis­tic prison guard Hume Cronyn.

The Hon­ey­moon Killers 

Buscemi’s home­town gets the nod in one of his favorite-ever film lines: ‘Val­ley Stream. Val­ley Stream. What a joke!’”

Man Bites Dog 

Not hard to imag­ine the Coen Broth­ers enlist­ing Busce­mi to hold forth on the bal­last ratio for corpses. Those with the stom­ach for it can watch the whole dis­turb­ing thing here, though as Busce­mi him­self warns, it’s not for every­body.

My Own Pri­vate Ida­ho

Buscemi’s favorite Riv­er Phoenix flick.


Won­der­ing how Albert Maysles will feel when he reads that fel­low direc­tor Richard Lin­klater fixed Busce­mi up with a boot­leg of his doc about door-to-door Bible ped­dlers.

Short Cuts 

Looks like there’s an Alt­man fan in the house of Busce­mi.

Sym­biopsy­chotax­i­plasm (whole film)

This unscript­ed, nev­er the­atri­cal­ly released faux-doc­u­men­tary from the sum­mer of ’68 was res­ur­rect­ed by Buscemi’s neigh­bor, the Brook­lyn Muse­um.

The Van­ish­ing 

If some­thing gives Steve Busce­mi night­mares, it’s like­ly to do a num­ber on you too. Watch the whole film here if you dare.

A Woman Under the Influ­ence  

Buscemi’s appre­ci­a­tion is so ardent, I’m hop­ing he’ll con­sid­er hip­ping us to his Top 10 Cas­savetes films!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Quentin Taran­ti­no & Steve Busce­mi Rehearse Scenes for Reser­voir Dogs in 1991 (NSFW)

Quentin Taran­ti­no Lists the 12 Great­est Films of All Time: From Taxi Dri­ver to The Bad News Bears

A Young Jean-Luc Godard Picks the 10 Best Amer­i­can Films Ever Made (1963)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, home­school­er and the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of The East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

Jean-Paul Sartre Rejects the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964: “It Was Monstrous!”

In a 2013 blog post, the great Ursu­la K. Le Guin quotes a Lon­don Times Lit­er­ary Sup­ple­ment col­umn by a “J.C.,” who satir­i­cal­ly pro­pos­es the “Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal.” “Writ­ers all over Europe and Amer­i­can are turn­ing down awards in the hope of being nom­i­nat­ed for a Sartre,” writes J.C., “The Sartre Prize itself has nev­er been refused.” Sartre earned the hon­or of his own prize for prize refusal by turn­ing down the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture in 1964, an act Le Guin calls “char­ac­ter­is­tic of the gnarly and counter-sug­gestible Exis­ten­tial­ist.” As you can see in the short clip above, Sartre ful­ly believed the com­mit­tee used the award to white­wash his Com­mu­nist polit­i­cal views and activism.

But the refusal was not a the­atri­cal or “impul­sive ges­ture,” Sartre wrote in a state­ment to the Swedish press, which was lat­er pub­lished in Le Monde. It was con­sis­tent with his long­stand­ing prin­ci­ples. “I have always declined offi­cial hon­ors,” he said, and referred to his rejec­tion of the Legion of Hon­or in 1945 for sim­i­lar rea­sons. Elab­o­rat­ing, he cit­ed first the “per­son­al” rea­son for his refusal

This atti­tude is based on my con­cep­tion of the writer’s enter­prise. 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 hon­ors he may receive expose his read­ers to a pres­sure I do not con­sid­er desir­able. If I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre it is not the same thing as if I sign myself Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize win­ner.

The writer must there­fore refuse to let him­self be trans­formed into an insti­tu­tion, even if this occurs under the most hon­or­able cir­cum­stances, as in the present case.

There was anoth­er rea­son as well, an “objec­tive” one, Sartre wrote. In serv­ing the cause of social­ism, he hoped to bring about “the peace­ful coex­is­tence of the two cul­tures, that of the East and the West.” (He refers not only to Asia as “the East,” but also to “the East­ern bloc.”)

There­fore, he felt he must remain inde­pen­dent of insti­tu­tions on either side: “I should thus be quite as unable to accept, for exam­ple, the Lenin Prize, if some­one want­ed to give it to me.”


As a flat­ter­ing New York Times arti­cle not­ed at time, this was not the first time a writer had refused the Nobel. In 1926, George Bernard Shaw turned down the prize mon­ey, offend­ed by the extrav­a­gant cash award, which he felt was unnec­es­sary since he already had “suf­fi­cient mon­ey for my needs.” Shaw lat­er relent­ed, donat­ing the mon­ey for Eng­lish trans­la­tions of Swedish lit­er­a­ture. Boris Paster­nak also refused the award, in 1958, but this was under extreme duress. “If he’d tried to go accept it,” Le Guin writes, “the Sovi­et Gov­ern­ment would have prompt­ly, enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly arrest­ed him and sent him to eter­nal silence in a gulag in Siberia.”

These qual­i­fi­ca­tions make Sartre the only author to ever out­right and vol­un­tar­i­ly reject both the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture and its siz­able cash award. While his state­ment to the Swedish press is filled with polite expla­na­tions and gra­cious demur­rals, his filmed state­ment above, excerpt­ed from the 1976 doc­u­men­tary Sartre by Him­self, minces no words.

Because I was polit­i­cal­ly involved the bour­geois estab­lish­ment want­ed to cov­er up my “past errors.” Now there’s an admis­sion! And so they gave me the Nobel Prize. They “par­doned” me and said I deserved it. It was mon­strous!

Sartre was in fact par­doned by De Gaulle four years after his Nobel rejec­tion for his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the 1968 upris­ings. “You don’t arrest Voltaire,” the French Pres­i­dent sup­pos­ed­ly said. The writer and philoso­pher, Le Guin points out, “was, of course, already an ‘insti­tu­tion’” at the time of the Nobel award. Nonethe­less, she says, the ges­ture had real mean­ing. Lit­er­ary awards, writes Le Guin—who her­self refused a Neb­u­la Award in 1976 (she’s won sev­er­al more since)—can “hon­or a writer,” in which case they have “gen­uine val­ue.” Yet prizes are also award­ed “as a mar­ket­ing ploy by cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism, and some­times as a polit­i­cal gim­mick by the awarders [….] And the more pres­ti­gious and val­ued the prize the more com­pro­mised it is.” Sartre, of course, felt the same—the greater the hon­or, the more like­ly his work would be coopt­ed and san­i­tized.

Per­haps prov­ing his point, a short, nasty 1965 Har­vard Crim­son let­ter had many, less flat­ter­ing things than Le Guin to say about Sartre’s moti­va­tions, call­ing him “an ugly toad” and a “poor los­er” envi­ous of his for­mer friend Camus, who won in 1957. The let­ter writer calls Sartre’s rejec­tion of the prize “an act of pre­ten­sion” and a “rather inef­fec­tu­al and stu­pid ges­ture.” And yet it did have an effect. It seems clear at least to me that the Har­vard Crim­son writer could not stand the fact that, offered the “most cov­et­ed award” the West can bestow, and a heap­ing sum of mon­ey besides, “Sartre’s big line was, ‘Je refuse.’”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jean-Paul Sartre Breaks Down the Bad Faith of Intel­lec­tu­als

Human, All Too Human: 3‑Part Doc­u­men­tary Pro­files Niet­zsche, Hei­deg­ger & Sartre

Albert Camus Wins the Nobel Prize & Sends a Let­ter of Grat­i­tude to His Ele­men­tary School Teacher (1957)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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