The Thought and Art of Albert Camus

By Thomas Hanna | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

IN THE COURSE OF A POLEMICAL LETTER, published in Les Temps Modernes, Jean-Paul Sartre heatedly said, "But I ask you, Camus, who are you to act so aloof?"1 This is, of course, an appropriate question to raise. Sartre was faced with a man who would call himself neither Christian, nor Communist, nor existentialist, nor perhaps even French. Here was a man who held aloof from parties, creeds, and movements but who yet claimed to speak for the "human condition" and for "the oppressed." Who was he to speak for the oppressed? Where does he stand, and who or what does he represent? This man, Albert Camus, who was virtually unknown in France before the last war, has suddenly become the spokesman and judge of his epoch. With the mystery of a prophet, Camus has appeared and begun to speak, and his words have cut across institutions and ideologies with such an unexpected and incisive stroke that a startled audience has turned to him with much the same query as that of Sartre, "Who are you, Camus, to speak for our times and yet keep such a distance, from the answers we have given to our problems?" Albert Camus stands alone and prophetic as "one of the most impenetrable among French contemporary writers."2

The sudden appearance of Albert Camus among the great voices of contemporary Europe was the occasion for the following remark by Pierre Néraud de Boisdeffre, i. e.,

At the time of the Liberation few people even knew the name of Camus; several weeks later two hundred thousand readers were admiring his anonymous editorials; today his influence can be com-

-xii-

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