Jean-Paul Sartre's recollections about his early childhood, gathered in The Words, include experiences common to many creative individuals in the arts. Descended from a cultivated, well-to-do family, which included Albert Schweitzer in its ranks, Sartre was born of a short-lived union between a naive, forlorn girl and an errant naval officer who was soon to die. Most important in Sartre's early life was his patrician grandfather, a writer and scholar of some repute, who, while personally unappealing, was nonetheless a formative influence. Grandfather Schweitzer introduced Sartre to the world of books, displayed him before company, and provided an atmosphere of strong demands, rewards contingent upon good performances, and that model of diligence that has characterized productive creative artists in recent Western history.
The lack of a father is a common feature for artists, who not infrequently have lost one or even both parents at an early age. Sartre grew up in a household that had many visitors, including widely diverse relatives and associates, rather than in a restricted nuclear family that might have sheltered him from the world. At a very young age, Sartre was already entertaining the visitors. While his grandfather pointed out the child's brilliance (thereby appearing as a worthy progenitor), the future author held these audiences spellbound.
I'm a promising poodle: I prophecy, I make childish remarks; they are remembered, they are repeated to me. I learn to make others. I make grown-up remarks. I know how to say things "beyond my years" without meaning to.