L'Exil et le Royaume
DE OTROS MUNDOS
El exilio y el reinoBIOGRAFÍAS
Nobel Prize in Literature 1957
(1913 - 1960)
Albert Camus (French pronunciation: [albɛʁ kamy] (7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960) was a French author, journalist, and key philosopher of the 20th century. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton.
Camus was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times". He was the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, after Rudyard Kipling, and the first African-born writer to receive the award. He is the shortest-lived of any Nobel literature laureate to date, having died in an automobile accident just over two years after receiving the award.
"Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know.
I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow.
Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything.
It may have happened yesterday."
Albert Camus / The Stranger
Albert Camus was born on 7 November 1913 in Dréan (then known as Mondovi) in French Algeria to a Pied-Noir settler family. Pied-Noir was a term used to refer to European colonists of French Algeria until Algerian independence in 1962. His mother was of Spanish descent and was half-deaf. His father Lucien, a poor agricultural worker, died in the Battle of the Marne in 1914 during World War I, while serving as a member of the Zouave infantry regiment. Camus and his mother lived in poor conditions during his childhood in the Belcourt section of Algiers.
In 1923, the bright boy was accepted into the lycée and eventually he was admitted to the University of Algiers. After he contracted tuberculosis (TB) in 1930, he had to end his football activities (he had been a goalkeeper for the university team) and reduce his studies to part-time. To earn money, he also took odd jobs: as private tutor, car parts clerk and assistant at the Meteorological Institute. He completed his licence de philosophie (BA) in 1935; in May 1936, he successfully presented his thesis on Plotinus, Néo-Platonisme et Pensée Chrétienne (Neo-Platonism and Christian Thought), for his diplôme d'études supérieures (roughly equivalent to an M.A. thesis).
Camus joined the French Communist Party in the spring of 1935, seeing it as a way to "fight inequalities between Europeans and 'natives' in Algeria." He did not suggest he was a Marxist or that he had read Das Kapital, but did write that "[w]e might see communism as a springboard and asceticism that prepares the ground for more spiritual activities." In 1936, the independence-minded Algerian Communist Party (PCA) was founded. Camus joined the activities of the Algerian People's Party (Le Parti du Peuple Algérien), which got him into trouble with his Communist party comrades. As a result, in 1937 he was denounced as a Trotskyite and expelled from the party. Camus went on to be associated with the French anarchist movement.
The anarchist Andre Prudhommeaux first introduced him at a meeting in 1948 of the Cercle des Étudiants Anarchistes (Anarchist Student Circle) as a sympathiser familiar with anarchist thought. Camus wrote for anarchist publications such as Le Libertaire, La révolution Proletarienne and Solidaridad Obrera (Workers' Solidarity, the organ of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT (National Confederation of Labor)). Camus stood with the anarchists when they expressed support for the uprising of 1953 in East Germany. He again allied with the anarchists in 1956, first in support of the workers’ uprising in Poznań, Poland, and then later in the year with the Hungarian Revolution.
In 1934, he married Simone Hie, a morphine addict, but the marriage ended as a consequence of infidelities on both sides. In 1935, he founded Théâtre du Travail (Worker's Theatre), renamed Théâtre de l'Equipe (Team's Theatre) in 1937. It lasted until 1939. From 1937 to 1939 he wrote for a socialist paper, Alger-Républicain. His work included an account of the peasants who lived in Kabylie in poor conditions, which apparently cost him his job. From 1939 to 1940, he briefly wrote for a similar paper, Soir-Republicain. He was rejected by the French army because of his TB.
In 1940, Camus married Francine Faure, a pianist and mathematician. Although he loved her, he had argued passionately against the institution of marriage, dismissing it as unnatural. Even after Francine gave birth to twins, Catherine and Jean, on 5 September 1945, he continued to joke to friends that he was not cut out for marriage. Camus conducted numerous affairs, particularly an irregular and eventually public affair with the Spanish-born actress Maria Casares. In the same year, Camus began to work for Paris-Soir magazine. In the first stage of World War II, the so-called Phoney War, Camus was a pacifist. In Paris during the Wehrmacht occupation, on 15 December 1941, Camus witnessed the execution of Gabriel Péri; it crystallized his revolt against the Germans. He moved to Bordeaux with the rest of the staff of Paris-Soir. In the same year he finished his first books, The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus. He returned briefly to Oran, Algeria in 1942.
During the war Camus joined the French Resistance cell Combat, which published an underground newspaper of the same name. This group worked against the Nazis, and in it Camus assumed the nom de guerre Beauchard. Camus became the paper's editor in 1943 and was in Paris when the Allies liberated the city, where he reported on the last of the fighting. Soon after the event on 6 August 1945, he was one of the few French editors to publicly express opposition to the United States' dropping the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. He resigned from Combat in 1947 when it became a commercial paper. It was then that he became acquainted with Jean-Paul Sartre.
After the war, Camus began frequenting the Café de Flore on the Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris with Sartre and others. He also toured the United States to lecture about French thought. Although he leaned left, politically, his strong criticisms of Communist doctrine did not win him any friends in the Communist parties and eventually alienated Sartre.
In 1949 his TB returned and Camus lived in seclusion for two years. In 1951 he published The Rebel, a philosophical analysis of rebellion and revolution which expressed his rejection of communism. Upsetting many of his colleagues and contemporaries in France, the book brought about the final split with Sartre. The dour reception depressed him and he began to translate plays.
Camus's first significant contribution to philosophy was his idea of the absurd. He saw it as the result of our desire for clarity and meaning within a world and condition that offers neither, which he expressed in The Myth of Sisyphus and incorporated into many of his other works, such as The Stranger and The Plague. Despite his split from his "study partner", Sartre, some still argue that Camus falls into the existentialist camp. He specifically rejected that label in his essay "Enigma" and elsewhere (see: The Lyrical and Critical Essays of Albert Camus). The current confusion arises in part because many recent applications of existentialism have much in common with many of Camus's practical ideas (see: Resistance, Rebellion, and Death). But, his personal understanding of the world (e.g. "a benign indifference", in The Stranger), and every vision he had for its progress (e.g. vanquishing the "adolescent furies" of history and society, in The Rebel) undoubtedly set him apart.
In the 1950s Camus devoted his efforts to human rights. In 1952 he resigned from his work for UNESCO when the UN accepted Spain as a member under the leadership of General Franco. In 1953 he criticized Soviet methods to crush a workers' strike in East Berlin. In 1956 he protested against similar methods in Poland (protests in Poznań) and the Soviet repression of the Hungarian revolution in October.
Camus maintained his pacifism and resisted capital punishment anywhere in the world. He wrote an essay against capital punishment in collaboration with Arthur Koestler, the writer, intellectual and founder of the League Against Capital Punishment.
When the Algerian War began in 1954, Camus was confronted with a moral dilemma. He identified with the pied-noirs such as his own parents and defended the French government's actions against the revolt. He argued that the Algerian uprising was an integral part of the 'new Arab imperialism' led by Egypt and an 'anti-Western' offensive orchestrated by Russia to 'encircle Europe' and 'isolate the United States'. Although favouring greater Algerian autonomy or even federation, though not full-scale independence, he believed that the pied-noirs and Arabs could co-exist. During the war he advocated a civil truce that would spare the civilians, which was rejected by both sides, who regarded it as foolish. Behind the scenes, he began to work for imprisoned Algerians who faced the death penalty.
From 1955 to 1956, Camus wrote for L'Express. In 1957 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times", not for his novel The Fall, published the previous year, but for his writings against capital punishment in the essay "Réflexions sur la Guillotine" (Reflections on the Guillotine). When he spoke to students at the University of Stockholm, he defended his apparent inactivity in the Algerian question; he stated that he was worried about what might happen to his mother, who still lived in Algeria. This led to further ostracism by French left-wing intellectuals.
Camus died on 4 January 1960 at the age of 46 in a car accident near Sens, in Le Grand Fossard in the small town of Villeblevin. In his coat pocket lay an unused train ticket. He had planned to travel by train with his wife and children, but at the last minute he accepted his publisher's proposal to travel with him.
The driver of the Facel Vega car, Michel Gallimard, his publisher and close friend, also died in the accident. In August 2011, the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera reported a theory that the writer had been the victim of a Soviet plot, but Camus biographer Olivier Todd did not consider it credible. Camus was buried in the Lourmarin Cemetery, Lourmarin, Vaucluse, France.
He was survived by his wife and twin children, Catherine and Jean, who hold the copyrights to his work.
Two of Camus's works were published posthumously. The first, entitled A Happy Death (1970), featured a character named Patrice Mersault, comparable to The Stranger's Meursault. There is scholarly debate as to the relationship between the two books. The second was an unfinished novel, The First Man (1995), which Camus was writing before he died. The novel was an autobiographical work about his childhood in Algeria.
Apart from his books, Albert Camus also liked writing love letters: he was an obsessive womaniser whose constant affairs drove his second wife to mental breakdown. Olivier Todd's new biography reveals all, says Peter Lennon
When Olivier Todd once asked Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus' old Saint Germain des Pres intellectual sparring partner, which of Camus' books he liked best he said: 'The Fall, because Camus has hidden himself in it.'
With the publication of his massive biography, Albert Camus: A life, Todd does some serious unveiling of the Algiers slum kid who, at 43, became the second youngest Nobel Prize winner in history. Letters never before published reveal him as an obsessive womaniser.
The Fall (1956) is the confession of a celebrated Parisian lawyer brought to crisis when he fails to come to the aid of a drowning woman. The 'drowning woman' was Camus' second wife, Francine, who had a mental breakdown. As mother of his two children, Camus decided it would be more appropriate if her relationship with him was that of 'a sister', allowing him erotic freedom. For years she appeared to go along with this but then she cracked. Todd says that Francine said to her husband: 'You owed me that book,' and Camus had agreed.
The revelations in Todd's biography of Camus' womanising could hardly have come as a surprise to those who had read Camus' early non-fiction. His reflections on Don Juanism in The Myth Of Sisyphus, written when he was 28, read like both a confession and a declaration of future policy: 'It is because he (Don Juan) loves them with the same passion and each time with his whole self that he must repeat his gift and his profound quest,' Camus wrote.
'Why should it be essential to love rarely in order to love much?' he asked. And: 'What Don Juan realises in action is an ethic of quantity, whereas the saint, on the contrary, tends towards quality.'
He carried the philosophy further, claiming that a mother or an uxorious wife necessarily had 'an enclosed heart' because it is 'turned away from the world' to fasten on one object. But Don Juan's love was liberating.
In December 1959, Camus' womanising reached its apotheosis. On the 29th, he wrote to his mistress announcing that he would shortly be returning to Paris from Lourmarin, where he had spent the summer with his wife and children: 'This frightful separation will at least have made us feel more than ever the constant need we have for each other.' On the next day he wrote: 'Just to let you know I am arriving on Tuesday by car. I am so happy at the idea of seeing you again that I am laughing as I write.' A day later, he wrote: 'See you Tuesday, my dear, I'm kissing you already and bless you from the bottom of my heart.' There was yet another letter setting up a date in New York.
Apart from the unremitting ardour, there was one thing remarkable about these letters: they were all to different women. The first was to Mi, a young painter; the second to Catherine Sellers, an actress; the third to Maria Casares, an internationally famous actress with whom he had a liaison for 16 years; and the fourth was to an American, Patricia Blake.
When, over a period of five years, Olivier Todd got access to all of these letters, he faced a dilemma. Copyright of all Camus' letters is invested in his literary executor - his daughter, Catherine. 'It is one thing for children to know their father was a womaniser,' Todd says, 'but quite another to show them proof.'
There was one letter written, to an 'Yvonne' with whom he was having a passionate affair, on the eve of his marriage: 'I'm probably going to waste my life,' he wrote. 'I mean I am going to marry F' 'That was Catherine's mother,' says Todd. But Catherine Camus raised no objections.
Mi, who received the first of those December letters, was a young painter of Danish extraction. Camus met her in the traditional way, picking her up at the Cafe Flore in Saint Germain des Pres in 1957. She was one of the rare females with whom he shared his other passion - football.
Told that she had disappeared from circulation, Todd used a very unjournalistic device: he looked her up in the equivalent of the phone book, the Minitel. She had married, had a daughter and divorced. She will still only be identified as Mi.
Camus had met Maria Casares, later star of Cocteau's Orpheus but already an established actress, in 1944. Daughter of a rich Spanish Republican, a refugee from Franco, she was a passionate, wilful, intelligent woman. She was probably the only one of his lovers who had a relationship of equality with him. In addition, Todd says, 'If he was a Don Juan, she was a Don Juana'.
Casares, who died recently, wrote an autobiography in which she was candid about her celebrated relationship with Camus, but with a curious high-mindedness never quoted directly from his hundreds of letters.
And then there was the avant-garde actress and theatre director, Catherine Sellers. In James Kent's Bookmark biography of Camus, based on Todd's book and shown on BBC2, we saw an actor playing a scene from The Fall. The actor is Sellers' husband. So Camus' former lover had her husband play the part of the hero of The Fall who was of course a version of Camus.
The New York letter was to Patricia Blake, whom Camus had met when he visited the US in 1946. She was then 20 and a copywriter for Vogue. She became his guide to the city, initially impressed by the gentlemanly distance at which he held his partners during the foxtrot. She was having lunch with him in Paris in 1957 when he received the news that he had won the Nobel Prize. He confessed to her that he felt suffocated.
With good reason. The Nobel committee, indulging their usual political meddling, gave the prize to a 'Frenchman of Algeria' at a high point in the Algerian war. Camus felt he could not turn it down. He was instantly derided by most of the Parisian intellectual elite. (Later, in the sixties, Sartre was to refuse it).
Camus kept none of these planned rendezvous. Driving back to Paris with his publisher and friend Michel Gallimard, their car hit a tree and he was killed instantly. He was 46.
Far from being a Parisian intellectual with little conscience about his affairs, Camus' relationships were important to him. 'He had a much more healthy relationship with women than Sartre,' Todd says. 'His relationships were quite moving'.
Camus was no Parisian sophisticate. He was a working-class pied-noir (born in Algeria but of European origin). His father died of war wounds when he was an infant; his mother was a charlady with no talent for communication, emotional or intellectual. In addition, something overlooked because of his colossal energies, he was chronically tubercular and must have had a perpetually feverish will to live. He also had a brief, early and disastrous marriage in 1934 to a drug addict, Simone Hei.
It is not hard to detect profound emotional deprivation in that background, of the kind projected in The Outsider (1942) in which the hero does not seem to be able to see the point of love and shoots an Arab without knowing why. But you cannot convincingly attach a lugubrious alibi to a personality of such rigorous honesty as Camus: the communist who, unlike Sartre, condemned Stalin's labour camps when their existence was revealed; and the consumptive journalist who worked in occupied Paris for the clandestine paper, Combat, while the upper-class spokesman for communism, Sartre, led an unmolested life of intellectual and material ease.
'It is an error,' Camus wrote, 'to make Don Juan an immoralist: in this respect he is like everyone else. He has the moral code of his sympathies and his antipathies'.
For further reading
A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning by Robert Zaretsky (2013); C amus & Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel That Ended It by Ronald Aronson (2004); Albert Camus in New York by Herbert R. Lottman(1997); Albert Camus: A Life by Oliver Todd (1997); Camus' "L'Étranger": Fifty Years On, ed. by Adele King (1992; Albert Camus by P.H. Rhein (1989);Camus: A Critical Study of His Life and Work by P. McCarthy (1982); The Theater of Albert Camus by E. Freeman (1971); The Sea and the Prison by R. Quillot (1970); A Pagan Hero: An Interpretation of Mersault in Camus' "The Stranger" by Robert Champigny (1969); Albert Camus: The Artist in the Arena by E. Parker (1965); Albert Camus, 1913-1969: A Biographical Study by P. Thody (1961)
* The Stranger (L'Étranger, often translated as The Outsider) (1942)
* The Plague (La Peste) (1947)
* The Fall (La Chute) (1956)
* A Happy Death (La Mort heureuse) (written 1936–1938, published posthumously 1971)
* The First Man (Le premier homme) (incomplete, published posthumously 1995)
* Exile and the Kingdom (L'exil et le royaume) (collection) (1957)
"The Adulterous Woman" ("La Femme adultère")
"The Renegade or a Confused Spirit" ("Le Renégat ou un esprit confus")
"The Silent Men" ("Les Muets")
"The Guest" ("L'Hôte")
"Jonas or the Artist at Work" ("Jonas ou l’artiste au travail")
"The Growing Stone" ("La Pierre qui pousse")
* Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism (1935)
* Betwixt and Between (L'envers et l'endroit, also translated as The Wrong Side and the Right Side) (Collection, 1937) * Nuptials (Noces) (1938)
* The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe) (1942)
* The Rebel (L'Homme révolté) (1951)
* Notebooks 1935–1942 (Carnets, mai 1935 — fevrier 1942) (1962)
* Notebooks 1943–1951 (1965) * Notebooks 1951–1959 (2008) Published as "Carnets Tome III : Mars 1951 – December 1959" (1989)
* Caligula (performed 1945, written 1938)
* Requiem for a Nun (Requiem pour une nonne, adapted from William Faulkner's novel by the same name) (1956)
* The Misunderstanding (Le Malentendu) (1944)
* The State of Siege (L' Etat de Siege) (1948)
* The Just Assassins (Les Justes) (1949)
* The Possessed (Les Possédés, adapted from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel by the same name) (1959)
* Create Dangerously (Essay on Realism and Artistic Creation) (1957)
* The Ancient Greek Tragedy (Parnassos lecture in Greece) (1956)
* The Crisis of Man (Lecture at Columbia University) (1946)
* Why Spain? (Essay for the theatrical play L' Etat de Siege) (1948)
* Reflections on the Guillotine (Réflexions sur la guillotine) (Extended essay, 1957)
* Neither Victims Nor Executioners (Combat) (1946)
* Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1961) – a collection of essays selected by the author.
* Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970)
* Youthful Writings (1976)
* Between Hell and Reason: Essays from the Resistance Newspaper "Combat", 1944–1947 (1991)
* Camus at "Combat": Writing 1944–1947 (2005)
Lottman, Herbert R. Albert Camus: A Biography. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979.
Todd, Olivier. Albert Camus: A Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.