This year marks the 80th anniversary of the publication of Being and Nothingness, the most important philosophical work of Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). A prolific thinker with a wide range of interests, known for his contributions to the literary and theatrical fields, Sartre made a deep impression on the postwar cultural, political and social scene, and not just in France. He maintained that the intellectual is called upon to grapple with current problems, engaging in dialogue with ordinary people. In this sense can be seen his many interventions regarding the war in Algeria, the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the French demonstrations in May 1968, which led to protests throughout Europe. For his part there were some resounding gestures of defiance (such as his refusal to accept, on October 22, 1964, the Nobel Prize for Literature, so as not to compromise his freedom of thought).
On the academic level, even as a university student he distanced himself from an overly abstract and conceptual way of doing philosophy, like his contemporaries Husserl and Heidegger, though he admired them and drew on their phenomenological approach. Sartre preferred a style of thinking as a committed (engage) intellectual, attentive to the problems of ordinary life.
Being and Nothingness attempts to lay the groundwork for his thought, although the operation is certainly not smooth. It is a heavy, complex and not easily intelligible text that remained incomplete, while trying to present the main themes of philosophy. Earlier interests and research also converge in it, especially on the subject of imagination, emotions and psychology. We will retrace its contents in brief.