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Albert Camus
Mondovi 7 Nov. 1913 - La Chapelle-Champigny 4 Jan. 1960 • French prose writer

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Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a representative of non-metropolitan French literature. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest in philosophy (only chance prevented him from pursuing a university career in that field), he came to France at the age of twenty-five. The man and the times met: Camus joined the resistance movement during the occupation and after the liberation was a columnist for the newspaper Combat. But his journalistic activities had been chiefly a response to the demands of the time; in 1947 Camus retired from political journalism and, besides writing his fiction and essays, was very active in the theatre as producer and playwright (e.g., Caligula, 1944). He also adapted plays by Calderon, Lope de Vega, Dino Buzzati, and Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun. His love for the theatre may be traced back to his membership in L'Equipe, an Algerian theatre group, whose 'collective creation' Révolte dans les Asturies (1934) was banned for political reasons.

The essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe
('The Myth of Sisyphus'), 1942, expounds Camus's notion of the absurd and of its acceptance with 'the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement - and a conscious dissatisfaction'. Meursault, central character of L'Étranger ('The Outsider', originally 'The Stranger'), 1942, illustrates much of this essay: man as the nauseated victim of the absurd orthodoxy of habit, later - when the young killer faces execution - tempted by despair, hope, and salvation. Dr. Rieux of La Peste ('The Plague'), 1947, who tirelessly attends the plague-stricken citizens of Oran, enacts the revolt against a world of the absurd and of injustice, and confirms Camus's words: 'We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them.' Other well-known works of Camus are La Chute ('The Fall'), 1956, and L'Exile et le royaume ('Exile and the Kingdom'), 1957. His austere search for moral order found its aesthetic correlative in the classicism of his art. He was a stylist of great purity and intense concentration and rationality.

A Hero of Our Time
Mikhail Lermontov, 1840
Lermontov's only novel examines a weary and cynical man trapped in the futility of his age.

Crime and Punishment
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1866
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, commits a random murder without remorse or regret. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck.

The Piazza Tales
Herman Melville, 1856
Six of the author's best short stories, including two adventures, a classic mystery tale of mutiny and rescue, a satire and a series of allegorical sketches. Camus described them as: 'Kafka, but then flesh-and-blood.'

The Immoralist
André Gide, 1904
Gide's novel examines the inevitable conflicts that arise when a pleasure seeker challenges conventional society and, without moralizing, raises complex issues involving the extent of personal responsibility.

The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett, 1930
It's 1928. San Francisco PIs Sam Spade and Miles Archer are engaged by a young lady to shadow a man she alleges has kidnapped her sister. Not true - and Archer is soon the late Archer, leaving Sam to seek both his killer and the titular statue. (See also: The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler, 1939)

The Big Sleep
Raymond Chandler, 1939
Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is working for the Sternwood family. Old man Sternwood, crippled and wheelchair-bound, is being blackmailed and he wants Marlowe to make the problem go away. But with Sternwood's two daughters prowling LA's seedy backstreets, Marlowe's got his work cut out for him even before he stumbles over the first corpse... (See also The Maltese Falcon)

Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938
Antoine Roquentin, an introspective historian, records the disturbing shifts in his perceptions and his struggle to restore meaning to life in a continuing present and without lies. (See also The Wall, 1939)

The Wall
Jean-Paul Sartre, 1939
A collection of stories where the neurosis of the modern world is mirrored in the lives of the people that inhabit it. (See also Nausea, 1938)


The Outsider
('cycle des absurdes')
An ordinary man is unwittingly caught up in a senseless murder in Algeria.


The Metamorphosis, In the Penal Colony, and Other Stories
Franz Kafka, 1915-1924
People (and animals) in a hostile world.

The Time of Indifference
Alberto Moravia, 1929
The reactions of members of a bourgeois family to impending financial crisis.

[De muur]
Jos Vandeloo, 1958
Two novellas and seven prose pieces by Flemish author Vandeloo.

The Music of Chance
Paul Auster, 1990
Nashe comes into an inheritance and decides to pursue a life of freedom. He meets Pozzi, a gambler, who exerts a terrible fascination over him, and together they take a desperate gamble.

Under the Net
Iris Murdoch, 1954
Iris Murdoch's first novel is set in a part of London where struggling writers rub shoulders with successful bookies, and film starlets with frantic philosophers.

Imre Kertész, 1975
The daily life of prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old boy who is deported to the camp with his father.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera, 1984
Interweaves story and dream, past and present, and philosophy and poetry in the sardonic and erotic tale of two couples - Tomas and Teresa, and Sabina and her Swiss lover, Gerhart.

Dangling Man
Saul Bellow, 1944
Freedom can be a noose around a man's neck.

Our Lady of the Flowers
Jean Genet, 1943
Written in a French prison, this semi-autobiographical novel describes the life of a young murderer.

The House of Refuge
Willem Frederik Hermans, 1951
Dutch partisan misbehaves in unoccupied villa.

J.M. Coetzee, 1999
After an impulsive affair with his student sours, David Lurie retreats to his daughter Lucy's isolated smallholding. But he and Lucy become victims of a disturbing attack which brings into relief all their faultlines.

In Our Time
Ernest Hemingway, 1925
Fifteen vignettes concerning the conflicts, situations, problems, and personalities characteristic of contemporary society.

The Unnamable
Samuel Beckett, 1953
Part III of Beckett's Trilogy. A man without an identity tries to find out who he is.

The Myth of Sisyphus
('cycle des absurdes')
Inspired by the myth of a man condemned to ceaselessly push a rock up a mountain and watch it roll back to the valley below, Camus' essay The Myth of Sisyphus is an impassioned argument for the value of life in a world without religious meaning.
('cycle des absurdes')
The play Caligula reveals some aspects of the existential notion of 'the absurd' by portraying an emperor so mighty and so desperate in his search for freedom that he inevitably destroys gods, men and himself.
The Plague
('cycle des révoltés)
The people of Oran are in the grip of a virulent plague. Cut off from the rest of the world, they each respond in their own way to the challenge of the deadly bacillus. Among them is Dr Rieux, a humanitarian and healer, and it is through his eyes that we witness the course of the epidemic.
The Just
('cycle des révoltés)
Play about a Russian revolutionary with a crisis of conscience. To convey his concept of moral revolutionaries, Camus fictionalized the 1905 Moscow assassination of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovitch, the uncle of Czar Nicholas II.
The Rebel
('cycle des révoltés)
Camus himself described this work as 'an attempt to understand the time I live in'.
The Fall
Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister, has come to recognize the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence. His epigrammatic and, above all, discomforting monologue gradually saps, then undermines, the reader' s own complacency.
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