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Albert Camus was a French philosopher, author, and political journalist. His views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism and devoted his whole life to opposing the philosophy of nihilism while still delving deeply into individual freedom.
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Key Facts & Information
- Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, in Mondovi, a small village near the seaport city of Bonê (present-day Annaba) in the northeast region of French Algeria.
- He was the second child of Lucien Auguste Camus, a military veteran and wine-shipping clerk, and of Catherine Helene (Sintes) Camus, a housekeeper and part-time factory worker.
- Shortly after the outbreak of WWI, when Camus was less than a year old, his father was recalled to military service and, on October 11, 1914, died of shrapnel wounds suffered at the first battle of the Marne.
- After his father’s death, Camus, his mother, and his older brother moved to Algiers where they lived with his maternal uncle and grandmother in her cramped second-floor apartment in the working-class district of Belcourt.
- Camus’ mother Catherine, who was illiterate, partially deaf, and afflicted with a speech impediment, worked in an ammunition factory and cleaned homes to help support the family.
- Camus attended elementary school at the local Ecole Communale, and it was there that he encountered the first in a series of teacher-mentors who recognized and nurtured the young boy’s lively intelligence.
- These father figures introduced him to a new world of history and imagination, and to literary landscapes far beyond the dusty streets of Belcourt and working-class poverty.
- Though stigmatized as a pupille de la nation (a war veteran’s child dependent on public welfare) and hampered by recurrent health issues, Camus distinguished himself as a student and was eventually awarded a scholarship to attend high school at the Grand Lycée d’Alger.
- Located near the famous Kasbah district, the school brought him into close proximity with the native Muslim community and thus gave him an early recognition of the idea of the “outsider” that would dominate his later writings.
- It was in secondary school that Camus became an avid reader (absorbing Guide, Proust, Verlaine, and Bergson, among others), learned Latin and English, and developed a lifelong interest in literature, art, theatre, and film.
- It was also during this time that Camus suffered his first serious attack of tuberculosis, a disease that was to afflict him, on and off, throughout his career.
- By the time he finished his Baccalauréat degree in June 1932, Camus was already contributing articles to Sud, a literary monthly, and looking forward to a career in journalism, the arts, or higher education.
- In 1933, Camus enrolled at the University of Algiers to pursue his diplome d’etudes superieures, specializing in philosophy and gaining certificates in sociology and psychology along the way.
- In 1936, he became a co-founder, along with a group of young fellow intellectuals, of the Théâtre du Travail, a professional acting company specializing in drama with left-wing political themes, where he served as both an actor and director.
- That same year Camus also earned his degree and completed his dissertation, a study of the influence of Plotinus and neoPlatonism on the thought and writings of St. Augustine.
- Camus became political during his student years, joining first the Communist Party and then the Algerian People’s Party. As a champion of individual rights, he opposed French colonization and argued for the empowerment of Algerians in politics and labor.
- At the beginning of World War II, Camus joined the French Resistance in order to help liberate Paris from the Nazi occupation. He met Jean-Paul Sartre during his period of military service. Like Sartre, Camus wrote and published political commentary on the conflict throughout its duration.
- In 1938, he joined the staff of a new daily newspaper, the Alger Républicain, where his assignments as a reporter and reviewer covered everything from contemporary European literature to local political trials.
- It was during this period that he also published his first two literary works, Betwixt and Between, a collection of five short semi-autobiographical and philosophical pieces and Nuptials, a series of lyrical celebrations interspersed with political and philosophical reflections on North Africa and the Mediterranean.
- In 1945, he was one of the few Allied journalists to condemn the American use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Later on, he became an outspoken critic of the communist ideology, eventually leading to a rift with Sartre.
- The 1940s witnessed Camus’s gradual ascendance to the rank of world-class literary intellectual. He started the decade as a locally acclaimed author and playwright, but he remained virtually unknown outside of Algiers; however, he ended the decade as an internationally recognized novelist, dramatist, journalist, philosophical essayist, and champion of freedom.
- This period of his life began inauspiciously – war in Europe, the occupation of France, official censorship, and a widening crackdown on left-wing journals.
- To help make ends meet, he taught French history and geography at a private school in Oran, Algeria, all the while he was putting finishing touches to his first novel The Stranger, which was finally published in 1942. The novel propelled him into immediate literary success, earning favorable critical response.
- Camus returned to France in 1942 and published The Myth of Sisyphus, his philosophical anatomy of suicide and the absurd while contending with recurrent bouts of tuberculosis.
- In 1951, he published The Rebel, a reflection on the nature of freedom and rebellion, and a philosophical critique of revolutionary violence.
- This powerful and controversial work, with its explicit condemnation of Marxism-Leninism and its emphatic denunciation of unrestrained violence as a means of human liberation, led to an eventual falling out with Sartre and, along with his opposition to the Algerian National Liberation Front, to his being branded a reactionary in the view of many European Communists.
- Yet his position also established him as an outspoken champion of individual freedom and as an impassioned critic of tyranny and terrorism, whether practiced by the Left or by the Right.
- The dominant philosophical contribution of Camus’s work is Absurdism. While he is often associated with existentialism, he rejected it, expressing surprise that he would be viewed as an ally of Sartre.
- Contrary to the view conveyed by popular culture, the Absurd does not simply refer to some vague perception that modern life is fraught with paradoxes, incongruities, and intellectual confusion. Instead, as he emphasizes and tries to make clear, the Absurd expresses a fundamental disharmony, a tragic incompatibility, in our existence.
- In effect, he argued that the Absurd is the product of a collision or confrontation between our human desire for order, meaning, and purpose in life and the blank, indifferent “silence of the universe”: “The absurd is not in man nor in the world,” Camus explains, “but in their presence together…it is the only bond uniting them.”
- Elements of absurdism and existentialism are present in Camus’s most celebrated writing. The Myth of Sisyphus elucidates his theory of the absurd most directly. The protagonists of The Stranger and The Plague must also confront the absurdity of social and cultural orthodoxies, with dire results.
Last Years and Death
- In 1956, Camus published the short, confessional novel The Fall, which unfortunately would be the last of his completed major works and which in the opinion of some critics is the most elegant, and most underrated of all his books.
- During this period he was still afflicted with tuberculosis and was perhaps even more sorely beset by the deteriorating political situation in his native Algeria, which had by now escalated from demonstrations and occasional terrorist and guerilla attacks into open violence and insurrection.
- In the fall of 1957, following publication of Exile and the Kingdom, a collection of short fiction, Camus was shocked by news that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
- He absorbed the announcement with mixed feelings of gratitude, humility, and amazement. On the one hand, the award was obviously a tremendous honor.
- On the other, not only did he feel that his friend and esteemed fellow novelist Andre Malraux was more deserving, he was also aware that the Nobel itself was widely regarded as the kind of accolade usually given to artists at the end of a long career.
- He could not have known as he spoke these words that most of his writing career was in fact behind him. Over the next two years, he published articles and continued to write, produce, and direct plays, including his own adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed.
- He also formulated new concepts for film and television, assumed a leadership role in a new experimental national theater, and continued to campaign for peace and a political solution in Algeria. Unfortunately, none of these latter projects would be brought to fulfillment.
- On January 5, 1960, Camus died tragically in a car accident while he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his friend and publisher Michel Gallimard, who also suffered fatal injuries.
- The author was buried in the local cemetery at Lourmarin, a village in Provencal where he and his wife and daughters had lived for nearly a decade.
- Upon hearing of Camus’s death, Sartre wrote a moving eulogy in the France-Observateur, saluting his friend and political adversary not only for his distinguished contributions to French literature but especially for the heroic moral courage and “stubborn humanism” which he brought to bear against the “massive and deformed events of the day.”
Albert Camus Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Albert Camus across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Albert Camus worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Albert Camus who was a French philosopher, author, and political journalist. His views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism and devoted his whole life to opposing the philosophy of nihilism while still delving deeply into individual freedom.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Authors Online
- Pop Quiz
- Judge By The Cover
- Library Hunt
- Albert’s Agenda
- According to Albert
- African Excellence
- To My Teacher
- Camus’ Challenges
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