March 11th, 2005


prevailing through contempt I

Albert Camus was born on 7 November 1913, in a family of French settlers in Algiers. In his youth, he played soccer and studied philosophy. He realized his maturity in popular essays that treated disturbing themes in a soothing fashion. He wrote about resisting suicide and living in insensibility. He engaged the demons of personal and social negativity, ranging from debilitating guilt to random terror. He endorsed personal rebellion as the pathway to solidarity in the face of absurd existence. Camus stood on the left, apart from all parties. He published clandestine polemics in the French Resistance and disassociated himself from the Communist Party after the Soviets suppressed the Hungarian rebellion. He declared himself against the capital punishment and declined to declare himself against colonialism, refusing to take sides in the Algerian revolt. His novels and plays rehearsed and amplified his concerns. They became wildly popular in France and abroad. The Nobel Prize consecrated his ambivalent reputation. His writing earned popular acclaim and supercilious condescension. He was killed on January 4th, 1960, when his friend Michel Gallimard spun out of control his Facel Vega, advertised as the fastest four-seat coupé in the world, its refined French chassis overwhelmed by a brutish American engine. The car veered off a country road and rammed into a tree. Camus was the only casualty of this accident. He was 46 years old. Ever since, his stature has grown, even as his critics declined into odium and hysteria.
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