Ever since Marx, philosophy must lead to action. Otherwise it is irrelevant …. Philosophers must be angry, and, in this world, stay angry. Jean-Paul Sartre (1972) 1 I. The Quarrel On June 30, 1952 Albert Camus sent a seventeen-page letter to the
Une notion stratégique dans l’espace littéraire francophone
En 2010, à l’occasion du cinquantenaire de la mort d’Albert Camus, le projet d’une « Caravane Camus » sillonant l’Algérie, d’abord soutenue par l’État algérien, avait finalement été annulé : « c’est cette “algérianité” de Camus, revendiquée par ses
Algeria is never far from the center of Albert Camus's life and work—no further, in effect, than Ithaka is from the center of Odysseus's thoughts. In fact, Camus tended to see his native country through his readings of ancient Greek myth and tragedy. This article traces the ways in which Camus, with materials provided by ancient Greece, not only represented his native land, but also elaborated a “Mediterranean” school of thought—la pensée du Midi—that emphasizes the role of moderation or “measure.” There is an undeniable aspect of nostalgia to Camus's rendering of his country and its past, but this does not undermine its validity. By making use of Svetlana Boym's fruitful distinction between reflective and restorative forms of nostalgia, I suggest that the combination of the two categories lies at the heart of Camus's “philosophy of limits.”
A Democratic Theory Inspired by Albert Camus
Democracy has come under pressure in many countries in recent years. Authoritarian tendencies, populism and the cult of leadership threaten pluralistic societies in Europe and other parts of the world. But democracy is more than just a method of finding a majority; it is inextricably linked to the fight against oppression and injustice in all contexts of life. Especially in times of democratic crisis, it is necessary to focus on its core aspects. The political thinking of French philosopher and writer Albert Camus, who died in 1960, offers the basis for a redefinition of democracy that is linked to and dependent on rebellion. From his reflections, a radical theory of democracy can be derived that is based on the absurdity of the world, its incompleteness, revolt and resistance to authoritarianism, on doubt, dialogue and foreignness.
Sartre’s Article on Kafka and the Fantastic
displayed a confluence of literary criticism and politics. After a brief interval 4 during the first years of the Second World War, in 1943 Sartre again published several articles, dealing with Maurice Blanchot, Albert Camus and Georges Bataille. 5 At a
When considering Sartre’s and Camus’ positions on the Algerian War of Independence, it is useful to begin by briefly locating both men in relation to colonialism in general and Algeria in particular. The first point, an obvious one, but one which needs to be made, is that while Camus, the child of Belcourt, had first-hand knowledge of life in working-class Algiers, and as a journalist of the misery of Kabylia in the late 1930s, Sartre, the Parisian intellectual par excellence, had almost no direct knowledge of the country. I say almost no direct knowledge because he and de Beauvoir did pass through southern Algeria en route to French West Africa in 1950 but apparently paid scant attention to the political situation in that country.
By what incredible foresight did the most significant intellectual quarrel of the twentieth century anticipate the major issue of the twenty-first? When Camus and Sartre parted ways in 1952, the main question dividing them was political violence—specifically, that of communism. And as they continued to jibe at each other during the next decade, especially during the war in Algeria, one of the major issues between them became terrorism. The 1957 and 1964 Nobel Laureates were divided sharply over which violence most urgently demanded to be addressed and attacked—the humiliations and oppressions, often masked, that Sartre described as systematically built into daily life under capitalism and colonialism, or the brutal and abstract calculus of murder seen by Camus as built into some of the movements that claimed to liberate people from capitalist and colonial oppression.
The Sartre-Camus conflict remains, fifty years later, philosophically unresolved. And I would argue—against today's conventional wisdom so persistently asserted by Tony Judt—it is also historically unresolved, despite today.
Dennis A. Gilbert
My article focuses on Le Théâtre existentialiste (Existentialist Theater) by Simone de Beauvoir, recently translated and published in the volume of the Beauvoir Series on her literary writings. The first part introduces the original sound recording of this text and the circumstances behind its possible production in New York City in 1947 and my discovery of it at Wellesley College in 1996. The second part analyzes the divisions of Beauvoir's remarks as she presents Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and their principal plays from the period of the Occupation: The Flies, No Exit, and Caligula. The third part then evaluates certain of Beauvoir's key concepts in terms of how they were able to define adequately the substance of existentialist theater for a postwar American audience and whether they remain valid for a more contemporary theatrical public some six decades later.
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?