Algerian History Lesson: Who was Albert Camus?

Albert Camus

Albert Camus was the first Algerian-born French author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. He is a well-known writer, philosopher, and journalist.

Albert Camus’s work has been initially associated with the existentialist movement. He has himself mentioned on several occasions that he doesn’t belong to this movement but he laid the foundations of the school of Absurdism. His main interests were within the area of ethics, humanity, justice, love, and politics.

Albert Camus
Photograph by United Press International Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Early Life of Albert Camus

To give some details on his early life, Albert Camus was born on November 7th, 1913 in the Algerian city of Mondavi (Drean) in the family of Pied-Noirs (this is the name given to the French people or other Europeans living in Northern Africa under the protectorate). His father was a poor agricultural worker who died while serving during World War I. His mother had Spanish origin and was half-deaf. After the death of his father, Camus and his mother lived even more modestly. He succeeded in being admitted to the University of Algiers. In 1930, he caught tuberculosis and was forced to end his football activities and retreat to part-time studies. He joined the French Communist Party in 1935 while the next year he joined activities with the Algerian People’s Party which led to him being expelled.

In 1943, Camus met Sartre at a rehearsal of Sartre’s play. They frequented the Café de Flore after the war. He spent some time traveling the United States criticizing the Communist doctrine which led to Sartre’s alienation. Camus slowly began to contribute to the idea of the absurd. His progress is greatly displayed in The Myth of Sisyphus, The Stranger, and The Plague. He also devoted efforts to human rights while working for UNESCO. In the following years, Camus loudly expressed his resentment towards the Soviet methods and participated in the Poznan protests.

Albert Camus During the Algerian War

During the Algerian war in 1954, Albert Camus was challenged to make a choice. It was a true dilemma since he identified with the Pied-Noirs on one hand and supported the French government on the other. He proclaimed a truce which was rejected on both sides.

In 1957, Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his writings against capital punishment described in the essay “Reflections on the Guillotine”. He was the second youngest writer to receive the price after Rudyard Kipling.

The Death of Albert Camus

Albert Camus died in a car accident on the 4th of January 1960 at the age of 46 near Sens. The irony is that he had a train ticket in his pocket. The plan was that he would travel by train but his publisher and a longtime friend asked him to join him. Among one of the famous quotes of this great author is: “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Walk beside me and be my friend.

About the author

Kevin Dyck is the founder of Mosaic North Africa and has over 11 years experience living in North African countries. He is an Arabic speaker with a passion for travelers to encounter the diverse cultures and natural beauty found throughout the North Africa region. He currently lives in and works for MNA from Tunis, Tunisia.

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