What do Algerians think of Albert Camus

Albert Camus

Albert Camus (Born November 7, 1913 in Mondovi, Algeria; † January 4, 1960 near Villeblevin, Yonne, France) was a French philosopher and writer. In 1957 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his narrative, dramaturgical, philosophical and journalistic oeuvre. He is one of the most famous French authors of the 20th century.

1 biography

1.1 Childhood and adolescence

Camus came from a family residing in Algeria for two to three generations with southern French roots on the paternal side and Spanish on the maternal side. His birthplace Mondovi (near Bone, today's Annaba) was a center of wine production and his father, an unskilled but apparently capable carter, had recently been sent there from his wine-growing and export company from Algiers to work as a cellar master to work on one of their wineries.

When the father was drafted into the French army at the beginning of the First World War in 1914 and died in the Battle of the Marne, the mother moved with Albert and his older brother Lucien back to their widowed mother in Algiers, in the small people's district of Belcourt. Here, together with her unmarried, speech-impaired brother, a cooperative journeyman, first as a factory worker and later as a cleaning lady, she contributed to the upkeep of the family community, which was under the control of her strict grandmother.

In 1924, Camus' elementary school teacher laboriously obtained permission from his mother and grandmother to prepare the talented boy for the high school entrance exam. Camus persisted and shuttled between the poor world of Belcourt and the middle-class milieu of the school, where he hid his origins from his classmates and was ashamed of his mother, who was not only illiterate but also had a slight hearing and speech impairment. To improve his status in the class, he was very athletic and played as a goalkeeper in a football club.

After the first part of the baccalauréat, in 1930, he fell ill with tuberculosis and had to go to a sanatorium in southern France for several months. After his return he was taken in by a childless sister of his mother and her husband, a wealthy and literarily interested master butcher. Here he felt at home, read, wrote and developed dandy attitudes. He rarely saw his mother.

In 1932 he passed the second part of the bac. His dream would have been the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, the French elite university for teaching subjects, but there were no classes préparatoires in all of Algeria to prepare for the entrance examination (concours).

1.2 Studies and first political activities

So Camus began studying philosophy at the newly opened University of Algiers, where he made friends with a young professor, Jean Grenier. 1934, at 21, d. H. Having just come of age, he married 19-year-old Simone Hié, the pretty but also extravagant (and morphine addicted) ex-fiancée of a friend. Simone was of middle-class origin, but her father had left the family, which, together with her extravagance, reduced her value on the marriage market enough to make her accessible to Camus. Camus did not mind that his uncle and aunt even considered this value to be zero and were strictly against the marriage, and he did not even inform his mother.

He moved to the Hiés and wrote small texts for Simone about his youth, which he summarized in a first booklet: L'Envers et l'endroit (printed in 1937).

In 1935, after the formation of the “Popular Front”, an anti-fascist alliance of the French left and semi-left parties (communists and socialists as well as radical socialists), he, like many other young intellectuals, became a communist and also a member of the communist party (which in Algeria, though it was officially part of France, tried to form its own organization).

The party used him to carry out anti-colonial and pro-communist propaganda and to recruit members among the Muslim-Arab population of the city. The latter, however, turned out to be almost impossible as Marxist atheism repelled Muslims. After all, Camus gained insight into the social and psychological problems of the then approximately 8 million arabophone and Berberophone “natives”. It was ruled by around 800,000 French Algerians, i.e. the descendants of French, Spanish and Italian immigrants, as well as the Frenchized native Jews (although these French Algerians, "les pieds noirs", were by no means all wealthy).

When the Popular Front won the elections in the early summer of 1936 and new cultural institutions were created throughout France to raise the level of education of the “working people”, Camus and other leftists founded a Théâtre du travail in Algiers, where he co-wrote and rehearsed a first piece: Révolte dans les Asturies. This piece dealt with a dispute between Spanish miners in 1934, but was banned before it was performed. Incidentally, since he was meanwhile also a member of the acting troupe of Radio Algiers, Camus passed his Diplôme d'études supérieures with a thesis on the ancient North African philosophers Plotinus and Augustine.

In the late summer of 1936 he traveled with Simone to northern Italy, Austria and Czechoslovakia. In Prague he noticed that she was prostituting herself to doctors to get morphine. He was deeply hit and broke with her.

Back in Algiers he found a party leadership that had just stopped all anti-colonialist propaganda on instructions from Moscow, because this could have weakened France's defensive strength against the rearming Germany, of which Stalin was also beginning to fear.

Camus, who meanwhile cared about the social and political equality of the “arabes”, was outraged by this change of course of his party and wanted to continue to act in the old sense, but was punished with expulsion from the party. He was just as disappointed in 1937 by the failure of a bill in the Assemblée nationale, according to which at least the educated and partly Francophile autochthonous elite in Algeria should receive full French citizenship. Another, personal, blow was that he was not admitted to the examinations (concours) for the agrégation because of his tuberculosis, i.e. he was excluded from being employed as a permanent high school professor.

1.3 Beginning of writing

In his disappointment he began to write his first novel about a young man suffering from tuberculosis, who murders and steals from a rich cripple and then dies himself in a villa high above the sea: La Mort heureuse. However, he did not complete this work, which perhaps seemed all too personal to him. From 1938 he used it as a quarry for L'Étranger, an initially politically motivated novel, about a perfectly normal young French Algerian named Meursault, who more or less accidentally shoots a young Arab, but wants to answer for his crime and so on, in the role of a dumb fool and guilty of scapegoats, provoking his death sentence (Meursault: “meurs, sot!” = “die, you fool!”).

Although Camus lived only with difficulty from an auxiliary job in the meteorological institute in Algiers, in 1938 he turned down a post as a salaried teacher in a small Algerian town; not least because he had just got into a relationship with his future second wife, the mathematics student and then -teacher Francine Faure (who apparently decided to marry him just as quickly as Marie did with her somewhat indolent lover Meursault).

Through a friend, Pascal Pia, Camus got a job as a reporter for the new (left) newspaper Alger républicain. One of his specialties there were court reports, especially of trials against Arabs and Berbers, who in a judiciary dominated by the French Algeria were all too easily exposed to the full rigor of the law. On the side, Camus wrote a first version of his first play entirely of his own: Caligula, a drama about a young man's search for meaning.

During this time he also began the philosophical essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe. In the summer of 1939 he wrote a series of accusing articles about a famine in the hinterland of Algiers, against which the authorities, in his opinion, did nothing, because only Berbers were starving there.

When World War II broke out in September 39 and censorship was introduced, Camus and his newspaper had constant trouble with the new agency. In early 1940 the newspaper died for various reasons; Camus, after he was finally divorced and remarried, had to let Francine feed him. He couldn't stand it, but went to Paris (without having been expelled from Algeria, as one often reads), after getting a job at a newspaper here, again through Pia.

1.4 The wartime

Immediately before the start of the “blitz allemand” (Blitzkrieg) on ​​May 10th, he completed the Étranger, which in the meantime had been charged with additional issues and problems that almost obscured the original political intention. Shortly before the German troops marched into Paris, Camus and the editors of his newspaper fled to Clermont-Ferrand and soon on to Lyon, where he saw the armistice (June 22nd) and the beginnings of the new État français under Marshal Pétain.

In the following years he led an unsteady life between France and Algeria, but wrote diligently. In the winter of 1941/42 he finished Le Mythe de Sisyphe in Oran (his wife's hometown, where he had got a teaching position), an essay on the meaning of human existence, which he wrote in the affirmation of its tragedy and in overcoming it through the fulfillment of duty seems to see. When it was published in October, Sisyphe evidently hit the mood in occupied France, where people tended to compensate for the defeat they had just suffered by fleeing into everyday duty. Camus became known, especially as the Étranger, which finally came out in June, was a considerable success (which was no longer seen as an Algerian-politically motivated novel, but as a meditation on the meaning of human existence).

At the end of 1942 Camus was again on a cure in southern France and could not return to Oran after Algeria had been taken by Anglo-American troops and the Germans had occupied the previously spared south, the zone libre, on November 11th. So after the end of the cure he went to Paris, where he got a post as a lecturer at his publishing house Gallimard and now experienced first hand the conditions in occupied France, where the mood began to change after the disaster of the German troops in Stalingrad. It was in this environment that he began the novel La Peste, which reflects his personal situation, i.e. his separation from his wife and his will to become politically active, as well as the general situation in the country, whose people mostly collaborated willingly or indifferently with the occupiers , but in some cases, like Camus himself, soon joined the resistance movement, the Résistance. La Peste wasn't published until 1947, but it was still a great success.

Also in 1943 Camus wrote the play Le Malentendu and began working on the underground newspaper Le Combat, of which he became editor-in-chief in 1944 after the liberation of France. Despite his work as a resister, he tried to work on Franco-German reconciliation with his Lettres à un ami allemand (1945).

1.5 The post-war period

In the post-war years he was, together with Sartre (with whom he was also on friendly terms for a short time), one of the pioneers of existentialism. His best-known philosophical work from this period is the collection of essays L'Homme révolté (1947-1951), which earned him not only a lot of applause but also many polemics, not least that of Sartre, who accused him of betraying leftist ideals.

Less successful, perhaps because too little black and white, were Camus' political plays of those years: L'État de siège (1948) or Les Justes (1949), set in tsarist Russia, based on the assassination attempt on Grand Duke in 1905 by Ivan Kaljajew Sergei Alexandrowitsch Romanov deals with the current problem of politically motivated assassinations, the meaning of which Camus questions, but - politically correct for the time - not completely denied it.

Similar to Sartre, Camus was not content with a literary role, but also tried to influence politics as a journalist as a humanitarian, moderately left-wing pacifist, as whom he particularly branded the intransigence of French colonial policy and the atrocities of the colonial troops. (From 1950 onwards he regularly published his magazine articles in anthologies with the title Actuelles.)

Since he tried to stand above the parties, he often got caught between the fronts. In 1956, for example, his attempts to mediate in the unrest in Algeria, which was slowly developing into war, failed, because his plea for civil rights equality for the “arabes” was far too radical for most French, whereas his idea of ​​an ultimately French Algeria was for most autochthonous Algerians was now unacceptable.

His fiction work was less intense in these years, especially since his tuberculosis often prevented him from working. After all, the short novel La Chute came out in 1956 and in 1957 an anthology of stories mostly set in Algeria, L'Exil et le Royaume.

In 1957 Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

1.6 death

On January 4, 1960, Camus was killed in a car accident near La Chapelle Champigny. Camus was in the middle of working on Le Premier Homme, an autobiographical novel about his childhood and early adolescence as the son of a father he only vaguely knew from storytelling. The novel was published posthumously in 1994 as a fragment.

2 philosophy

2.1 Classification of Camus Philosophy

Albert Camus did not consider himself to be a proponent of existentialism. However, especially at the beginning, his work is very close to this philosophical trend. Jean-Paul Sartre praised his novel “The Stranger” (1942) as an important work for existentialism.

Camus' philosophical work, however, also has its own character. Camus 'philosophy, differentiating it from existentialism, is therefore often labeled with its own title "Philosophy of the Absurd". This seems justified because Camus' view of "revolt" in particular deviates from existentialist philosophy, which ultimately led to a break with Sartre.

The two main philosophical works of Camus are the essays "The Myth of Sisyphos" (Le Mythe de Sisyphe, 1944) and "The Man in Revolt" (L'Homme révolté, 1951). In addition, however, his philosophy also comes into play in his novels and plays.

2.2 The senselessness of the world as a starting point

The starting point of Camus' philosophy is the absurd. This absurd is the intrinsically incomprehensible, always only shimmering border truth, which people searching for meaning must come up with on their truly permanent search. It is the feeling of senselessness, the failure of any external, i.e. external, sense. God is also such an “external” sense, because God is irrational, that is, beyond all comprehensibility. The absurd is a feeling of the person thrown back on himself, who has begun to disregard the “obvious things” that the ordinary person invisibly carries within himself. Questions such as whether there is God and how he can be justified are unimportant to the absurd man Camus, because God either seems to him to be an artifact and / or does not concern him in his afterlife. The absurd man Camus' is always atheistic because he does not recognize any transcendence - except that which represents his own being in the world. A typical content or expression of an "absurd person" is about Socrates' I know that I know nothing.

2.3 Death as an absolute end and inevitable fatality

For Camus, death is an absolute end that, like life, has no meaning. Death is the only fatality that is already given and from which one cannot escape (this is where Martin Heidegger's influence can be seen). Often death is "unjust", for example when it hits innocent children as in the novel The Plague. What is important is that for Camus, death also gains a final moment: all of the senseless acts and rebellions against the absurd become one through death Sealed for all time. For Camus' people, death is the crowning glory of an absurd life. (See Myth of Sisyphus)

2.4 The absurd

The absurd is the starting point of all of Camus' philosophy. For Camus, the absurd is not just any concept that we could think of in isolation, but rather a feeling that only persists in the relationship between man and world.Man feels how "alien" everything is, the outside world and its senselessness bring him, who is always striving for meaning, into existential conflicts. The absurd does not stop at anyone: "The absurd can jump into any person on any street corner" . For Camus, the feeling of the absurd consists in the division of the meaningful human being and the meaningless world.

2.5 The permanent revolt as a way to overcome the absurd

Although there is no "way out" of the absurd situation, the absurd can be overcome: By accepting the absurd situation by man. Man admits the absurdity of his situation, but does not see suicide as a solution either. Rather, strives he continues despite everything (and that is also absurd), forwards. Just like with other representatives of existentialism, man is an agent, an urging one. The symbol of this “absurd man” is the mythological figure of Sisyphus (essay: “The myth of Sisyphus ").

Nevertheless, the contradiction of the absurd never completely dissolves through this permanent revolt. The revolt is necessary, but ultimately never leads to the goal. In a certain sense it is an eternal getting up with a "scornful nonetheless" with which the absurd person ends the day again. This process itself is endless. That view of the revolt divided Camus with the meanwhile Marxist Sartre, who imagined a revolt, which should lead to the historical ultimate goal of communism.

2.6 Human solidarity and love as values

In his novel "The Plague" Camus adds a new element to his philosophy. Revolt alone is no longer enough to give people meaning. In their hopeless situation and their hopeless struggle against it, people find mutual solidarity, friendship and love:

“In the end, it's very stupid to just live with the plague. Of course, a man has to fight [...]. But if it ends with the fact that he doesn't love anything else, what is fighting good for? ”(“ À la fin, c'est trop bête de ne vivre que dans la peste. Bien entendu, un homme doit se battre [. ..]. Mais s'il cesse de rien aimer par ailleurs, à quoi sert qu'il se batte? ") La Peste, collection folio Gallimard, p.230f. (Translation by Gert Pinkernell)

Without values, the revolt makes no sense. But these values ​​must focus on what really exists: on people themselves. What people need is "human warmth" ("chaleur humaine").

In his novel "The Fall" ("La chute", 1956) Camus criticizes the often hypocritical and superficial character of human relationships.

3 literary work

  • The Stranger (L'Étranger, 1942)
  • The plague (La Peste, 1947)
  • The state of siege (L'Etat de siège, 1948)
  • The Fall (La Chute, 1956)
  • The Guest (L'Hôte, 1957)

4 Significance and Effect

5 lessons

6 literature

7 web links