Albert Camus is recognized as one of the most significant names in modern philosophy and writing. Born in Algeria when it was still under French rule, Camus echoed his own displacement in plays, books and essays. He made a significant mark on existential though in the post-war period and was recognized for his diverse works with a Nobel Prize in 1957. Today, his writings continue to influence thinking in the realms of philosophy, literature and drama.
Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, in Mondavi, French Algeria. His father was a soldier who died in combat during World War I, and he was raised by his mother, a cleaning woman who was deaf in one ear. His brother left school to work to help support the struggling family living on a widow’s pension, but Albert was a good student and was allowed to continue this education, in hopes of getting a better job to help the family.
Camus excelled at his studies, and he was good at sports. However, he contracted tuberculosis, which took a lifelong toll on his health and interrupted his studies. In his last year of secondary education, he had some of his articles published in a small literary magazine. In 1933, he entered the University of Algiers, where he trained to become a teacher. However, his previous medical problems caused him to be rejected for teaching positions. He went on to work in a number of editorial jobs that allowed him to hone his writing and the development of his philosophy.
Early in his university years, Camus met and married the lover of an acquaintance, Simone Hie. However, she was unstable and a drug addict, and the couple divorced a few years later. Camus had a series of relationships with women, some of which ran concurrently. He later married Francine Faure and had a set of twins, a daughter and son. The author continued womanizing throughout the marriage, which was a source of great distress to his wife. Camus often spoke against the constraints of marriage and seemed unable to commit to a relationship with one woman, although he often formed close friendships with women and discussed his work with them.
Camus always had a strong inclination toward political ideas. After failing to acquire a position as teacher, he went to Paris and joined the Communist Party, becoming a propagandist for the movement, producing writings and plays to promote their ideas. However, he was thrown out of the Party due to his support for the Algerian nativist movement. He later became the editor of the newly formed publication for the French Resistance called Combat. His work in this capacity gained him a larger audience and greater appreciation for his writing.
With his unique viewpoint, it is unsurprising that he is one of the most quoted people in the field of philosophy and literature. Here are some of the most notable lines from his works:
“You know what charm is: A way of getting a yes without having asked any clear question.”
~ Albert Camus
Camus, like many thinkers of his time, began to try to make sense of the events and circumstances that surrounded him during World War II. His philosophical leanings brought him to the “absurdist” movement, as an antidote to Nietzschian “nihilism,” which believed that life has no intrinsic meaning or purpose. Camus recognized the inherent contradiction between the meaning that human beings seek, and reality’s utter inability to provide meaning for them. He proposed that people embrace this inherent “absurdity” in human existence and continue to purpose their higher goals. His essays, plays and books pursued the manifestation of this quest in everyday life.
The work of Albert Camus encompasses books, essays, non-fiction, short stories and plays. Each genre offers it’s own look into the philosophy and worldview of a man with a profound understanding of the age in which he lived. In 1957, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded Albert Camus the prize for literature for his work in portraying the essential questions and contradictions of modern, post-war life. The Stranger, written in 1942, The Plague, written in 1947, and The Fall, written in 1956 are some his best-known works. However, his plays, Caligula, Requiem for a Nun, The Misunderstanding and The State of Siege are also highly acclaimed. The essays of Camus, such as Create Dangerously, The Crisis of Man and Why Spain? are complex distillations of this thought processes. Non-fiction works include The Myth of Sisyphus, Nuptials and The Rebel.
Death in 1960
Albert Camus died in 1960 near Sens, France as result of an automobile crash. Officials found an unused train ticket in his pocket. He had evidently planned to take the train, but was persuaded to accept a ride from his publisher, Michel Gallimard, who was also killed in the crash. Camus was only 46 when he died, with a notable record of accomplishment. He was the second youngest person to have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature at age 43, after Rudyard Kipling, who was 42 at the time of his award. The irony of his demise is that he once noted that dying in a car accident was the most wasteful of deaths.