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Albert Camus Camus, Albert (Vol. 124) - Essay - …

Camus wrote The Happy Death before The Stranger and chose not to publish. The book was first published a little over ten years after Camus' death. The hero is Mersault a working class Algerian bored with his lot in life. He meets an elderly man, Zagreus, whom he kills and then steals from. The money frees him from his life of working class drudgery and Mersault embarks on a life of travel. Dissatisfied he returns to Algiers to live a hedonistic life with three young girls. However life still fails to satisfy him. Eventually he decides on solitude and discovers happiness at which point he develops a terminal illness and dies a happy death.

Uncle Gustave was an unusual fellow, a local character who preferred holding court in the cafe across the road to chopping meat in his shop. He was self-educated, owned complete volumes of writers such as Balzac, Hugo and Zola, and professed anarchist politics. The charismatic butcher took care over his appearance, dressing like a dandy and reportedly adding a few drops of blood to his clothes to complete the look. Camus had come from a home with no books and little in the way of conversation, certainly not discussions of literature and politics. Gustave took a real shine to his nephew and having no children of his own had hopes that Albert would one day take over the shop. As business owners the Acaults were better off than the Camus and Gustave gave his nephew a generous allowance as well as occasional use of his car at a time when cars were relatively rare on the streets of Algiers .

In 1930 an attack of tuberculosis meant that Camus could not return to school. It also meant leaving the cramped apartment on the Rue de Lyon where there was too great a risk of him infecting his brother with whom he shared a room. He moved in with Gustave and Antoinette Acault, an uncle and aunt. The Acaults owned a butchers shop, which meant plenty of red meat for Camus, which was then believed to be good for TB sufferers. In a time before antibiotics, folk remedies were considered an important complement to the painful lung-collapse therapy that had to be endured. Uncle Acault's red meat certainly would have done Camus no harm but would have had no effect on his lungs. Another widely held belief at the time was that high altitudes were good for lung patients. Throughout his life, Camus would retire to the mountains in the hope of combating his illness.

The Journal of Camus Studies

Back at school Camus met the man who arguably had the greatest influence in his life. Jean Grenier (pictured left) taught philosophy, he had written a book, Islands , and was friends with Camus' idol André Malraux. Almost thirty years later Camus, in a preface for Islands , acknowledged the debt he owed Grenier's book for the overwhelming effect and influence it had on him. Thanks to his uncle's influence and money Camus started dressing like a dandy. This, coupled with an aloof, almost haughty attitude stood him apart from most of his classmates. He liked to quote Chestov and Proust, and to discuss literature, poetry and classical music with his friends Claude de Fréminville and André Belamich. However, although he was slightly smaller than some of the other boys, he was no weakling, ready to settle a score with his fists if needed. Nor was he foppish; pretentious quotes notwithstanding, he could be verbally aggressive, cold or sarcastic depending on the situation. Some of his circle of friends complained that he seemed always to be making fun of them. One such friend, Louis Benisti, who was ten years older than Camus, once shouted at him, ‘We're all doing our best, so why be ironic?' Taken aback by this outburst, Camus paled and the two became firm friends. There was another side of Camus that contrasted with the reserved manner and air of intellectual superiority, a congenial Camus ready to entertain others with a dirty joke or obscene song. The boys liked to go to cafes and bars to discuss literature, poetry and politics. Two places, representative of the two sides of Camus' character, that the friends liked to go were a cafe near the Kasbah that was frequented by Gide during his stays in Algiers, and a seedy bar called 'The Lower Depths' run by a dwarf called Coco, which was decorated in the corner with a guillotine and a skeleton fitted with a mechanical phallus.

Essays and criticism on Albert Camus - Camus, Albert (Vol. 124)

Max-Pol Fouchet, who would find notoriety as an art historian and fame as a television presenter, was a classmate and one-time friend of Camus. Fouchet was in a four year relationship with Simone Hié, whom he'd met when she was fifteen. Simone (pictured right) was good looking and vampish, seductive with a strong personality. She was also a drug addict, addicted to the morphine given to her for menstrual pain when she was fourteen. Among Camus' friends she was seen as wild and dangerous to know. And they were all, to varying degrees, attracted to her. When Camus seduced her, or she seduced him, Simone was unofficially engaged to Fouchet, with some idea of getting married once his military service was completed. Suddenly, for Fouchet, Simone disappeared. Days went past without sign and then he received a message from Camus that he wanted to meet. Strolling along the beach, Camus told his friend, ‘She won't come back. She has chosen.' Fouchet took the news quite well and told his rival, and friend, that he was glad it was him rather than anyone else who had won Simone's heart. Camus replied, ‘I was wondering if you had genius, and you're proving that you do.' Fouchet considered this way of seeing things as part of the game they played at that time, and indeed it smacks of self-justifying pretentiousness on Camus' part. To be fair to Camus, he and Simone were in their late teens, an age when pretentiousness can be forgiven. However, despite Fouchet's comments, gracious in defeat, it appears he could not forgive his friend; he and Camus would soon drift apart never to be reconciled.

Lyrical and Critical Essays - Albert Camus - Google Books

The Journal of Camus Studies

Encouraged by his friends and his mentor Jean Grenier, Camus joined the Communist Party. This was a period of his life that he was later never comfortable elaborating upon (unsurprising considering his later animosity towards the Communists). Camus' role within the party was as a kind of touring propaganda agent. He would deliver lectures, run front organizations, and put together plays that at times were little more than blatant political propaganda. One such play, adapted from Malraux's novel Le Temps du mépris, had Camus' friend Marguerite Dobrenn acting the part of Lenin's widow standing in the audience proclaiming, ‘Vladimir Ilich loved the people deeply'. In seeking permission to adapt the play, Camus was thrilled to receive a one word reply from his idol Malraux (pictured above left); it read simply ‘joue' ('play' in the familiar tu form). The second effort, a play about striking miners in fascist Spain , Révolte dans les Asturies , was effectively banned by the right-wing mayor of Algiers , Augustin Rozis. With performance prohibited, the script was published instead. The original hand-written manuscript was lost and how much was written by Camus is not known, although it is probable that he wrote most of it. Other duties for the Party included the tiresome newspaper selling and fly-posting, as well as the organization and running of study groups. Camus was part of an anti-fascist group at the university. The sketch drawn by Patrick McCarthy of Camus at this time is one of a hard-line militant: ‘... some students met to discuss how they could combat the right's overwhelming influence in Algiers. Camus frequently showed his intransigent character; then he would castigate them for their weakness and lay down the line to follow.' In later life Camus would search for a viable left-wing alternative to the Communist Party, so it is notable that one of his duties as a militant at this time was to speak at a meeting intending to persuade left-leaning students to join the Party. He was shouted down by the crowd and left the hall in a fury.

Albert Camus The Plague Essays - StudentShare

It is unclear exactly when Camus left the Communist Party. What is known is that he waited to be kicked out rather than tear-up his Party card, unlike many of his friends who quit over the Party's position on the Arabs. The Algerian Communist Party held the kind of subordinate position to the French Party that the French Party held to the Soviets. Stalin, concerned about the threat posed by Hitler, favoured a strong France . Consequently, Communist opposition to militarism in France was played down, as well as the anti-colonial stance that might also weaken the French. This message was relayed to the Algerian Party and Arab nationalists, former allies, were now political enemies. Camus' failure to toe the Party line, in particular his continuing support for nationalists such as Messali Hadj, led to his expulsion in 1937.


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Camus' marriage was in a precarious state. He had believed that Simone, once married, would settle down, get off the drugs and tone down her more eccentric behaviour. Still using drugs, still flirting with his friends, Simone proved impossible to control and Camus was a man who needed control in his life. Things came to a head in July of 1936, on a kayaking holiday with his wife and his friend Yves Bourgeois. Paddling across Europe wasn't the ideal activity for a man with a lung condition and a few days into the trip Camus awoke in severe pain. He had to leave his canoe behind and travel by bus and on foot while Simone and Yves paddled on without him. In Salzburg , Camus told his friend that he planned to split with his wife. It was possible to pick up mail along the way. On one pickup Camus discovered a letter addressed to his wife. It was from Simone's doctor, Camus read it and discovered that this doctor was also her lover. The loneliness and depression experienced by Camus at this time is written up in his essay ‘Death in the Soul' and appears in his abandoned (and posthumously published) novel The Happy Death. It was also on this trip that he passed through the Czech city Budejovice, which would later become the setting for his play Cross Purpose (also known as The Misunderstanding).