Monday, December 23, 2013


Albert Camus suddenly intrudes again into our dour lives today. We rediscover that Meursault is our contemporary, that Sisyphus never gave up and that Caligula is more than the sum of his aberrations.  The chain-smoking womanizer, the Hamlet-like philosopher "observing" the Algerian War comes closer to us as the time passes.

His Sartre nemesis on the other hand starts to look more Manichean, scripted (contrary to his extraordinary and insufferable companion Simone de Beauvoir.)  Still, both men shared in the belief that love is a multiple which dies off if it fails to mix permanence (friendship) with interlude (seduction.)  The former dies when it is not impregnated by the latter.  Paradoxically, Camus looks more the part of the existential loser while Sartre comes over as the rational mathematician. Both were sex-obsessed, but that is forgetting that for most French sex is a way to be polite rather than to enjoy.  The French savoir faire is more a savoir plaire, more seduction (selfish) than genuine interest (altruism.)

The beach walk in "The Stranger" can only be French (coming from an Algerian.)  The nonchalance of the deed is a form of elegance, applied to murder.  Maybe only Mozart was able to bring betrayal closer to the sublime. We know that the best well-meant feelings don't necessarily make great art.  Camus often preferred to forego current times.  He ignored slogans or abbreviations and looked dispassionately at the ultimate inexplicable contradictions, both in himself and around him.  He is so close because he prefers to maintain his impressionistic distance.  Satie might be his most fitting musical alter ego.

This extraordinary split Frenchman made me love an idea of France, the other side of the coin of Grandes Ecoles and Academies.  He is Jedermann, he wouldn't feel at home in the Pantheon. He rather would share a smoke and a chat bien arrose with whoever happened to be at the Zinc.

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