Albert Camus left this world in an early and dramatic way. However, his legacy remains a literary refuge to discover, how the absurd intermingles with hope by showing us the ability to excel that resides in the human being.
Albert Camus was the second youngest writer in history to obtain the Nobel Prize for Literature. His immense, reflective and inspiring work gathers the essence of the human conscience of an era. Works such as La plague and especially the foreigner are immortal novels that reflect the summit of existentialism, where the absurdity of life and sorrow intermingled with the weight of the past.
In the history of literature, it is common to remember the death of Albert Camus occurred in January 1960, as one of the most unexpected. A few days before his death, this author, born in a suburb of Algiers, told his friends that there was no more absurd end than dying in a car accident. This would be curiously its own ending; he was a copilot with his literary editor. The tire exploded and the car rushed into a tree.
Albert Camus, who defined himself as an ‘absurdist’ for describing the hard nonsense of twentieth-century society, ended his life in the same way, thus leaving a precipitate vacuum in the world of letters. He was 47 years old and only three had just received the Nobel Prize. He was one of the most outstanding figures of the French literary scene and also, that eternal friend but at the same time intellectual antagonist of Jean Paul-Sartre.
“Any man, around the corner, can experience the sensation of the absurd, because everything is absurd.”
Biography of Albert Camus
Much of the work of Albert Camus is dotted with the footprint of wars and how this unreason marked much of the twentieth century. The origin of this feeling could also be due to his own family history.
Born in 1913 in Algeria, he suffered the early loss of his father during the First World War. As a result of that absence, the state offers him a scholarship to study, which allows him to get to the University to graduate in philosophy and letters.
His life in Algiers is humble, he feels interested early on by Nietzsche and André Gidé and spends hours between books and libraries, awakening his great passion for letters and philosophy. Now, when his adolescence arrives, he discovers that he suffers from tuberculosis, something that will limit the power to dedicate his life to another of his passions: sports.
Likewise, this ailment would also veto another aspiration: teaching. He was rejected as a teacher and also as a soldier when he wanted to enlist in 1939, so he opted for another professional outlet, journalism, becoming a correspondent of Alger Républicain.
Albert Camus, the journalist
Albert Camus becomes a journalist with his own voice, reactionary and idealistic. So much so, that due to the reactionary line of his articles, the government ends up banning his newspaper in 1940. Now, that same year, his life changes completely when he marries Francine Faure.
It is then when he moves from Algiers to Paris to become head of a clandestine newspaper, the Combat. Here he denounces the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
During this time as director of that newspaper, Albert Camus writes and publishes his key work: The foreigner. In its pages distills its philosophy of the absurd, that malaise halfway between the melancholy and the existential irony that according to good part of philosophers of the time, characterizes those years.
In 1943, he started working for one of the most important French publishers: Gallimard. Also, and once the Germans leave Paris, he continues with his publications of independent line of lefts and reactionary.
Along with his articles, he occupies his nights immersed in his literary work to shape works as relevant as the misunderstanding and Caligula. Later one of his most outstanding books would arrive: The plague.
Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre
The story between Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre is a theater of admiration, hostilities and a continuous dispute about how to understand existentialism. Both became two of the most important intellectual referents of France in the 40s and 50s. Both represented French existentialism and leftist ideology.
Now, Sartre defends that every person must have a political commitment to others. The same goes for him with literature and philosophy, both must be subordinated to the historical moment and the people.
Albert Camus differs in several aspects, for him literature goes beyond philosophy and political idealism. Writing is the reflection of one’s own freedom and should not be subordinated to anything else.
The story of a secret love
Already in Algiers when he worked as an editor in the Combat newspaper, Albert Camus began an affectionate relationship with María Casares, a Galician actress, daughter of the politician Santiago Casares Quiroga. That relationship continued to be still married and having his two twin daughters.
Camus and Casares basically formed an epistolary relationship that lasted almost two decades. That love was printed in an immense set of letters where admiration, desire, existentialism, poetry, passion and intellectual delicacy, distilled one of the most beautiful stories in the history of literature. The last letter of that great love is dated December 30, 1959. Camus died on January 4, 1960.
Seeing in great strokes the canvas of his own life, we notice without a doubt a great part of that absurdism that he himself coined in his work. The contradictory, in essence, also shapes the magic of our own existence, where the human being always manages to find a space for personal improvement despite the difficulties that surround us.
Beyond his philosophy, Albert Camus gave us in his books a wonderful exercise of reflection on our human condition. He questioned a large part of the ideologies that took place in the twentieth century between the wars and postwar.