Albert Camus

Albert Camus (/kæˈmuː/; French: [albɛʁ kamy] (listen); 7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960) was a French philosopher, author, and journalist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44 in 1957, the second youngest recipient in history.

Camus was born in Algeria to French parents. He spent his childhood in a poor neighbourhood and later studied philosophy at the University of Algiers. He was in Paris when the Germans invaded France during World War II. Camus tried to flee but finally joined the French Resistance where he served as editor-in-chief at Combat, an outlawed newspaper. After the war, he was a celebrity figure and gave many lectures around the world. He married twice but had many extramarital affairs. Camus was politically active. He was part of the Left that opposed the Soviet Union because of its totalitarianism. Camus was a moralist and was leaning towards anarcho-syndicalism. He was part of many organisations seeking European integration. During the Algerian War, he kept a neutral stance advocating for a multicultural and pluralistic Algeria, a position that caused controversy and was rejected by most parties.

Philosophically, Camus' views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism. He is also considered to be an existentialist, despite his having firmly rejected the term throughout his lifetime.

Albert Camus
Albert Camus, gagnant de prix Nobel, portrait en buste, posé au bureau, faisant face à gauche, cigarette de tabagisme
Portrait from New York World-Telegram and Sun Photograph Collection, 1957
Born7 November 1913
Mondovi (present-day Dréan), French Algeria
Died4 January 1960 (aged 46)
Villeblevin, France
Cause of deathCar accident
Alma materUniversity of Algiers
Notable work
The Stranger / The Outsider
The Myth of Sisyphus
The Rebel
The Plague
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
Main interests
Ethics, humanity, justice, politics, suicide
Notable ideas
Albert Camus signature


Early years and education

Algiers The University (GRI)
A 20th-century postcard of the University of Algiers

Albert Camus was born on 7 November 1913 in a working-class neighbourhood in Mondovi (present-day Dréan), in French Algeria. His mother, Catherine Hélène Sintès Camus, was of Spanish-(Balearic) descent. She could only hear with her left ear. His father, Lucien Camus, a poor French-Algerian agricultural worker, died in the Battle of the Marne in 1914 during World War I—Camus never knew him. Camus, his mother and other relatives lived without many basic material possessions during his childhood in the Belcourt section of Algiers. He was a second-generation French immigrant to Algeria. His parental grandfather, along with many others of his generation, had moved to Africa for a better life during the first decades of the 19th century. Hence, he was called pied-noir, 'black foot'—a slang term for French who were born in Algeria—and his binational identity and his poor background had a substantial effect on his later life.[1] Nevertheless, Camus was a French citizen, in contrast to the Arab or Berberic inhabitants of Algeria who were denied the associated privileges this brought.[2] During his childhood, Camus developed a love for soccer and swimming.[3]

Under the influence of his teacher Louis Germain, Camus gained a scholarship in 1924 to continue his studies at a prestigious lyceum (secondary school) near Algiers.[4]In 1930, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.[3] Because it is a transmitted disease, he moved out of his home and stayed with his uncle Gustave Acault, a butcher, who influenced the young Camus. It was at that time that Camus turned to philosophy, with the mentoring of his philosophy teacher Jean Grenier. He was impressed by ancient Greek philosophers and Friedrich Nietzsche.[3] During that time, he was only able to study part-time. To earn money, he took odd jobs: as a private tutor, car parts clerk, and assistant at the Meteorological Institute.[5]

In 1933, Camus enrolled at the University of Algiers and completed his licence de philosophie (BA) in 1936; after presenting his thesis on Plotinus.[6] Camus developed an interest in early Christian philosophers, but Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer had paved the way towards pessimism and atheism. Camus also studied novelist-philosophers such as Stendhal, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Franz Kafka.[7] In 1933, also met Simone Hie, who would become his first wife.[5]

Camus played goalkeeper for the Racing Universitaire d'Alger junior team from 1928 to 1930.[8] The sense of team spirit, fraternity, and common purpose appealed to Camus enormously.[9] In match reports, he was often praised for playing with passion and courage. Any football ambitions disappeared when he contracted tuberculosis at the age of 17.[8] Camus drew parallels among football, human existence, morality and personal identity. For him, the simplistic morality of football contradicted the complicated morality imposed by authorities such as the state and the Church.[8]

Young Camus

In 1934, aged 20, Camus was in a relationship with a beautiful drug addict named Simone Hié.[10] She was addicted to morphine, a drug she used to ease her menstrual pains. His uncle Gustave did not approve of the relationship, but Camus married Hié to help her fight her addiction. He later discovered she was in a relationship with her doctor at the same time and the couple later divorced.[5] Camus, a handsome man, was a womanizer throughout his life.[11]

Camus joined the French Communist Party (PCF) in early 1935. He saw this as a way to "fight inequalities between Europeans and 'natives' in Algeria", even though he was not a Marxist and had not read Das Kapital (Capital). He explained: "We might see communism as a springboard and asceticism that prepares the ground for more spiritual activities." Camus left the PCF a year later.[12] In 1936, the independence-minded Algerian Communist Party (PCA) was founded, and Camus joined it after his mentor Grenier advised him to do so. Camus' main role within the PCA was to organise the Théâtre du Travail (Workers' Theatre). Camus was also close to the Parti du Peuple Algérien (Algerian People's Party/PPA), which was a moderate anti-colonialist nationalist party. As tensions in the interwar period escalated, the Stalinist PCA and PPA broke ties. Camus was expelled from the PCA for refusing to follow the party line. This series of events sharpened his belief in human dignity. Camus' mistrust of bureaucracies that aimed for efficiency instead of justice grew. He continued his involvement with theatre and renamed his group Théâtre de l'Equipe (Team's Theatre). Some of his scripts were the basis for his later novels.[13]

In 1938, Camus began working for the leftist newspaper Alger Républicain (founded by Pascal Pia) as he had strong anti-fascist feelings, and the rise of fascist regimes in Europe was worrying him. By then, Camus had developed strong feelings against authoritative colonialism as he witnessed the harsh treatment of the Arabs and Berbers by French authorities. Alger Républicain was banned in 1940, and Camus flew to Paris to take a new job at Paris-Soir as editor-in-chief. In Paris, he almost completed his "first cycle" of works dealing with the absurd and the meaningless—the novel L’Étranger (The Outsider (UK), or The Stranger (US), the philosophical essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus) and the play Caligula. Each cycle consisted of a novel, an essay and a theatrical play. [14]

World War II, Resistance and Combat

Soon after Camus moved to Paris, the outbreak of World War II reached France. Camus volunteered to join the army but was not accepted having suffered from tuberculosis. As the Germans were marching towards Paris, Camus fled. He was laid-off from Paris Soir and ended up in Lyon where he married pianist and mathematician Francine Faure on 3 December 1940.[15] Camus and Faure moved back to Algeria (Oran) where he taught in primary schools.[16] Because of his tuberculosis, he was forced to move to the French Alps. There he began writing his second cycle of works, this time dealing with revolt—a novel La Peste (The Plague) and a play Le Malentendu (The Misunderstanding). By 1943 he was known because of his earlier work. He returned to Paris where he met and became friends with Jean-Paul Sartre. He also became part of a circle of intellectuals including Simone de Beauvoir, André Breton and others. Among them was the actress Maria Casarès who would later have an affair with Camus.[17]

Camus took an active role in the underground resistance movement against the Germans during the French Occupation. Upon his arrival in Paris, he started working as a journalist and editor of the banned newspaper Combat. He continued writing for the paper after the liberation of France.[17] Camus used a pseudonym for his Combat articles and used false ID cards to avoid being captured. During that period he composed four Lettres à un ami allemand (Letters to a German Friend), explaining why resistance was necessary.[18]

Post-World War II

Albert Camus2
Albert Camus in the 1950s
External video
Presentation by Olivier Todd on Albert Camus: A Life, December 15, 1997, C-SPAN

After the War, Camus lived in Paris with Faure, who gave birth to twins—Catherine and Jean[19]—in 1945. Camus was now a celebrated writer known for his role in the resistance. He gave lectures at various universities in the United States and Latin America on two separate trips. He also visited Algeria once more, only to leave disappointed by the continuation of oppressive colonial policies, which he had warned about so many times. During this period he completed the second cycle of his work, with the novel L'Homme révolté (The Rebel). Camus attacked totalitarian communism while advocating for libertarian socialism and anarcho-syndicalism. Upsetting many of his colleagues and contemporaries in France with his rejection of communism, the book brought about the final split with Sartre. His relations with the Marxist Left deteriorated further during the Algerian War.[20]

Camus was a strong supporter of European integration and participated in various marginal organisations working towards that end.[21] In 1944, he founded the Comité Français pour la Féderation Européenne – CFFE (French Committee for the European Federation) declaring that Europe "can only evolve along the path of economic progress, democracy, and peace if the nation states become a federation."[21] In 1947–48, he founded the Groupes de liaison internationale – GLI (Revolutionary Union Movement )[22] a trade union movement in the context of revolutionary syndicalism (syndicalisme révolutionnaire). According to Olivier Todd, in his biography Albert Camus, une vie, (Albert Camus: A Life) it was a group opposed to some tendencies of the Surrealist movement of André Breton. His colleagues were Nicolas Lazarévitch, Louis Mercier, Roger Lapeyre, Paul Chauvet, Auguste Largentier, and Jean de Boë.[23] His main aim was to express the positive side of surrealism and existentialism, rejecting the negativity and the nihilism of André Breton. Camus also raised his voice against the Soviet intervention in Hungary and the totalitarian tendencies of Franco's regime in Spain.[21]

Camus had numerous affairs, particularly an irregular and eventually public affair with the Spanish-born actress María Casares, with whom he had an extensive correspondence.[24] Faure did not take this affair lightly. She had a mental breakdown and needed hospitalisation in the early 1950s. Camus, who felt guilty, withdrew from public life and was slightly depressed for some time.[25]

In 1957, Camus received the news that he was to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. This came as a shock to him. He was anticipating André Malraux would win the prestigious award. At age 44, he was the second-youngest recipient of the prize, after Rudyard Kipling who was 42. After this he began working on his autobiography Le Premier Homme (The First Man) in an attempt to examine "moral learning". He also turned to the theatre once more. [26] Financed by the money he received with his Nobel Prize, he adapted and directed for the stage Dostoyesvsky's novel Demons. The play opened in January 1959 at the Antoine Theatre in Paris and was a critical success.[27]


20041113-002 Lourmarin Tombstone Albert Camus
Albert Camus' gravestone
Camus Monument in Villeblevin France 17-august-2003.4
The bronze plaque on the monument to Camus in the town of Villeblevin, France. It reads: "From the General Council of the Yonne Department, in homage to the writer Albert Camus whose remains lay in vigil at the Villeblevin town hall on the night of 4 to 5 January 1960."
Camus Monument in Villeblevin France 17-august-2003.1
The monument to Camus built in Villeblevin, where he died in a car crash on 4 January 1960

Camus died on 4 January 1960 at the age of 46, in a car accident near Sens, in Le Grand Fossard in the small town of Villeblevin. He was leaving Paris for a vacation with his publisher, Michel Gallimard, who was driving with his family.[28] Gallimard died a few days later. 144 pages of a handwritten manuscript entitled Le premiere homme (The First Man) were found in the wreckage. Camus had predicted this unfinished novel based on his childhood in Algeria would be his finest work.[19] Camus was buried in the Lourmarin Cemetery, Lourmarin, Vaucluse, France, where he had lived. [29] His friend Sartre read a touching eulogy, paying tribute to Camus’s heroic "stubborn humanism".[30]

Literary career

Lucia 1957
Camus crowning Stockholm's Lucia on 13 December 1957, three days after accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature

Camus' first publication was a play Revolte dans les Asturies (Revolt in the Asturias) written with three friends in May 1936. The subject was the 1934 revolt by Spanish miners that was brutally suppressed by the Spanish government resulting in 1,500 to 2,000 deaths.[31] In May 1937 he wrote his first book, L'Envers et l'Endroit (Betwixt and Between also translated as The Wrong Side and the Right Side). Both were published by Edmond Charlot's small publishing house.[32]

Camus separated his work into three cycles. Each cycle consisted of a novel, a play and an essay. The first was the cycle of the absurd consisting of L'Étranger, Le Mythe de Sysiphe and Caligula. The second was the cycle of the revolt which included La Peste (The Plague), L'Homme révolté (The Rebel) and Les Justes (The Just Assassins). The third, the cycle of the love, consisted of Nemesis. Each cycle was an examination of a theme with the use of a pagan myth and including biblical motifs. [33]

The books in the first cycle were published between 1942 and 1944, but the theme was conceived earlier, at least as far back as 1936.[34] With this cycle, Camus aims to pose a question on the human condition, discuss the world as an absurd place, and warn humanity of the consequences of totalitarianism.[35]

Camus began his work on the second cycle while he was in Algeria, in the last months of 1942, just as the Germans were reaching North Africa.[36] In the second cycle, Camus used Prometheus, who is depicted as a revolutionary humanist, to highlight the nuances between revolution and rebellion. He analyses various aspects of rebellion, its metaphysics, its connection to politics, and examines it under the lens of modernity, of historicity and the absence of a God.[37]

After receiving the Nobel Prize award, Camus gathered, clarified, and published his pacifist leaning views at Actuelles III: Chronique algérienne 1939–1958 (Algerian Chronicles). He then decided to distance himself from the Algerian War as he found the mental burden too heavy. He turned to theatre and the third cycle which was about love and the goddess Nemesis.[26]

Two of Camus' works were published posthumously. The first entitled La mort heureuse (A Happy Death) (1970), features a character named Patrice Mersault, comparable to The Stranger's Meursault. There is scholarly debate about the relationship between the two books. The second was an unfinished novel, Le Premier homme (The First Man) (1995), which Camus was writing before he died. It was an autobiographical work about his childhood in Algeria.

The publication of this book in 1994 has sparked a widespread reconsideration of Camus' allegedly unrepentant colonialism.[38]

Works of Camus by genre and cycle, according to Matthew Sharpe[39]
Years Pagan myth Biblical motif Novel Plays
1937–42 Sisyphus Alienation, exile The Stranger (L’Étranger) Caligula,
The Misunderstanding (Le Malentendu)
1943–52 Prometheus Rebellion The Plague (La Peste) The State of Siege (L'État de siège)
The Just (Les Justes)
1952–58 Guilt, the fall; exile & the kingdom;
John the Baptist, Christ
The Fall (La Chute) Adaptations of The Possessed (Dostoevsky);
Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun
1958– Nemesis The Kingdom The First Man (Le Premier Homme)

Political stance

Camus was a moralist; he claimed morality should guide politics. While he did not deny that morals change over time, he rejected classical Marxist doctrine that history defines morality.

Camus was also strongly critical of authoritarian communism, especially in the case of Soviet Marxism, which he considered totalitarianism. Camus rebuked Soviet apologists and their "decision to call total servitude freedom".[40] As a proponent of libertarian socialism, he claimed the USSR was not socialist, and the United States was not liberal.[41] His fierce critique of the USSR caused him to clash with others on the political Left, most notably with his friend, Jean-Paul Sartre.

Active in the French Resistance to the German occupation of France during World War II, Camus wrote for and edited the famous Resistance journal Combat. Of the French collaboration with the German occupiers, he wrote: "Now the only moral value is courage, which is useful here for judging the puppets and chatterboxes who pretend to speak in the name of the people."[42] After France's liberation, Camus remarked, "This country does not need a Talleyrand, but a Saint-Just."[43] The reality of the bloody postwar tribunals soon changed his mind: Camus publicly reversed himself and became a lifelong opponent of capital punishment.[43]

Camus leaned towards anarchism, a tendency that intensified after the 1950s when the moral bankruptcy of the Soviet Union became evident.[44]Camus had been firm against any kind of exploitation, authority and property, bosses, the State and centralisation.[45] Philosophy professor at the University of Montana David Sherman considers Camus an anarchosyndicalist.

For Camus, this claim is ultimately grounded in human nature itself, which, among other things, is characterized by a strong impulse toward both spontaneity and creativity, and his commitment to a radically democratic ('bottom up') form of political organization, as manifested in revolutionary trade-unionism or the Paris Commune of 1871, is, arguably, most in keeping with this fundamental condition of human flourishing. Politically, therefore, whether in 1944 or 1954, Camus is best understood as a libertarian socialist or, more exactly, an anarcho-syndicalist—anarcho-syndicalism being the theory that politics should begin with voluntary associations of cooperative, labor-based groups rather than the state.[46][47]

Graeme Nicholson, considers Camus an existentialist anarchist.[48]

The anarchist André Prudhommeaux first introduced him at a meeting of the Cercle des Étudiants Anarchistes (Anarchist Student Circle) in 1948 as a sympathiser familiar with anarchist thought. Camus wrote for anarchist publications such as Le Libertaire, La Révolution prolétarienne, and Solidaridad Obrera (Workers' Solidarity), the organ of the anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) (National Confederation of Labor).[49]

Camus kept a neutral stance during the Algerian Revolution.(1954–62) While he was against the violence of the National Liberation Front (FLN) he acknowledged the injustice and brutalities imposed by colonialist France. He was supportive of Pierre Mendès' Unified Socialist Party (PSU) and its approach to the crisis;· Mendes advocated reconciliation. Camus also supported a like-minded Algerian militant, Aziz Kessous. Camus travelled to Algeria to negotiate a truce between both belligerents but was met with distrust by all parties.[50] His confrontation with an Algerian nationalist during his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize caused a sensation. When confronted with the dilemma of choosing between his mother and justice, his response was: "I have always condemned terrorism, and I must condemn a terrorism that works blindly in the streets of Algiers and one day might strike at my mother and family. I believe in justice, but I will defend my mother before justice."[51] Camus' critics claimed this was reactionary and a result of a colonialist attitude.[52] According to David Sherman, though, Camus was aiming to highlight the false dichotomy of the two choices as the use of terrorism and indiscriminate violence could not bring justice under any circumstances.[51]

He was sharply critical of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.[53] In the 1950s, Camus devoted his efforts to human rights. In 1952, he resigned from his work for UNESCO when the UN accepted Spain, under the leadership of General Franco, as a member.[25] Camus maintained his pacifism and resisted capital punishment anywhere in the world. He wrote an essay against capital punishment in collaboration with Arthur Koestler, the writer, intellectual, and founder of the League Against Capital Punishment entitled Reflexions sur la peine Capitale, published by Calmann-Levy in 1957.[54][55]


Départements français d'Algérie 1934-1955 map-fr
Administrative organisation of French Algeria between 1905 and 1955

Born in Algeria by French parents, Camus was familiar with the institutional racism of France against Arabs, but he was not part of a rich elite. He lived in very poor conditions as a child but was a citizen of France and as such was entitled to citizens' rights; the Arab and Berberic majority of the country were not.[56]

Camus was a vocal advocate of the "new Mediterranean Culture". This was a term he used to describe his vision of embracing the multi-ethnicity of the Algerian people, in opposition to "Latiny", a popular pro-fascist and antisemitic ideology among other Pieds-Noirs—or French or Europeans born in Algeria . For Camus, this vision encapsulated the Hellenic humanism which survived among ordinary people around the Mediterranean Sea.[57] His 1938 address on "The New Mediterranean Culture" represents Camus' most systematic statement of his views at this time. Camus also supported the Blum-Viollette proposal to grant Algerians full French citizenship in a manifesto with arguments defending this assimilative proposal on radical egalitarian grounds. [58] In 1939, Camus wrote a stinging series of articles for Alger Republicain on the atrocious living conditions of the inhabitants of the Kabylie highlands. He advocated for economic, educational and political reforms as a matter of emergency.[59]

In 1945, following the Sétif and Guelma massacre after Arab revolts against French mistreatment, Camus was one of only a few mainland journalists to visit the colony. He wrote a series of articles reporting on conditions, and advocating for French reforms and concessions to the demands of the Algerian people.[60]

When the Algerian War began in 1954, Camus was confronted with a moral dilemma. He identified with the Pieds-Noirs such as his own parents and defended the French government's actions against the revolt. He argued the Algerian uprising was an integral part of the "new Arab imperialism" led by Egypt, and an "anti-Western" offensive orchestrated by Russia to "encircle Europe" and "isolate the United States".[61] Although favouring greater Algerian autonomy or even federation, though not full-scale independence, he believed the Pieds-Noirs and Arabs could co-exist. During the war, he advocated a civil truce that would spare the civilians. This was rejected by both sides, who regarded it as foolish. Behind the scenes, he began working for imprisoned Algerians who faced the death penalty.[62] His position drew much criticism from the left which considered colonialism unacceptable. In their eyes, Camus was no longer the defender of the oppressed.[63]

Camus once confided that the troubles in Algeria "affected him as others feel pain in their lungs".[64]



Even though Camus is mostly connected to Absurdism,[65] he is routinely categorized as an Existentialist, a term he rejected on several occasions.[66]

Camus himself cited his philosophical origins (ancient Greek philosophy, Nietzsche, 17th-century moralists) whereas existentialism arises from the 19th German philosophy (such as Kierkegaard, Karl Jaspers and Heidegger).[67] He also cited his work, The Myth of Sisyphus, which he claimed was a criticism of various aspects of existentialism.[68] Camus was rejecting existentialism as a philosophy, but his critique was mostly focusing on Sartrean existentialism, and to a lesser extent on religious existentialism. He thought that the importance of history held by Marx and Sartre was incompatible with his belief in human freedom.[69] David Sherman and others also suggest the rivalry between Sartre and Camus also played a part in his rejection of existentialism.[70] David Simpson argues further that his humanism and belief in human nature set him apart from the existentialist doctrine that existence precedes essence.[71]

On the other hand, Camus focused most of his philosophy around existential questions. The absurdity of life, the inevitable ending (death) is highlighted in his acts. His belief that the absurd—life being void of meaning, or man's inability to know that meaning if it were to exist—was something that man should embrace. His anti-Christianity, his commitment to individual moral freedom and responsibility are only a few of the similarities with other existential writers.[72] More importantly, Camus addressed one of the fundamental questions of existentialism: the problem of suicide. He wrote: "There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide." Camus viewed the question of suicide as arising naturally as a solution to the absurdity of life.[73]


Many existentialist writers have addressed the Absurd, each with their own interpretation of what it is and what makes it important. Kierkegaard explains that the absurdity of religious truths prevents us from reaching God rationally.[74] Sartre recognizes the absurdity of individual experience. Camus' thoughts on the Absurd begins with his first cycle of books and the literary essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe, his major work on the subject. In 1942 he published the story of a man living an absurd life in L'Étranger. He also wrote a play about Caligula, a Roman Emperor, pursuing an absurd logic, which was not performed until 1945. His early thoughts appeared in his first collection of essays, L'Envers et l'endroit (Betwixt and Between) in 1937. Absurd themes were expressed with more sophistication in his second collection of essays, Noces (Nuptials), in 1938 and The Wrong Side and the Right Side. In these essays, Camus reflects on the experience of the Absurd.[75] Aspects of the notion of the Absurd can be found in The Plague.[76]

Camus follows Sartre's definition of the Absurd: "That which is meaningless. Thus man's existence is absurd because his contingency finds no external justification".[74] The Absurd is created because man, who is placed in an unintelligent universe, realises that human values are not founded on a solid external component; or as Camus himself explains, the Absurd is the result of the "confrontation between human need and the unreasonable silence of the world".[77] Even though absurdity is inescapable, Camus does not drift towards nihilism. But the realization of absurdity leads to the question: Why should someone continue to live? Suicide is an option that Camus firmly dismisses as the renunciation of human values and freedom. Rather, he proposes we accept that absurdity is a part of our lives and live with it.[78]

The turning point in Camus' attitude to the Absurd occurs in a collection of four letters to an anonymous German friend, written between July 1943 and July 1944. The first was published in the Revue Libre in 1943, the second in the Cahiers de Libération in 1944, and the third in the newspaper Libertés, in 1945. The four letters were published as Lettres à un ami allemand (Letters to a German Friend) in 1945, and were included in the collection Resistance, Rebellion, and Death.

Camus regretted the continued reference to himself as a "philosopher of the absurd". He showed less interest in the Absurd shortly after publishing Le Mythe de Sisyphe. To distinguish his ideas, scholars sometimes refer to the Paradox of the Absurd, when referring to "Camus' Absurd".[79]


Camus is known for articulating the case for revolting against any kind of oppression, injustice or whatever disrespects the human condition. He is cautious enough, however, to set the limits on the rebellion.[80] L'Homme révolté (The Rebel) explains in detail his thoughts on the issue. There, he builds upon the absurd (described in The Myth of Sisyphus) but goes further. In the introduction, where he examines the metaphysics of rebellion, he concludes with the phrase "I revolt, therefore we exist" implying the recognition of a common human condition. [81] Camus also delineates the difference between revolution and rebellion and notices that history has shown that the rebel's revolution might easily end up to be an oppressive regime. So he places importance on the morals accompanying the revolution.[82] Camus poses a crucial question: Is it possible for humans to act in an ethical and meaningful manner, in a silent universe? According to him the answer is yes, as the experience and awareness of the Absurd creates the moral values and also sets the limits of our actions.[83] Camus separates the modern form of rebellion into two modes. First, there is the metaphysical rebellion, which is "the movement by which man protests against his condition and against the whole of creation". The other mode, historical rebellion, is the attempt to materialize the abstract spirit of metaphysical rebellion and change the world. In this attempt, the rebel must balance between the evil of the world and the intrinsic evil which every revolt carries, and not cause any unjustifiable suffering.[84]


Camus' work, either his novels or philosophical essays, is still influential. After his death, interest in Camus followed the rise (and diminution) of the New Left. Following the collapse of Soviet Union, interest in Camus' an alternative road to communism resurfaced.[85] He is remembered for his skeptical humanism, his support for political tolerance, dialogue and civil rights.[86]

Although Camus has been linked to anti-Soviet communism, reaching as far as anarcho-syndicalism, some neo-liberals have tried to associate him with their policies, i.e. when the French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested that his remains to be moved to the Panthéon, an idea that angered many on the Left.[87]



  • The Stranger (L'Étranger, often translated as The Outsider) (1942)
  • The Plague (La Peste) (1947)
  • The Fall (La Chute) (1956)
  • A Happy Death (La Mort heureuse) (written 1936–38, published posthumously 1971)
  • The First Man (Le premier homme) (incomplete, published posthumously 1995)

Short stories

Non-fiction books



  • The Crisis of Man (Lecture at Columbia University) (28 March 1946)
  • Neither Victims Nor Executioners (Series of essays in Combat) (1946)
  • Why Spain? (Essay for the theatrical play L' Etat de Siège) (1948)
  • Summer (L'Été) (1954)
  • The Ancient Greek Tragedy (Parnassos lecture in Greece) (1956)
  • Reflections on the Guillotine (Réflexions sur la guillotine) (Extended essay, 1957)
  • Create Dangerously (Essay on Realism and Artistic Creation, lecture at the University of Uppsala in Sweden) (1957)

Collected essays

  • Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1961) – a collection of essays selected by the author, including the 1945 Lettres à un ami allemand (Letters to a German Friend) and A Defense of Intelligence, a 1945 speech given at a meeting organized by Amitié Française.[88] ;also includes Why Spain?, Reflections on the Guillotine and Create Dangerously.
  • Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970) – essays which include L'envers et l'endroit, Noces and L'Eté.
  • Youthful Writings (1976)
  • Between Hell and Reason: Essays from the Resistance Newspaper "Combat", 1944–1947 (1991)
  • Camus at "Combat": Writing 1944–1947 (2005)
  • Albert Camus Contre la Peine de Mort (2011)


  1. ^ Sherman 2009, p. 10; Hayden 2016, p. 7; Lottman 1979, p. 11; Carroll 2007, pp. 2-3.
  2. ^ Carroll 2007, pp. 2-3.
  3. ^ a b c Sherman 2009, p. 11.
  4. ^ Hayden 2016, p. 8.
  5. ^ a b c Hayden 2016, p. 9.
  6. ^ Sherman 2009, p. 11: Camus thesis was titled "Rapports de l'hellénisme et du christianisme à travers les oeuvres de Plotin et de saint Augustin" ("Relationship of Greek and Christian Thought in Plotinus and St. Augustine") for his diplôme d'études supérieures (roughly equivalent to an MA thesis).
  7. ^ Simpson 2019, Background and Influences.
  8. ^ a b c Clarke 2009, p. 488.
  9. ^ Lattal 1995.
  10. ^ Cohn 1986, p. 30; Hayden 2016.
  11. ^ Sherman 2009; Hayden 2016, p. 13.
  12. ^ Todd 2000, pp. 249–250; Sherman 2009, p. 12.
  13. ^ Hayden 2016, pp. 10–11.
  14. ^ Hayden 2016, p. 12; Sherman 2009, pp. 12–13.
  15. ^ Hayden 2016, pp. 13–14.
  16. ^ Sherman 2009, p. 13.
  17. ^ a b Hayden 2016; Sherman 2009, p. 13.
  18. ^ Hayden 2016, p. 15.
  19. ^ a b Willsher, Kim (7 August 2011). "Albert Camus might have been killed by the KGB for criticising the Soviet Union, claims newspaper". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  20. ^ Hayden 2016, pp. 16–17.
  21. ^ a b c Hayden 2016, p. 18.
  22. ^ Todd 2000, pp. 249–250.
  23. ^ Boulouque 2000.
  24. ^ Sherman 2009, pp. 14–17; Zaretsky 2018.
  25. ^ a b Sherman 2009, p. 17.
  26. ^ a b Hayden 2016, p. 19.
  27. ^ Sherman 2009, p. 18.
  28. ^ Sherman 2009, p. 19; Simpson 2019, Life.
  29. ^ Bloom 2009, p. 52.
  30. ^ Simpson 2019, Life.
  31. ^ "Revolt in Asturias". Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  32. ^ Hayden 2016, p. 11.
  33. ^ Sharpe 2015, pp. 41–44.
  34. ^ Hayden 2016, p. 23.
  35. ^ Hayden 2016, p. 41.
  36. ^ Hayden 2016, p. 14.
  37. ^ Hayden 2016, pp. 45–47.
  38. ^ Carroll 2007.
  39. ^ Sharpe 2015, p. 44.
  40. ^ Foley 2008, pp. 75–76.
  41. ^ Sherman 2009, pp. 185–87.
  42. ^ Bernstein 1997.
  43. ^ a b Bronner 2009, p. 74.
  44. ^ Dunwoodie 1993, p. 86; Marshall 1993, p. 445.
  45. ^ Dunwoodie 1993, p. 87.
  46. ^ Sherman 2009, p. 185.
  47. ^ University Of Montana 2015.
  48. ^ Nicholson 1971, p. 14.
  49. ^ Dunwoodie 1993, pp. 87-87: See also appendix p 97; Hayden 2016, p. 18.
  50. ^ Sherman 2009, pp. 17–18 & 188; Cohn 1986, pp. 30 & 38.
  51. ^ a b Sherman 2009, p. 191.
  52. ^ Sherman 2009, p. 19; Simpson 2019; Marshall 1993, p. 584.
  53. ^ Hayden 2016, p. 87.
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  59. ^ Sharpe 2015, p. 356.
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  70. ^ Sherman 2009, p. 4; Simpson 2019, Existentialism.
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  73. ^ Aronson 2017, Introduction.
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  78. ^ Foley 2008, p. 7-10.
  79. ^ Curtis 1972, p. 335-348.
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  88. ^ Orme 2007.


Further reading

Selected biographies

External links

Algerian Chronicles

Algerian Chronicles (French: Chroniques algériennes) is a collection of writings by Nobel awarded author, Albert Camus published in French in 1958. The book was translated in English and published as Algerian Chronicles in 2013. Albert Camus political stance of neutrality in the Algerian Conflict is illustrated. The book also shows how both the French Right and Left were hostile towards Camus due to his stance.

Caligula (play)

Caligula is a play written by Albert Camus, begun in 1938 (the date of the first manuscript 1939) and published for the first time in May 1944 by Éditions Gallimard. The play was later the subject of numerous revisions. It was part of what the author called the "Cycle of the Absurd", with the novel The Stranger (1942) and the essay The Myth of Sisyphus (1942). A number of critics have reported the piece to be existentialist; however, Camus always denied belonging to this philosophy. Its plot revolves around the historical figure of Caligula, a Roman Emperor famed for his cruelty and seemingly insane behavior.

Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism

"Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism" is the title of Albert Camus' master thesis. It was published in when Camus was 23 years old. Camus uses Augustine and Pelagius to elaborate his moral views in regard to Greek thought and Christianity. This book is important as it is the first attempt of Camus to explore humanist ethics.

Correspondance (1944-1959)

Correspondence 1944–1959 (French: Correspondance 1944-1959) is a book published in 2017, containing the love letters of the Nobel awarded author Albert Camus and his lover's, actress Maria Casarès. Casarès handed her letters to Camus daughter, Cathrine Camus. The book was a best-seller in France. Camus humour is evident in the book, accompanied by his despair.

Exile and the Kingdom

Exile and the Kingdom (French: L'exil et le royaume) is a 1957 collection of six short stories by French writer Albert Camus.

The underlying theme of these stories is human loneliness and feeling foreign and isolated in one's own society. Camus writes about outsiders living in Algeria who straddle the divide between the Muslim world and France.These works of fiction cover the whole variety of existentialism, or absurdism, as Camus himself insisted his philosophical ideas be called. The clearest manifestation of the ideals of Camus can be found in the story "La Pierre qui pousse." This story features D'Arrast, who can be seen as a positive hero as opposed to Meursault in The Stranger. He actively shapes his life and sacrifices himself in order to help a friend, instead of remaining passive. The moral quality of his actions is intensified by the fact that D'Arrast has deep insight into the absurdity of the world but acts morally nevertheless (not unlike the main character in The Plague). In the Silent Men, Camus reveals his understanding of the life of lower class laborers. The main character, Yvars, is a barrel maker, like Camus's uncle, for whom he worked as a teenager.The six works collected in this volume are:

"The Adulterous Woman" ("La Femme adultère")

"The Renegade or a Confused Spirit" ("Le Renégat ou un esprit confus")

"The Silent Men" ("Les Muets")

"The Guest" ("L'Hôte")

"Jonas or the Artist at Work" ("Jonas ou l’artiste au travail")

"The Growing Stone" ("La Pierre qui pousse")

Lycée Albert Camus (Bois-Colombes)

Lycée Albert Camus is a French senior high school in Bois-Colombes, Hauts-de-Seine, France, in the Paris metropolitan area.

The school has German, Spanish, Italian, and English international sections.

Lycée français Albert Camus

The Lycée Français Albert Camus (or LAC) is a small French secondary school situated in Conakry, Guinea. It caters for 750 students between the ages of 3 and 18, and teaches predominantly in French. Its curriculum and management are overseen by the French National Ministry of Education through the Agency for the Teaching of French Abroad (AEFE).

The Lycée has pupils of 37 nationalities. The school closed for a while due to the political instability of September 2009. Closed in October 2009, it re-opened in September 2010.

As the only privately funded school by the French government in Conakry, it caters mainly to the expatriate community. Its teachers are mainly brought in from France and the EU although locals are hired as well.

The LAC offers three high school curriculum streams: Série Scientifique; Serie Economie Sociale and Série Litteraire. The lycée offers the French Baccalaureate as a culmination of a students studies. It is administered by the Académie de Bordeaux (France). Baccalaureate tests are administered in Conakry, but are graded by other AEFE teachers in Dakar, Senegal. Students are encouraged to apply to a university in France/French Territories to pursue their studies.

Extracurricular activities include sports, pottery, rollerblading and judo for students grades 1-5. In grade 6 extra curricular activities are limited to sports (soccer, volleyball and soccer).

The school has organized three annual running events called "Le Cross". It was started by a physical education professor Nicholas Thebault who excelled in running during his academic career. Students are required to participate in this event.

Neither Victims nor Executioners

Neither Victims nor Executioners (French: Ni Victimes, ni bourreaux) was a series of essays by Albert Camus that were serialized in Combat, the daily newspaper of the French Resistance, in November 1946. In the essays he discusses violence and murder and the impact these have on those who perpetrate, suffer, or observe.

Neither Victims nor Executioners is split into eight sections:

The Century of Fear

Saving Lives

The Contradictions of Socialism

The Betrayed Revolution

International Democracy and Dictatorship

The World is Changing Fast

A New Social Contract

Toward DialogueThe essays were translated into English by Dwight Macdonald and published in the July–August 1947 issue of politics. This version is available via England's pacifist Peace Pledge Union. It appeared in separate book form in 1960 with an introduction by Waldo Frank. The essay was also reprinted in the book Between Hell and Reason: Essays from the Resistance Newspaper "Combat".

Notebooks 1935–1942

Notebooks 1935–1942 is the first out of three books of Albert Camus published post-mortem, in 1963. Publishing house was Knopf, New York. It consists of several aphorisms and other ideas on his work and deals mostly with humanism and revolt. There are no personal details on the notebook.

Nuptials (Camus)

Nuptials (Noces) is a collection of 4 lyrical essays by Albert Camus. It is one of its earliest works, his first one dealing with absurd and suicide. Camus examines religious hope, rejects religions and life after death. Instead, he advocates for living for now.

The collection contains the following essays:

Noces à Tipasa

Le vent à Djémila

L'été à Alger

Le désertNoces à Tipasa is the most known essay.

Requiem for a Nun (play)

Requiem for a Nun is a play by Albert Camus, adapted by William Faulkner's novel with the same title. The play was published in 1962. Camus had a great admiration for Faulkner. In his play, he changed the dialogues substantially. According to John Philip Couch "In Requiem pour une nonne Camus achieved an unusual density and tension appropiate to tragedy... One may conclude that for the first time in his career Camus was capable of writing a serious play worthy of his accomplishments in the novel."

The Fall (Camus novel)

The Fall (French: La Chute) is a philosophical novel by Albert Camus. First published in 1956, it is his last complete work of fiction. Set in Amsterdam, The Fall consists of a series of dramatic monologues by the self-proclaimed "judge-penitent" Jean-Baptiste Clamence, as he reflects upon his life to a stranger. In what amounts to a confession, Clamence tells of his success as a wealthy Parisian defense lawyer who was highly respected by his colleagues. His crisis, and his ultimate "fall" from grace, was meant to invoke, in secular terms, the fall of man from the Garden of Eden. The Fall explores themes of innocence, imprisonment, non-existence, and truth. In a eulogy to Albert Camus, existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre described the novel as "perhaps the most beautiful and the least understood" of Camus' books.

The Myth of Sisyphus

The Myth of Sisyphus (French: Le Mythe de Sisyphe) is a 1942 philosophical essay by Albert Camus. The English translation by Justin O'Brien was first published in 1955.

In the essay Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd, man's futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values. Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? Camus answers, "No. It requires revolt." He then outlines several approaches to the absurd life. The final chapter compares the absurdity of man's life with the situation of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. The essay concludes, "The struggle itself ... is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy".

The work can be seen in relation to other absurdist works by Camus: the novel The Stranger (1942), the plays The Misunderstanding (1942) and Caligula (1944), and especially the essay The Rebel (1951).

The Plague

The Plague (French: La Peste) is a novel by Albert Camus, published in 1947, that tells the story of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran. It asks a number of questions relating to the nature of destiny and the human condition. The characters in the book, ranging from doctors to vacationers to fugitives, all help to show the effects the plague has on a populace.

The novel is believed to be based on the cholera epidemic that killed a large percentage of Oran's population in 1849 following French colonization, but the novel is placed in the 1940s. Oran and its environs were struck by disease multiple times before Camus published this novel. According to a research report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oran was decimated by the plague in 1556 and 1678, but all later outbreaks, in 1921 (185 cases), 1931 (76 cases), and 1944 (95 cases), were very far from the scale of the epidemic described in the novel.

The Plague is considered an existentialist classic despite Camus' objection to the label. The narrative tone is similar to Kafka's, especially in The Trial whose individual sentences potentially have multiple meanings, the material often pointedly resonating as stark allegory of phenomenal consciousness and the human condition.

Camus included a dim-witted character misreading The Trial as a mystery novel as an oblique homage. The novel has been read as a allegorical treatment of the French resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II. Additionally, he further illustrates the human reaction towards the "absurd". The Plague represents how the world deals with the philosophical notion of the Absurd, a theory that Camus himself helped to define.

The Possessed (play)

The Possessed (in French Les Possédés) is a three-part play written by Albert Camus in 1959. The piece is a theatrical adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel The Possessed, later renamed Demons. Camus despised nihilism and viewed Dostoyevsky's work as a prophecy about nihilism's devastating effects. He directed a production of the play at the Théâtre Antoine in 1959, the year before he died, which he financed in part with the money he received with his Nobel Prize. It was a critical success as well as an artistic and technical tour de force: 33 actors, 4 hours long, 7 sets, 24 scenes. The walls could move sideways to reduce the size of each location and the whole stage rotated to allow for immediate set transformations. Camus put the painter and set decorator Mayo, who had already illustrated several of his novels (L'Etranger - 1948 Ed.), in charge of the demanding task of designing these multiple and complex theater sets

The Rebel (book)

The Rebel (French: L'Homme révolté) is a 1951 book-length essay by Albert Camus, which treats both the metaphysical and the historical development of rebellion and revolution in societies, especially Western Europe. Camus relates writers and artists as diverse as Epicurus and Lucretius, the Marquis de Sade, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Stirner, André Breton, and others in an integrated, historical portrait of man in revolt. Examining both rebellion and revolt, which may be seen as the same phenomenon in personal and social frames, Camus examines several 'countercultural' figures and movements from the history of Western thought and art, noting the importance of each in the overall development of revolutionary thought and philosophy. This work has received ongoing interest, influencing modern philosophers and authors such as Paul Berman and others.

Fred Rosen has examined the influence of ideas of Simone Weil on Camus' thinking in The Rebel. George F Selfer has analysed parallels between Camus and Friedrich Nietzsche in philosophical aesthestics.

The State of Siege

The State of Siege (French: L'État de siège) is the fourth play by Albert Camus.

Written in 1948, The State of Siege—the original sense is closer to state of emergency—is a play in three acts presenting the arrival of plague, personified by a young opportunist, in sleepy Cadiz and the subsequent creation of a totalitarian regime through the manipulation of fear. In a piece written in 1948, in reply to criticisms from Gabriel Marcel, Camus defended his decision to set the play in Spain, and not in Eastern Europe, citing the ongoing oppression in Spain, France's collusion in it, and the Catholic Church's abandonment of Spanish Christians. The piece was first performed in October 1948, and was initially received poorly by critics and public, who had eagerly awaited the work, but expected a dramatisation of Camus's novel The Plague. While the two share a common background, the treatments are entirely different in tone. Although Camus himself was pleased with the work, critics remained unimpressed.

The State of Siege has remained almost constantly in print in French, and since 1958 in an English translation by Stuart Gilbert—in Caligula and Three Other Plays—with a foreword by Camus.

The Stranger (1967 film)

The Stranger (Italian: Lo straniero) is a 1967 film by Italian film director Luchino Visconti, based on Albert Camus' novel L'Étranger, with Marcello Mastroianni.

The Stranger (Camus novel)

L’Étranger (The Outsider [UK], or The Stranger [US]) is a 1942 novel by French author Albert Camus. Its theme and outlook are often cited as examples of Camus's philosophy of the absurd and existentialism, though Camus personally rejected the latter label.

The title character is Meursault, an indifferent French Algerian described as "a citizen of France domiciled in North Africa, a man of the Mediterranean, an homme du midi yet one who hardly partakes of the traditional Mediterranean culture". He attends his mother's funeral. A few days later, he kills an Arab man in French Algiers, who was involved in a conflict with a friend. Meursault is tried and sentenced to death. The story is divided into two parts, presenting Meursault's first-person narrative view before and after the murder, respectively.

In January 1955, Camus wrote:

I summarized The Stranger a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: "In our society any man who does not weep at his mother's funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death." I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.

The Stranger's first edition consisted of 4,400 copies and was not an immediate best-seller. But the novel was well received, partly because of Jean-Paul Sartre's article "Explication de L'Etranger", on the eve of publication of the novel, and a mistake from the Propaganda-Staffel.Translated four times into English, and also into numerous other languages, the novel has long been considered a classic of 20th-century literature. Le Monde ranks it as number one on its 100 Books of the Century.

The novel was twice adapted as films: Lo Straniero (1967) (Italian) by Luchino Visconti and Yazgı (2001, Fate) by Zeki Demirkubuz (Turkish).

Works by Albert Camus
Short stories

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