November 7th – Albert Camus

“…we must know that we can never escape the common misery and that our only justification, if indeed there is a justification, is to speak up, insofar as we can, for those who cannot do so.”

Albert Camus

Philosopher and author Albert Camus was born November 7th, 1912, in French Algeria. He studied philosophy at the University of Algiers. Growing up in the French Colony, Camus worked for a leftist newspaper until it was shut down, then moved to Paris. He was unable to serve in the Army because he had tuberculosis, which he had contracted at the age of 17. He became part of the French Resistance and wrote for the clandestine newspaper Combat. 

In 1934 he married Simone Hie. Her addiction to morphine along with mutual infidelities, including Hie’s with her doctor, ended the married quickly

Camus’ first published work was a four-act play written with three friends, Révolte dans les Asturies (Revolt in the Asturias). His first book, L’Envers et l’Endroit (Betwixt and Between), was published by Edmond Charlot in 1937.

On December 3rd, 1940, he married the pianist and mathematician Francine Faure. They had twins, Catherine and Jean Camus, in 1945, born in Paris just after the liberation. 

Camus’ writing was done in deliberate stages noted as cycles. The Stranger (1942), The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)an influential philosophical essay about the absurdity of human lives when against the inevitability of death, and the play Caligula (1944)These works, all created during the occupation of France, composed the ‘cycle of the absurd’ – centering around the idea that there was no meaning to life even as man searched for it. 

The ‘Cycle of Revolt’ was composed of the novel The Plague (1947), which illustrated the extremes humans will go to avoid death. L’Homme révolté, or, The Rebel, an essay in which Camus argues against any meaning in life, and the play The Just Assassins.

The Fall (1956), Camus’ last work of fiction, and is considered his most self-reflective. The novel is about a successful lawyer who falls from grace in Paris, and it outside of the previous cycles. 

Throughout his life Camus was known for his ‘petit amies’ – a multitude of affairs. He had a 16-year affair with actress Maria Casares from 1944 until his death, with a five-year gap in between. The famous affair began June 6th, 1944, at an event hosted by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. It ended abruptly when Camus’ wife returned from Algiers after the occupation, but a chance meeting four years later brought the lovers together once again. The affair became public, but Camus would not leave his wife Francine, and Maria suffered a mental breakdown that needed hospitalization in the 1950s. Camus’ wife Francine also suffered from depression and was aware of the affairs. She tried to commit suicide in 1954. 

In 1957, when he was forty-four, Camus became the second-youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Rudyard Kipling was forty-two when he won in 1907). 

Albert Camus died January 4th, 1960, at the age of 46, in a car accident, along with his publisher, Michel Gallimard. 

In 2013 Gallimard publishing house released Correspondance: (1944-1959), the love letters of Camus and Maria Casares. It has not yet been released in English. 

Lesson from Camus:

Yes, Camus may have extolled in his writing the idea that life had no meaning, but still – he was searching for it. 

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