Les Mouches and Le Malentendu: Parallel Plays

in Volume 13 (2007): Issue 2 (Dec 2007)
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Sartre's Resistance myth, The Flies (1943), and Camus's contemporaneous modern tragedy, The Misunderstanding (1944), show remarkable similarities in conception, composition, themes, characters, relationships and intrigue. However, from the moment when the plots converge—each protagonist choosing to remain in his precarious new situation—they also diverge diametrically: Camus's Jan is doomed to reified passivity and death; Sartre's Oreste is galvanised into decisive action and new life. Does Camus's orientation toward nihilistic despair translate a negative assessment of his war-time role as an intellectual, and Sartre's much more positive disposition equally represent his affirmation of writing as a valid resistance activity?