Albert Camus 1913 -1960, tribute to the 72 years of his death

Edgardo Riveros Aedo

A At 1:55 p.m. on January 4, 1960, Albert Camus died in a car accident. He was only 47 years old and had received the Nobel Prize for Literature just three years before. He was returning to Paris, with his friends from the Gallimar publishing house, who had published him in 1942, El Extranjero, his most enigmatic and best achieved work, a prose full of poetic images, similar to Hemingway’s, “a style that he emulated in his cleanliness and brevity, but that of the French was much more premeditated and intellectual than that of the American… it does not seem written but spoken, or even better, heard, its essential character, its absolute stripping of style that lacks decorations and complacency, decisively constitute to the plausibility of this implausible story”, said Vargas Llosa in 1988.

El Extranjero was published in May 1942, in the midst of the Nazi occupation, in the midst of World War II and in a Europe devastated by the conflagration of tyrannies that disputed world hegemony. Since then the deserts of the world have turned red, like that red sand covered in global violence at the crime scene of El Extranjero, in which the protagonist kills an Arab and then fires four absurd shots into an already inert body. . The bombing of civilian cities began at the time of Camus, Guernica in 1937, then the whole of Europe, followed by Hiroshima, the Middle East, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. The skies turned hellish for mankind ever since

Camus not only did not ignore his time, like many writers and politicians of the time, but was a suffering witness of it, rejected by the French Army in 1939 to defend his homeland, for which he decided to join the French resistance directing the underground newspaper called Combat. He was a living witness to the absurdity of war when he lost his father Lucien Camus at the Battle of the Marne in 1914, when Albert was only 9 months old. From Combat, he fights against the Nazis with his best weapon, his writing, and from a journalism born of necessity since he was rejected by the University of Algiers when he wanted to be a professor, for the same reason: tuberculosis. This weakness did not limit him, however, to being a great swimmer and a great footballer, an outstanding journalist and one of the youngest Nobel Prize winners. His public passion was the theater, he directed many plays in Algiers before the Second War (a group that called him Teamwork) and then in Paris, the preferences of him, Dostoevsky and Chekhov. His doctoral thesis in Philosophy is on Saint Augustine.

freedom vs tyranny

But the central aspect of Camus’s life and work is the freedom of the individual against any tyranny, implicit or manifest, he denounced Stalin’s concentration camps as right-wing oppression against communist persecution in the United States, against own independence of his beloved Algeria, he opposes the armed struggle and works intensely to achieve a peaceful independence between Algerians and De Gaulle, to end 100 years of French colonialism. For Camus, nothing justifies crime for a political idea and that freedom had to be defended with the truth. Innocent is he who has nothing to explain was one of his so many famous phrases Upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, Camus paid homage to those who deserved, much more this award, according to him, those writers who remained in captivity in Siberia. In El Hombre Rebelde (1951) he makes mention of imperial tyranny and murder when he analyzes and denounces the Nazi hierarchs who dressed as Roman emperors in robes and crowns in certain official interviews, calling them “frantic dudes”. The Rebel Man meant political and intellectual isolation for him, proving the sectarianism of the left when the progressive intelligentsia adhered to the utopia of the USSR and the persecution of the FBI when they wanted to confuse him with a certain Corus or Canus, in his first visit to the United States (September 1945), and was received by the then French ambassador to the United States, Claude Lévi Strauss. “I have the calm and dry spirit that I feel when I am in front of a spectacle that does not move me,” he writes in his diary when he sees the first lights of Manhattan on that night of thick fog when he arrives in that robotic country as he conceived it. him, they apologize for the delay since Mr. Camus is the only passenger treated as a suspect. Nothing provokes greater suspicion and even hatred than a free thinker, for the brilliant questioning that he makes of a society like the West that considers itself civilized but that contradicts itself since it questioned the Western civilization born in Europe, which tells us, crosses the limits and is the daughter of the excessive. On August 8, 1945, Camus is the only French columnist to express his horror after the explosion of the American atomic bomb on Hiroshima. For the overwhelming majority of the French and the commentators, that bomb means the end of the war. Many Japanese dead avoid the many American dead… “Mechanical civilization has just reached its last degree of savagery,” writes Camus. “We are going to have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of scientific achievements”, he affirms. Camus protests: now we must advocate even more energetically in favor of an international society, where the great powers do not have superior rights to the small ones… Simone de Beauvoir is horrified by the Hiroshima bomb, but neither she nor Sartre will say so in public , tells us one of the best biographers of Albert Camus, Todd Olivier.

fear of thought

With good reason, the KGB and the FBI were careful of thinkers of this nature, freed from courage by moral honesty, intelligence will always be feared, wherever it comes from without distinction of right or left, being declared a crime as part of the absurd of the 20th century.

The figure of Camus appears today as a slender silhouette, an ethic that has disappeared in today’s world, in which condescension and collusion constitute the interpersonal link. From so much condescension we have reached boredom, from so much falsehood we have reached apathy and inauthenticity, if we look at politics and education and see corruption, the illegal and the sophist word. Apparently nothing is sincere and everything obeys the forces of form, to what it should be, everything that is not true emerges as accredited as true, in our cybernetic and globalized world, apocryphy, that is, what is not what what it claims to be, is the perfect Apollonian offer that is accepted as such without looking at the content.

But perhaps one of his most precious writings for himself, for its innocence and deep sensitivity, was El revés y el Derecho, essays written at the age of twenty, where Camus makes us see in that world of poverty and light in which I lived so long and whose memory still protects me from the two contrary dangers that threaten every artist, resentment and contentment. Raised in the care of his illiterate mother, he cleaned the house of families who could pay him to support his two offspring.

Albert grew up in the midst of the rigor and beauty of the Algerian sea and sun. A tubercular, shy child, born in a miserable neighborhood of Algiers, with a childhood that, incomprehensibly, Camus remembers his childhood – poor and orphaned – as situated in “the proximity of the gods”.

on the side of humanity

A man who knew how to discover and observe the feeling of the absurdity of human existence, who never felt like an existentialist as the world left wanted to classify him, accusing him of lack of social commitment. Camus was in the resistance against the Nazi occupation, he led the solidarity movement with Spain, he was always on the side of humanity, not only the poor, but mainly the persecuted; as a Nobel Prize and before that, Albert Camus saved the life and asked for clemency for many men who were sentenced to death for revenge and the hateful popular court born in France after the Allied liberation, just like in Algeria when De Gaulle was President. Another of his famous phrases: “It is very easy to get fame but it is very difficult to deserve it.”

At the end of the Second War, Camus erected a phrase that today would make many shudder after the infernal social episodes of the 20th century, and the apathy of the 21st century, once again the darkness will dissipate before the resplendent sun and sea, the only valuable thing that always remains is life and human life par excellence, something that modern messianisms have ignored due to their blindness and dogmatism, their collusion. In 1970, El Extranjero sold out in a special Gallimar reissue of 1,400,000 copies. In 2022 it has been a publishing success in Europe.

On December 31, 1959, Camus had finished writing his last novel, which due to his death was not published until 1996. He called it The First Man, and it deals with the origins of a family of settlers, perhaps his own. family, which in fiction becomes the universal family, and he dedicated it to his mother “For you, who will never be able to read this book”. Her mother did not need to read it, it was a tribute precisely to her, who knew how to cope with these two fatherless brothers with her love and dedication, she had transferred to her children the care and discipline, with dignity imposing. Sartre, an existentialist and Marxist with whom Camus had deep disagreements, dismissed him in his obituary for the France Observateur, “Camus represented in this century and against history, the current heir to that long line of moralists whose works perhaps constitute the most original of the French letters. His stubborn, narrow and pure, austere and sensual humanism waged a dubious combat against the massive and deformed events of our time… conversely, through the obstinacy of his rejections, he reaffirmed himself in the heart of our time, against the Machiavellians, against the golden calf of realism, the existence of the moral fact.

Two days before his death, in an interview, when asked about something that he found absurd, Albert Camus said that two things seemed absurd and incomprehensible to him: the death of a child and dying in a car accident. After a day of travel, already tired of driving, Albert hands over the wheel to Michel Gallimar, twenty-four kilometers from this change, in Sens, the vehicle lurches and leaves the road completely straight, overturns and breaks in two, Albert Camus dies instantly, Michel dies five days later in hospital. The draft of his latest novel The First Man was in the trunk of the car.

Upon being notified of the death of her son, Catherine Hélène Santis de Camus in Algiers did not cry and only limited herself to saying “she is too young”. Faced with the emotional impact of this absurdity that always hung over him, faced with an unacceptable fact, she remained without tears, a meaning that will remain in the mystery of life or in the absurdity of it, that absence of crying for whatever it was precisely the very controversial protagonist of El Extranjero, who had not cried on the day of his mother’s funeral, was sentenced to death. Fiction and reality come together, his writings and his life merge into the mystery of time like the sun in the sea that he loved so much. The fact is that today and sixty-two years after his death, Albert Camus is one of the most widely read writers in France and throughout the world, and his work has transcended its time, The Stranger is a star that we can see today more radiant than then in the great constellation of literature of all times.

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Albert Camus 1913 -1960, tribute to the 72 years of his death