Happy Birthday Albert Camus

Today marks the centenary of the birth of the writer Albert Camus. Born in Algeria to French parents he suffered from tuberculosis for most of his life, finally passing away at the age of 46 in 1960 in a tragic car accident just after he'd won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Camus was the King of the Absurd, he only wrote essays, five novels and six plays including the much performed Caligula. Though he is perhaps best known for his novel L'Etranger (The Outsider) about a man named simply as Mersault who after committing a crime is rejected by society for his non conformity and for the worse crime of all not crying at his Mother's funeral. In fact the opening line to the book has never left me 'Aujourd'hui Maman est morte. Ou peut etre hier, je ne sais pas'. Cold, detached and indifferent some might say. For me this novel influenced and questioned my beliefs as a young student of French at the University of Bristol. The simplicity yet deeply challenging style of his writing has touched many generations and will I'm sure continue to do so. His exploration of the human condition, our search for meaning in life and the futility of it all, will intrigue scholars and students for centuries to come. One particular quote of his that I always found so poignant 'You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life'.

He was a confirmed left winger but stood against a Totalitarian state regardless of political inclination. He also preferred to not be branded with the Existentialist label taken up by his contemporary Jean Paul Sartre. He was his own man with his own ideals and no desire to be put into a category. Novelist, Philosopher, Journalist but above all smoker! He even named his dog 'cigarette' such was his dedication to smoking.

Tonight I'll be going to the Southbank to watch a dramatised reading of his 'L'Etranger' the first time I've seen it on stage and yes I'm all excited just like I was when I first studied his work at 18. Even more so having just found out that Justin Salinger will be playing Mersault, perfect casting! His life and work will be celebrated today with events taking place the world over and as the great man himself said 'Knowing that certain nights whose sweetness lingers will keep returning to the earth and sea after we're gone, yes this makes it easier for us to die'. 


Image from libcom.org