Albert Camus

Albert Camus lived in a period of remarkable turmoil in the world-two world wars were fought, and colonized countries began independence struggles-notably India and Algeria. Camus was born in the latter, a French colony in North Africa, in Mondovi, on 7 November 1913. When he was almost one, his father, Lucien Auguste Camus, was killed in the outbreak of World War I. Left fatherless, Albert lived with his mother Catherine Stintes Camus, his older brother Lucien, his uncle Etienne Stintes, and his grandmother. They lived in a three-room apartment in the working-class Belcourt district of Algiers.

Camus’s mother was a silent woman who rarely showed her sons affection and who expected Camus to work when he was old enough. Fortunately, there were two forces that helped Camus despite his mother’s silence-school and sports. Albert excelled in school with the assistance the state provided him as a child of a fallen French soldier: he received free health care and money for school. In the fifth grade, his teacher, Louis Germain, became Albert’s patron. Germain helped Camus to overcome the family’s opposition to the pursuit of an education. He also assisted Camus with scholarship applications. The other formative force in the making of Albert Camus was soccer. Through team sports he developed social skills which his family life did not encourage.

His sporting ended when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1930. The doctor suggested that Camus move in with his Uncle Acault, who was a butcher. It was hoped that the access to red meat would help his condition. Uncle Acault also had more money to lend Albert for books. He withdrew his support, however, when Albert began seeing the scandalous Simone Hie.

Camus pursued a variety of activities throughout the 1930s. These included his studies, the beginnings of a literary career, active involvement with the Communist party, and writing for a theatrical troupe. Although Camus preferred drama to prose throughout his life, his plays are not as well known as his fiction. In 1933, he entered the University of Algiers, and submitted his thesis in 1936. From 1938 to 1940, he worked as a journalist with the Alger-Republicain. This occupation, as well as the popularity of American authors (like Hemingway), is reflected in the style of The Stranger, which Camus began at this time.

In 1940, Camus divorced his wife-they had been separated for some time-and married Francine Faure. When France fell to Hitler, Camus joined the resistance in Paris. He became editor of the daily newspaper Combat and became the “conscience of France” through his popular editorials. Two years later, he published The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus. When France was liberated, Camus returned to Algeria.

After the war, he published an enlarged edition of The Myth of Sisyphus, as well as his most significant play, Caligula. In 1947, another literary classic, The Plague, was published. During the rest of his life, Camus struggled with his health, critics, issues of the Algerian war, and the strain on his marriage caused by his affair with the actress Maria Casares. His best novel, technically speaking, was The Fall, published in 1956. That novel was followed by a collection of short stories, Exile and Kingdom. In 1957, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Three years later, on 4 January 1960, he was killed in an auto accident.

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