Sunday, 29 November 2009

Albert Camus

I've been reading a biography of Camus, reminded by a newspaper article that in January 2010 it will be the 50th anniversary of his death. The biography depressed me, it is very well written, but seems to present such a negative slant. His life had its difficulties yes, but it had its good times as well and I think the book concentrated too much on the difficulties while virtually ignoring the larger or spiritual context. Not that biographies usually write about that, but I think if you don't, life itself seems a miserable affair and any 'success' whatever that might be, is inevitably ground down in the next failure - whether that's an attack by some other writer (Camus was attacked by Sartre and other for his views), illness - he suffered from recurrent bouts of TB - nostalgia for Algeria, its climate and sunshine, and his life there, and a feeling of isolation, both from people and from God, who he couldn't seem to find a place for in his life, except in moments in Algeria and a few other times when he was close to nature. He had this huge nostalgia for Algeria, yet knew that he couldn't go back to live there. And in the end, French Algeria disappeared, as Algeria regained its independence. I can vaguely remember that, as a child with my father, who was interested in politics and what went on in the world, commenting on the French-Algerian war.

In Camus' time, writers were supposed to take political stands, left wing or right wing, for or against war, fighting or resistance, so one could get very entangled in political stances. Not to mention trying to find a philosophy of life that one could live by. Camus was not an existentialist, he didn't seem to think that any philosophy could completely explain life but he was driven to try to make some sense of it and particularly of his own moral stance, regarding war, violence, resistance (during WW II) and Algerian independence.

I don't think life can be understood without including a larger dimension than the intellect. Trying to squash it into the box of the left brain seems doomed to failure, to the 'Huits Clos/No Exit' title of one of Sartre's plays. But if one links with the non-rational, even though it's very hard to put into words, it feels, at times it does, very different, it can feel connected.
I'd like to write about the mystical Camus, who experienced a sense of oneness, who talked about innocence meaning that state of being where one is connected to a greater awareness. He wrote about it too.

In Noces – writing about Algeria – I am one with this wind and live within it, am one with these columns and that archway, one with these flagstones warm to the touch.....
In American Journals, when he was crossing the Atlantic
Yes, I’ve loved the sea very much – this calm immensity – these wakes folded under wakes – these liquid routes. ………
O sweetness of night where all the stars sway and slide above the masts and this silence in myself, this silence which finally frees me from everything.


kirkmc said...

"In Camus' time, writers were supposed to take political stands, left wing or right wing, for or against war, fighting or resistance, so one could get very entangled in political stances."

Well, yes... But remember that "Camus' time" - when his first major books (The Stranger, Sisyphus, Caligua) were published was during WWII under the German occupation of France. So political stances were kind of the norm. As the war went on, he was involved in the resistance, and he didn't live very long after that.

dritanje said...

Dear Kirkmc,
I agree of course that WW II was a particularly political time so it owuld be hard not to take a political stance. I enjoyed your blog post about Camus, particularly when you encouraged people to read him as I should have said, he is a hugely important writer. Enjoy your Christmas present of his books! At the moment I'm reading His essays, in English and L'Exil et le Royaume in French

three sea horses said...

i have got The Outsider to read - have not got round to it yet. but in answer to your message on mine - they are good memories, arent they - that Christmas time! and yes, coffeeonweds would be good!! i will text you soon. txxx