Thursday, November 07, 2013

Albert Camus and Me

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure.”
~ Albert Camus, The Stranger

Those words that begin the novel, The Stranger, are the first ones written by Albert Camus that I ever read; they were far from the last.
I was introduced to the writings of Camus via the stranger during the second semester of my freshman year at the University of Kentucky. There were two required English courses that all freshman had to take. This was the second of those.

Nothing about the first semester English class kicks in my mind. I do have vivid memories of that second semester class. The instructor, a graduate student (whose name, I think, was McCown), sported a full, long, very red beard. He also drove a British sports car, a British racing green MGA, that was so polished that its body gleaned in the sunlight. He quickly became my ideal scholar.

McCown introduced me not only to Albert Camus, but also to Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, and John Paul Sartre—authors who have given me great pleasure and insights in the almost 50 years since I took that class.

This post is not about my second semester English class. It is about Albert Camus, French Nobel Prize winning author, journalist, and philosopher, who was born 100 years ago today. He introduced me (and the world) the concept of the absurd and, along with Sartre, the philosophical movement of Existentialism, although Camus has been reported as saying, “I am not an existentialist. Sartre and I are always surprised to see our names linked...”

Whatever Camus may say said about existentialism, to me he was an existentialist. He was also a hero. His words clicked with me. So during my first few years at the University of Kentucky, I also read The Plague, The Fall, The Rebel, The Myth of Sisyphus, as well as one or two of his plays and several essays. Reading Camus added to my vocabulary phrases such as “the freedom of the condemned man,” “the absurd,” “with rebellion, awareness is born,” "a leap to freedom," etc.

Camus died in a car accident on January 4, 1960, at the age of 46—much, much too young. Had he lived to become a senior citizen, I wonder what else he would have shared with the world.

On this 100th anniversary of his death, I salute the memory of Albert Camus and give thanks for his life and letters.


  1. Good job, Saintly Nick. I appreciate the link to the Nobel site. Thank you.

  2. SO glad I found this, Camus has long been a favorite.