Remembering Camus

“Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous amounts of energy merely to be normal” – Albert Camus (7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960)

Fifty years ago on this day, French philosopher Albert Camus smashed into a tree. It was not a pretty crash. Period photos show the car devoured right up to its rear axle—not altogether surprising, given the standards of crash safety half a century ago. Camus was returning home from the holidays in a Facel Vega HK500, owned and driven by his friend and publisher Michel Gallimard, who lost control and killed them both; claiming at age 46 one of France’s most unsettling intellectuals.

He is often cited as a proponent of existentialism (the philosophy that he was associated with during his own lifetime, with Satre), but Camus himself rejected this particular label. Specifically, his views contributed to the rise of the more current philosophy known as absurdism. He wrote in his essay The Rebel that his whole life was devoted to opposing the philosophy of nihilism while still delving deeply into individual freedom.

In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement, which was a group opposed to some tendencies of the surrealistic movement of André Breton. Camus was the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature when he became the first Africa-born writer to receive the award, in 1957.

On the anniversary of Camus’ tragic death, thinking of his life and his work. Without him, I would never have the continual feeling of being trapped inside someone’s novels whenever I have to deal with UK bureaucracy. A powerful and dramatic legacy for a swathe of us I’m sure…

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