Sunday, January 24, 2010

Time to Reconnect with Albert Camus

Albert  Camus.  He died 40 years ago this month (January 4, 1960) in a car accident.  He was at the summit of his powers.  Only three years before the accident, he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Camus was forty-six years old when he died, and he believed that his work had not even begun.  The exquisite irony is that he did not even like cars, and he had planned to travel by train on the day he died, until a friend talked him out of it.  An unused train ticket was found in his pocket.  One can only imagine what Camus would have done with that material in one of his books.. 

I first became acquainted with Albert Camus in college when I took a course in The Philosophy of Existentialism.  Yes, I know that there is a big argument that he was not an existentialist -- that even JP Sartre was not really an existentialist.  That label does not really matter to me.

What interests me now is whether my view of him has changed now that  I am older and wiser. Well, definitely older -- not sure at all about that wiser part.

And I also believe that for me to get a more complete picture of France today, I must try to get a better understanding of the French history in North Africa.. His writings subtly deal with themes of colonialism and the problems that it leaves in its wake. 

People like Camus were known by the term "pied-noir" -- black foot.  This term referred to people who were colonists of French European ancestry who lived in Algeria before independence.  It also refers to colonists who were repatriated in France after Algerian independence.   The name "black foot" is believed to have come from the firemen, the coal stokers, on steamers who worked in bare feet colored black by coal. .  They were most often Algerian natives.

Camus was born to a working-class family in Algeria in 1913.  He worked at various jobs in North Africa to pay for the courses he was taking at the University of Algiers.  He next turned to journalism, and he also ran a theater company that produced plays by Malraux and others. (He would later say that Malraux should have been the one who received the Nobel Prize).  During WWII, Camus was a leading writer for an underground newspaper of the French Resistance.

The writings of Albert Camus include his fiction, The Stranger, The Plague, and the Fall, and his essays, The Myth of Sisyphus  and The Rebel.    He stresses themes of survival and resilience, together with the difficulty man faces when he must accept the "absurdity" of the universe -- themes that certainly resonate today.

I am going to reconnect with Monsieur Camus.  I am not sure whether to start at the beginning with The Stranger or start with my dog-eared copy of The Plague that I kept from college.  I wish I could read them in the original French, but I am pretty stretched in my attempts to read Harry Potter in French (see previous post on Learning French with Harry Potter).

My favorite quote by Albert Camus:
Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower.

If any readers have suggestions on how to reconnect with Albert Camus, please let me know.   
Here is a link to find The Stranger The Stranger


Bob Meade said...

I too studied The Plague on English translation long ago. Hope one day to have enough French to read and comprehend the original.

Vivianne Leclaire said...

That is my goal, too -- Hugo, Flaubert, Dumas. I am not there yet, but I work at it every day.
Thanks for the comment.

Sara Louise said...

This is a fantastic blog! I'm looking forward to learning more about my new homeland and it's people with each of your posts :-)

Vivianne Leclaire said...

Thank you Sara Louise. I love your blog, too. I started to follow it today.

Tish Jett said...

What a brilliant blog you have. Welcome to the club. You most definitely add enormous quality to the "francophile genre." Where is your followers widget?

I want to be a member. I want to follow you on your adventures.

I'm so pleased we've found each other.

Warmest regards,

Vivianne Leclaire said...

Wow. Thanks. I just added a Followers widget. I did not have one before because I was not sure if anyone would want to follow and I thought it might be empty. :)

You can click on the brand new Followers widget or click on Follow in the top left of the blog.

Again, thanks for the post.

Pug1 said...

Nice blog! CHEERS! Michele

Maggie said...

I'm so happy I found your blog. I have loved anything French since I took French in high school. I was the secretary of the French Club and then majored in French in college. Like you though, thoughts of going to France were about as real as going to the moon back then. Unless you were rich...which I was not! I'm heading over now to add myself to your followers list.

Vivianne Leclaire said...

Thanks so much for your post. I hope you will post often. It sounds like we have much in common.

Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.