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
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
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
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
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."
|7 November 1913, born in Mondovi,
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
1934, Married Simone Hié.
1957, Won the Nobel Prize in
4 January 1960, Camus died in an auto
accident in Sens, France on the road to Paris.
|1946, Wrote La Peste.
1947, Wrote Les Justes.
1951, Wrote L'Homme
1956, Wrote La Chute.
This is the best collection of web sites that
I have found so far on on any single topic in HIS 135.
Camus is the Nobel site for information on the novelist, with related
links. The site also maintains a
biography. Other great sites include:
In 1991 the handwritten
of L'etranger sold for $175,000 at auction.
Read Camus' acceptance
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.
Novels and short stories:
La Peste (1947)
La Chute (1956)
L'Exil et le royaume (1957)
La mort heureuse (1970)
Essays and collections
Le Malentendu (performed 1944, published
Caligula, performed 1945, published 1944
L'État de siège (performed and
Les Justes (performed 1949, published 1950)
Some of the major works about Camus
L'Envers et l'endroit (1937)
Le Mythe de Sisyphe, essai sur l'absurde
Lettres à un ami allemand (1945)
Le Minotaure ou la halte d'Oran (written 1939,
L'Homme révolté (1951)
R. Roeming, ed., Camus: A
Good general studies in French include:
Roger Quilliot, La Mer et les prisons,
rev. ed. (1970)
Morvan Lebesque, Albert Camus par
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
Germaine Brée, Camus (1959)
John Cruickshank, Albert Camus and the Literature
of Revolt (1959)
Simone de Beauvoir