Matthew Feldman reflects on the French thinker
|Albert Camus and his publisher, Michel Gallimard, Greece, 1958. Photo: Tal/Rue des Archives/Granger Collection|
Born into an impoverished family of pieds-noir settlers on the southern shores of his lifelong love, the Mediterranean, his father was killed in the Great War while Camus was in infancy. Both experiences, the colonial and the plague of war, were inscribed into nearly all of his works: literary, dramatic, philosophical and journalistic alike. His most autobiographical, The First Man (Le Premier Homme), was found in the boot of the crumpled car that ejected him like a womb.
Camus’s death was a near-allegory of his life, like that novel itself: unbowed in spite of all, incomplete – yet still better than most and, crucially, unwilling to compromise with the certainties and platitudes of compromised men and their crazily platitudinous times. Amongst a thicket of detractors, his work towers above those of lesser, and less humane, thinkers, too little remembered for its courage in the face of violence and ideological extremism. Camus demands a much wider readership for his perspicuity, his sensitivity to suffering, and his implacable striving for justice.
For Camus was a sane man living in crazy times. His inspiring body of work beautifully speaks to the latter still, especially his journalism and short prose. Nor were his political writings bereft of influence at the time – if too little so. Beyond the US, for example, the Western world has come to accept his trenchant critique of the death penalty in the unrivalled “Reflections on the Guillotine.” In ethically vexing times, few were as incisive or nuanced on the Sisyphean issues of the day – war and peace, communism and liberalism, poverty and greed – than he looks to be from the view of posterity. Still, he is not heard enough. [Read More]
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