Albert Camus (1913-1960)

The Humanist, January-February 2010 | Go to article overview

Albert Camus (1913-1960)


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"Instead of killing and dying in order to produce the being that we are not, we have to live and let live in order to create what we are"

--Albert Camus, The Rebel, part 3, "Rebellion and Revolution" (1951)

Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, in Mondovi, Algeria, to a French father and a Spanish mother. His was an impoverished childhood; after his father died during World War I, Camus and his mother, who was nearly deaf as the result of a stroke, lived in a poor section of Algiers with her extended family, whose members also suffered from ill health.

To escape his miserable home life, Camus threw himself into academic and athletic pursuits. He attended the University of Algiers, where he was a goalkeeper on the football team. But an extreme case of tuberculosis in 1930 forced him to quit the team and curb his studies. Camus worked a variety of jobs, eventually completing the equivalent of a master's degree in philosophy in 1936. During this time he married Simone Hie who he later divorced, in part because of her morphine addiction and also due to infidelities on both sides. In 1940 he moved to Paris with his new bride, Francine Faure, a pianist and mathematician with whom he had twins and again struggled to remain faithful.

Camus had joined the French Communist Party in 1935 in order to "fight inequalities between Europeans and 'natives' in Algeria," but was later denounced as a Trotskyist and expelled from the Algerian Communist Party. He remained a socialist and a pacifist for the rest of his life. During World War II he joined the French Resistance and became friends with fellow philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre. Their friendship suffered as Camus ramped up his criticism of Communist doctrine and later ended over their political and ideological differences.

Camus worked as a journalist for a variety of French publications and in his lifetime published novels, plays, essay collections, and other non-fiction works. …

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