Albert Camus

Albert Camus (älbĕr´ kämü´), 1913–60, French writer, b. Algiers. Camus was one of the most important authors and thinkers of the 20th cent. While a student at the Univ. of Algiers, he formed a theater group and adapted, directed, and acted in plays. He became active in social reform and was briefly a member of the Communist party. Shortly after his essay Noces [weddings] appeared (1939), he went to Paris as a journalist. In World War II he joined the French resistance and was principal editor of the underground paper Combat.

Noted for his vigorous, concise, and lucid style, Camus soon gained recognition as a major literary figure. His belief that man's condition is absurd identified him with the existentialists (see existentialism), but he denied allegiance to that group; his works express rather a courageous humanism. The characters in his novels and plays, although keenly aware of the meaninglessness of the human condition, assert their humanity by rebelling against their circumstances.

The philosophical essays in Le Mythe de Sisyphe (1942, tr. The Myth of Sisyphus, 1955) formulate his theory of the absurd and are the philosophical basis of his novel L'Étranger (1942, tr. The Stranger, 1946) and of his plays Le Malentendu (1944, tr. Cross Purpose, 1948) and Caligula (1944, tr. 1948). The essay L'Homme révolté (1951, tr. The Rebel, 1954), dealing with historical, spiritual, and political rebellion, treats themes found in the novels La Peste (1947, tr. The Plague, 1948) and La Chute (1956, tr. The Fall, 1957). Other works include the plays L'État de siège (1948, tr. State of Siege, 1958) and Les Justes (1950, tr. The Just Assassins, 1958), journalistic essays, and stories. Camus was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize in Literature. The last book he published in his lifetime was Chroniques algériennes (1958, tr. Algerian Chronicles, 2013), a group of articles that express conflicted feelings regarding his homeland—supporting Arab political rights while opposing an independent Algeria. The first draft of an autobiographical novel, found in a briefcase after his death in a car crash, was published as Le Premier Homme (1994, tr. The First Man, 1995).

See Camus at Combat: Writing 1944–1947, ed. by J. Levi-Valensi (2007); his Notebooks: 1935–1951, (2 vol., tr. 1963–65, repr. 1998) and Notebooks: 1951–1959 (tr. 2008); C. Camus (his daughter), Albert Camus: Solitude and Solidarity (2012); biography by O. Todd (1997); R. Zaretsky, Albert Camus: Elements of a Life (2010); studies by G. Brée (4th ed. 1972), D. Lazere (1973), L. Braun (1974), P. McCarthy (1982), B. L. Knapp, ed. (1988), D. Sprintzen (1988), H. Bloom, ed. (1989, repr. 2003), P. Thody (1989), D. R. Ellison (1990), J. McBride (1992), C. S. Brosman (2001), and M. Longstaffe (2007).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Albert Camus: A Study of His Work
Philip Thody.
Hamish Hamilton, 1957
Camus: A Critical Examination
David Sprintzen.
Temple University Press, 1988
The Thought and Art of Albert Camus
Thomas Hanna.
Henry Regnery, 1958
The Stranger
Albert Camus; Stuart Gilbert.
Vintage Books, 1954
The Dynamics of the Absurd in the Existentialist Novel
Richard E. Baker.
Peter Lang, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "The Stranger; The Myth of Sisyphus"
Classic Cult Fiction: A Companion to Popular Cult Literature
Thomas Reed Whissen.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "The Stranger: Albert Camus (1942)" begins on p. 237
Camus' Imperial Vision
Anthony Rizzuto.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1981
The Image in the Modern French Novel: Gide, Alain-Fournier, Proust, Camus
Stephen Ullmann.
University Press, 1960
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "The Two Styles of Camus"
The Other Camus
Royal, Robert.
The Wilson Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 4, Autumn 1995
Camus, Sartre and the Algerian War
Cohen-Solal, Annie.
Journal of European Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1-2, March-June 1998
The Third Man in the Story: Ronald Aronson Discusses the Sartre-Camus Conflict with Francis Jeanson
Aronson, Ronald; Jumel, Caroline; Kingstone, Basil.
Sartre Studies International, Vol. 8, No. 2, December 2002
Literary and Philosophical Essays
Jean-Paul Sartre; Annette Michelson.
Criterion Books, 1955
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "Camus' 'The Outsider'"
Images of the Algerian War: French Fiction and Film, 1954-1992
Philip Dine.
Clarendon Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Anti-colonialist Commitment: Camus's Uninvited Guest"
Writing French Algeria
Peter Dunwoodie.
Clarendon Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Albert Camus begins on p. 175
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