camus 2

“The sun that reigned over my childhood freed me from all resentment.”

–Albert Camus

Camus was born in Algeria, Nov. 7, 1913.

His father was a poor agricultural worker. His mother was illiterate and nearly deaf and worked as a “domestic.” A cleaning lady.

When Camus was less than a year old, his father died as a result of his wounds in World War I.

His mother moved her family into his grandmother’s three-bedroom apartment in the Arab Quarter of Algiers. They lived there with his mother’s two brothers, six family members in all. The grandmother was domineering, cruel, and ostensibly carried a whip made from the neck ligament of a bull. Apparently, she was all Albert had, until he found some books. The apartment had no electricity or running water; the toilets were on the landing and shared with the two other apartments in the block.

In his acceptance for the Nobel Prize, he said, about the current terrorism in Algeria, as it struggled to free itself from France, “‘People are now planting bombs on the tramway of Algiers. My mother might be on one of those tramways. If that is justice, then I prefer my mother.”

His remark caused a stir in Paris. Sartre, the Marxist, accused him of having the “morality of a Boy Scout.” Yet it was a philosophical stance, not a sentimental one, placing a value on individual human life above all ideology or political agendas. It was really an extension of things he’d written in The Rebel. He was one of the writers who got me through college, thanks to an extracurricular reading list I assembled myself. Life happens, one human relationship at a time, and Camus pointed out that ideas and ideology and theories and “isms” blind everyone to the humble fact that one human encounter at a time is all we have. The rest is automatic pilot. I think of it as humble friendship.  Theories kill or cost way more than they’re worth. Meaning follows perception and action; things and people matter more than any meaning you can attach to them consciously, or creatively–and on their own have a complex human significance you can’t package as a metaphor or turn into a message. If that finds its way subliminally from the work to the viewer, it’s because the artist gets out of the way and lets it happen, one friend to another.

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