Albert Camus was an existentialist
philosophy : Camus, the sun person
So now it's over.
He and Sartre, the two most popular intellectuals in the country - some even thought they were twins - are irreconcilable. Of course, he, Albert Camus, had always insisted on not being an “existentialist”. But what did that matter compared to the fact that he was one?
Only an existentialist could open a philosophical essay, his first, like this: “There is only one really serious philosophical problem: suicide.” A slap in the face of all conventional philosophy, right in the very first sentence of the “Myth of Sisyphus”. It was only the somewhat aggressive, somewhat grandiose description of his earliest insight that would also be his last: "There is no love for life without despair alive." When he first found this thought, he had no idea how much he thought it would have to suffer.
Man asks. And what is the world doing? She is silent. She is great at not answering the most essential, the most pressing questions. Isn't that - absurd? No other word seemed more suitable to the young Camus to grasp our eccentric, imaginably uncomfortable position in the cosmos. Man, the animal gifted with self-confidence. The only one who knows that it is finite, that it has to die. But also about his freedom. If the heart could think, it would stand still. Camus didn't say that, the sentence is from Fernando Pessoa, and yet: He, Albert Camus, would have been the first to be allowed to borrow him.
Sartre's approaches have always been a little different: Man is a being, “that is not what it is and that is what it is not,” he said. Camus would hardly have put it that way, but it was precisely this uncomfortable position of everything human that filled his concept of the absurd. The greatest risk: despair. The greatest opportunity: freedom. They thought the same thing, just a little different.
One day, he and Sartre thought, they would place a small ad in which the undersigned declare that they “have nothing in common and refuse to pay for the debts each of them would have incurred”. They had been very close then. And who could have understood his early books better than Jean-Paul Sartre? Who could have written about "L’Étranger" like Camus? “The Stranger”, this narrow band, made him famous overnight in 1942, as it were.
And now, exactly ten years later, Jean-Paul Sartre no longer understood Albert Camus' books, at least not the new one. "Man in Revolt"?
It had been difficult for Camus to finish this book, it had already made him lonely as he was writing, very lonely. It was a self-sacrifice, but he knew he owed it to himself.
“A thinking person”, he had long since recognized, “generally spends his time adapting his conception of things to the new facts that contradict it.” In September 1939, when the war broke out, he was still in Algiers. Of course, he had volunteered immediately. But with those holey tuberculosis lungs barely able to survive the peace, the military had sent him home immediately. Was he saved like this?
“Later there is no doubt the excrement, the blood and the immense disgust. But today one only realizes that the outbreak of wars is similar to the beginning of peace: the world and one's own heart do not notice him. ”The sea he loved was too blue, too unchanged soothing, deafening noise of the cicadas. The war was not in the black of the cypress trees on the hills, and "not even in the youthful blaze of light in the streets of Algiers". Yes, it was absurd. The most distant as the closest and vice versa. But he already knew on the first day of the war that from now on “every judgment that cannot include him will go wrong”. And the concept of the absurd, its concept, could not explain this war.
From then on he included him in his life, especially when Camus had to emigrate to France. The homeland had no work for him. To France, in other words into exile. He could never understand life under the heavy northern skies in any other way. In 1943 he came to the Paris resistance newspaper "Combat", the circulation of which rose from 40,000 to 300,000 copies between 1943 and 1944. But the shadow of death lay over every new editorial day.
Yes, Albert Camus was justified long ago. But the thinker too? Wasn't this war still foreign to him?
With “The Man in Revolt” he brought him inside. His thinking could now include war - mass murder, the death of millions by calculation.
We revolt, so we are.
But the revolt must never materialize, otherwise it can easily turn into horror. - Was that wrong? So why was almost everyone standing in front of the book as if embarrassed?
Because, as in passing, he had guillotined the greatest philosophers of the West without being up to them, as some suspected? None of the appointed wanted to write a criticism, neither did Sartre, the most qualified. Sartre had finally hired one of his students.
It was a misunderstanding: unhistorical thinking, without understanding of the historical situation. In the end, escape into art and nature, instead of facing reality, not least the class contradictions of the time.
Was it a miracle then? Sartre, now almost a communist, made the attitude to the proletariat the standard of humanism and anti-humanism. But Camus had little to say about the proletariat and its mission, and certainly not about the Communist Party since he, almost a child, entered Algiers and was soon excluded again. He would never again confide in a party, least of all his thinking. And certainly not history and its supposed necessities.
1952. The intellectuals of Paris declared Camus a world refugee. You don't know how right you are. Escape is the only thing he is still thinking of. Just away from the literary hell of the metropolis: "The truth is that I cannot get out of the hole in which I have been vegetating for months and in which I had to gasp for breath, especially during these last few weeks in Paris."
To go out of the world: to Africa, back home. “Algeria gives me the same feeling as looking at a child's face.” He had long thought of returning; Friends were already looking for a house for him. But then something always happened and brief visits disappointed him. But now he was driving.
Illiterate children, raised in poverty in a near-colony, only rarely make it to the top of Europe’s intellectual property. Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913 in Mondovi in what was then French North Africa. The father, a farm worker, died on October 11, 1914 on the Marne in a foreign war, when his son was not yet a year old. The mother is now alone with two sons. She can neither read nor write and will never learn. She doesn't talk to her children a lot, what about?
Camus has repeatedly sworn their love for both of them:
“The boy's mother stood ... in silence. Sometimes she was asked: 'What are you thinking about?' - 'Nothing,' she replied. And that was probably true. Everything is there, so nothing. Her life, her concerns, her children were content with being there, with a presence that was too natural to be felt. ”She was bent over from hard work, thinking made her an effort.
Is it strange that Albert Camus always kept fond memories of his wordless mother and his poor childhood? Or is it rather strange to find this strange? Shortly before his death he will say what he owes to his family: “Through their mere silence, their reserve, their natural, simple pride, those who were mine, who could not even read, gave me the most noble lessons that still have an effect on me today granted. "
But the young Albert Camus also had another teacher, she, too, a very silent one, nonetheless he will never tire of listening to her silence for a lifetime: “The heights above Algiers are bursting with flowers in springtime. The honey scent of the yellow roses wafts into the narrow streets. Huge black cypress trees let wisteria and hawthorn sparkle in their tops ... A gentle wind, the infinitely wide, smooth bay. Strong and simple longing - and the absurdity of leaving it all. ”For Paris. He could only see the northern city as a guarantor of a great loneliness, as “the only desert usable for all future. Here the body no longer has any respect. It is covered, hidden under misshapen covers. "
Now, shortly before the end of the terrible year 1952, he wants to throw off all these covers again, as far as the great oasis cities of the Sahara, to Laghouat, to Ghardaia. But news of uprisings in the south delayed his departure and he decided to go to Tipasa despite all the shyness that held him back.
This ruined city near Algiers, lying by the sea, has shaped him. He owes her, barely 20 years old, hours of the purest, deepest happiness: “I have to use all my strength to withstand this abundance. Everything here lets me count as I am; I don't give up anything of myself and don't need a mask: it's enough for me to patiently learn the difficult science: to live ”. He wrote this sentence when he was in his early 20s. The essay was called “Wedding in Tipasa”. He began: “The gods live in Tipasa in spring. They talk through the sun and through the scent of wormwood bushes, through the silver cuirass of the sea, the bright blue sky, the flower-strewn ruins and the abundance of light from the rubble. ”Would Sartre understand this sentence? Or would he laugh?
Did he understand the last chapter of his "Man in Revolt"? Its title was "The Mediterranean Thought". Albert Camus had let himself be tempted to speak of the "sun-thinking" of the "Mediterranean people". He had written: "Thrown into a common Europe ... we Mediterranean people always live in the same light." That was very important, because he had long since recognized the different lighting conditions in the world as almost even greater injustice than the different property conditions. And he added: “In the middle of the European night, sun thinking awaits… dawn”. He meant the Greek-influenced thinking against the threatening romance of the bad-weather-born, and yet: Sun-thinking?
Sartre was at a loss. Even if the sun man might go to think in the sun, he stays in Paris! Camus knows that happiness cannot simply be repeated, that the same places give and refuse. That’s why he shies away from Tipasa, that’s why he, the stopped traveler to the Sahara, drives on this suddenly vacant day.
And it happens: “In the glorious December light, as it only happens once or twice in a life filled with it, I found exactly what I was looking for and what was offered to me, in spite of the time and the world, only in this abandoned one Nature… In this light and in this silence the years of frenzy and night slowly passed. ”He feels as if he is listening to an almost forgotten sound, as if his heart was slowly starting to beat again. Tipasa carries it.
Every artist, says Albert Camus, has only one source in himself that feeds everything he is and what he says throughout his life. He found her again.
Here in his Algerian homeland, the 26-year-old son of North Africa, fatherless child of an illiterate woman, he began to write books during the war who knew nothing about the war. In “The Stranger”, the employee Meursault, a man without qualities, friendly and yet unrelated to people, as it were, unintentionally murders an Arab on the beach. The Arab had drawn his knife: “Light jumped out of the steel and it was like a long, sparkling blade that struck my forehead ... This glowing sword digged in my eyelashes and bored into my aching eyes. Then everything shook. ”The light as a murderer. The murder as an accident. As a parable of absurd existence. Strangely enough, under the German occupation this strange book had seemed like a commentary on their own life to the French. For wasn't it also paralyzed, robbed of its own, as lacking in attributes as the existence of this Meursault?
The three "absurd" - "The Stranger", "The Myth of Sisyphus" and "The Plague" - had established his fame, not least for them he would receive the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature.
But his real source, which let him write, was deeper, it was in the early collections of essays "Light and Shadow" and "Marriage of Light", which had appeared in small editions in Algeria. Tipasa, his mother, the poor neighborhood he grew up in - everything was there. Camus wants to write these books again, he would say all of this today, only differently, more mature. And in the middle there would be the great silence of a mother again.
Remain silent. Camus is also silent, loudly audible for everyone. What should he say about the Algerian struggle for independence? His hope is that a new culture would develop in this formerly “empty, past-free” country, neither French nor Arabic, but still preserving both origins. Past. He will no longer have a house in Algeria.
The year before his death he moved into one in Lourmarin, in the south of France. He chisels a sun over the front door, there is a donkey in the horse stable, a gift from Algerian friends. He wants to get his mother to live with him in this house. It doesn't come to that anymore.
On January 4, 1960, his publisher Gallimard's car skidded on the way back from Lourmarin to Paris and hit a tree. Albert Camus, 47 years old, thinker of the absurd, dies an absurd death.
He has not finished his great book, Returning to His Own Beginning.
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