Today in Literary History – November 7, 1913 – Albert Camus is born

Albert Camus, the philosopher and novelist was born in French Algeria on November 7, 1913.

He was was closely associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and existentialism (although he rejected that label) although he often disagreed with both of them.

I have been reading and re-reading Camus for years. Like a lot of people I first read him in my teens. His novels, The Stranger, The Plague and The Fall are short and seemingly pessimistic, just right for rebellious teenage sensibilities in many ways.

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As I got older I saw more of the moral complexity in Camus. Like Kafka, Camus presents life as a struggle against absurdity and randomness. But, to me he doesn’t view life as totally devoid of meaning.

His characters’ predicaments instead show a need for inner strength and integrity in dealing with the world.

He can sometimes sound almost like a Stoic, “I can accept periods of unhappiness, because I know I will also experience happiness to come.”

Camus won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 and died in a car accident in 1960 at the age of 46. He had a train ticket in his pocket and had intended to use but at the last minute accepted a ride from his publisher, Michel Gallimard of the prestigious Gallimard publishing house. Gallimard, who was driving, also died from his injuries.

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