WWW sites
Recommended Books
Related Events

Albert Camus
Course home page
Why have Camus' existentialist-tinged works proved so popular in the Western world?

As one of the most influential intellectuals of the twentieth century, Albert Camus was a spokesman for a generation scarred by two world wars.  His writings addressed the issues of the isolation of man in the modern world, the difficulty of defining evil and death.
Soon after Camus was born (7 November 1913), his father was killed in the First Battle of the Marne. His mother supported the family while working as a charwoman in a working-class district of Algiers.  Camus, his brother (Lucien), mother, maternal grandmother and a paralyzed uncle all lived in a small, two-room apartment. Camus' first two collections of essays, L'Envers et l'endroit (1937) and Noces (1938) described the setting of his childhood.
In 1918 Camus entered primary school, where he encountered one of the key influences on his life, the teacher, Louis Germain who helped him win a scholarship to the Algiers lycée (high school) in 1923.  In 1930, the first of his severe attacks of tuberculosis forced him to leave his unhealthy apartment and live on his own while studying philosophy at the University of Algiers.
There, Camus met another one of the formative influences in his life, Jean Grenier, who helped him develop his literary and philosophical ideas.  In 1936, Camus obtained a diplôme d'études supérieures for his thesis on the relationship between Greek and Christian thought in the writings of Plotinus and St. Augustine.
During the 1930s, Camus became a prominent figure among the young left-wing intellectuals of Algiers. For a very short period of time, he was a member of the Algerian Communist Party, and he worked for the Théâtre du Travail (Workers' Theatre), which aimed to bring plays to working-class audiences.
At the outbreak of World War II, Camus was serving his apprenticeship as a journalist with the Alger-Républicain where he wrote an important series of articles analyzing the deplorable conditions among the Muslims of the Kabylie region.  During the war--deemed unfit for service in the French army--Camus worked with the resistance as editor of the daily newssheet, Combat, which proved an apt vehicle for his left-wing views.  Disillusionment with postwar politics led him to quit Combat in 1947.
By then, Camus had become a leading literary figure.  L'Étranger (1942) won him fame and critical acclaim for his portraiture of modern "alienation."  In that same year, he also published the influential, philosophical reflection "Le Mythe de Sisyphe," which presented a modern sense of the "absurd."  Camus' second novel, La Peste (1947), was, on one hand, an account of the fight against the Plague and, on the other hand, a story of the struggle to define humanity. Other novels followed, L'Homme révolté (1951), La Chute (1956), and a collection of short stories, L'Exil et le royaume (1957).
In 1957, at the age of only forty-four, Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Less than three years later he died in an automobile accident.

7 November 1913, born in Mondovi, Algeria.
1914, Camus' father was drafted into the French army and died in the battle of the First Marne.
1930, Finished school with a major in philosophy.
1934, Married Simone Hié.
1936, Divorced.

Albert Camus
1938, Became a journalist.
1939, Volunteered for service in the French army but was rejected on medical grounds.
1940, Remarried and wrote an essay on the conditions of Muslims in Algeria that caused him to lose his job and move to Paris.
1941, Joined the Resistance against the Germans and became an editor of Combat, an underground newspaper.
1941, Wrote L'etranger and met Jean Paul Sartre.
1942, Wrote "Le Mythe de Sisyphe."
1946, Wrote La Peste.
1947, Wrote Les Justes.
1951, Wrote L'Homme Revolte.
1956, Wrote La Chute.

Albert Camus
1957, Won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
4 January 1960, Camus died in an auto accident in Sens, France on the road to Paris.

WWW sites
This is the best collection of web sites that I have found so far on on any single topic in HIS 135.
Albert Camus is the Nobel site for information on the novelist, with related links.  The site also maintains a detailed biography.  Other great sites include:
In 1991 the handwritten manuscript of L'etranger sold for $175,000 at auction.
Read Camus' acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize for Literature and "Solitaire et Solidaire," an Interview with Catherine Camus (his daughter) about the posthumous publication of his last novel, The First Man. There is another Interview with his daughter by the magazine 3am.

Recommended Books
Novels and short stories:
  • L'Étranger (1942)
  • La Peste (1947)
  • La Chute (1956)
  • L'Exil et le royaume (1957)
  • La mort heureuse (1970)
  • Le Malentendu (performed 1944, published 1944)
  • Caligula, performed 1945, published 1944
  • L'État de siège (performed and published 1948)
  • Les Justes (performed 1949, published 1950)
Essays and collections
  • L'Envers et l'endroit (1937)
  • Noces (1938)
  • Le Mythe de Sisyphe, essai sur l'absurde (1942)
  • Lettres à un ami allemand (1945)
  • Le Minotaure ou la halte d'Oran (written 1939, published 1950)
  • L'Homme révolté (1951)
Some of the major works about Camus include:
  • R. Roeming, ed., Camus:  A Bibliography (1968)
  • Good general studies in French include:
    • Roger Quilliot, La Mer et les prisons, rev. ed. (1970)
    • Morvan Lebesque, Albert Camus par lui-même (1963)
    • J.C. Brisville, Camus (1959)
  • Good studies in English include:
    • Richard H. Akeroyd, The Spiritual Quest of Albert Camus (1977)
    • Lev Braun, Witness of Decline, Albert Camus: Moralist of the Absurd (1974).
    • P.H. Rhein, Albert Camus (1969)
    • Emmett Parker, Albert Camus: The Artist in the Arena (1965)
    • Adele King, Camus (1964)
    • Philip Thody, Albert Camus, 1913-1960 (1961)
    • Germaine Brée, Camus (1959)
    • John Cruickshank, Albert Camus and the Literature of Revolt (1959)

Related Events
Simone de Beauvoir

This page is copyright © 2010, C.T. Evans
For information contact cevans@nvcc.edu