LONDON, 13 NOV - 14 NOV
CAMUS' CENTENARY YEAR
9.30am - 5.30pm
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The Journal of Camus Studies
Formerly the Journal of the Albert Camus Society, the JCS is published annually and is available in print or as an ebook. For more information on purchasing or contributing visit the Camus Journal page.
1935 - Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism
The least read of all of Camus' work, Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism seeks to understand the relationship between the philosophy of the Greeks and Christianity. This edition (pictured above) is translated and annotated by Ronald Srigley. Srigley's introduction places Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism in context with Camus' later work and argues that Camus' attempt to disentangle Greek and Christian thought makes him one of the great critics of modernity. (See also: Camus' Critique of Modernity)
1937 - The Wrong Side and the Right Side (L'envers et l'endroit)
1938 - Nuptials (Noces)
1938 - Caligula (first performed 1945)
Camus' most successful play is in fact a series of plays within a play. Caligula, loosely based on the Roman Emperor described by Suetonius, comes face-to-face with the absurd after the death of his sister/lover and subjects his subjects to a terrifying series of demonstrations of – what he considers to be – the absurd truth, that men die and are unhappy. (See also: Caligula)
1942 - The Stranger (L'Étranger)
Also published as The Outsider (in the UK), The Stranger is probably the best known of Camus' novels. Meursault, a working class French Algerian who refuses to lie, learns of his mother's death via telegram. His behaviour at the funeral, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, will come back to bite him as it will be used against him when he is on trial for murdering an Arab man. (See also: The Stranger summary)
1942 - The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe)
Camus' long essay on the absurd. He wants to know if meaningful values can be found in a world without God. Examining Christian and existentialist approaches he concludes that they have gone too far and tries to find his own way of living authentically in a universe that fails to meet human desire for unity. Often mistaken for a philosophical treatise on the absurd, The Myth of Sisyphus is an exploration of one man's experience of the absurd. (See also: The Myth of Sisyphus)
1944 - The Misunderstanding (La Malentendu)
Also know as Cross Purpose. Jan returns home to Czechoslovakia a rich man. His estranged mother and sister are running a bleak guest house, supplementing their income by knocking off wealthy businessmen traveling alone. Meursault, in The Stranger, finds a newspaper article in his cell that describes a very similar story. Jan does not reveal his true identity to his family who do not recognize him, with murderous consequences. Camus demonstrates through the play the danger of extreme individualism and the misunderstandings that ensue when people talk at cross purposes.
1947 - The Plague (La Peste)
The rats start dying in the Algerian city of Oran. The authorities ignore the problem at first but soon discover that the plague has come to the city. Sealed off (or more accurately, sealed in) in quarantine, the inhabitants of the city must find a way to live with, or against, the plague. Taken to be an allegory of fascism, The Plague is often considered to be Camus' most accessible novels. The efforts of the sanitation squads in their struggle against the plague reflects Camus' later thought on the absurd and is a useful counter to the pessimism and individualism of Cross Purpose and The Stranger. (See also: The Plague)
1948 - State of Siege (L'Etat de siége)
Set in the Spanish town of Cadiz, The State of Siege is a play in three parts. In the first part a comet presages disaster for Cadiz . This disaster is the plague, depicted as a uniformed man accompanied by a female secretary Death . Plague takes over the city and Death takes names. Anyone who resists is struck off and struck down. The allegory is obvious, Plague is totalitarianism and death its faithful servant. Cadiz is closed down as Oran was in Camus' novel The Plague. In the second part we see Diego attempt to organize resistance but this fails and in act of desperation he takes an innocent hostage, sinking to the level of his enemy. In the third part we see a more effective resistance and Death hands over her book to the people who eagerly start crossing off the names of people they don't like, thus eliminating their enemies. How will Diego stop the bloodshed, reminiscent of the revenge attacks after the Liberation, and defeat the Plague and Death?
1950 - The Just Assassins (Les Justes)
Based on the assassination of the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich in 1905. Apart from one invention, Camus uses real historical figures to explore the morality behind political killing. The revolutionaries plan is to hurl a bomb at the Grand Duke, blowing him to smithereens. Escape for the bomb hurler is unlikely and execution the likely result. Kaliayev, the man who will carry out the assassination returns unsuccessful. At the last moment he catches sight of the Grand Duke's children, who would die along with their father, and he can not hurl the bomb. Stepan, a revolutionary comrade is furious, the others are more understanding. Kaliayev tries a second time and is successful. He is caught and sentenced to death. In prison he is visited by the Grand Duke's widow who tries to persuade him to admit to murder rather than revolutionary action. Despite her promises to save him from death if he agrees, Kaliayev refuses and is executed.
1951 - The Rebel (L'Homme révolté)
Can moderation be teased out of rebellion or are rebels doomed to become the tyrants they rise up against? In The Rebel Camus follows on from his examination of the absurd and discovers values in rebellion, in particular solidarity – I rebel, therefore we exist. This virtue becomes a vice, however, if allowed to run unchecked or exploited by others. Camus offers a critique of both Christian and Communist approaches, and the by-any-means-necessary approach taken by both in order to secure their ends. Often misunderstood and always controversial, The Rebel is considered by some to be Camus' greatest work and by others his most confused.
1954 - Summer (L'Eté)
1956 - The Fall (La Chute)
Considered by many to be Camus' masterpiece. Written after the dramatic and very public fallout over The Rebel, The Fall powerfully illustrates the crisis of modernity. Set in Amsterdam, the main character, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, deliverers his verdict on himself (and modern life) over a series of monologues. He refers to himself as a judge-penitent and, as a former lawyer, brilliantly dissects himself, his previous life, his aims and aspirations in order to pass judgment, not solely on himself but others. Jean-Paul Sartre, towards whom much of the book's ire was directed, commented that The Fall was 'perhaps the most beautiful and least understood' of Camus' books.
1957 - Exile and The Kingdom (L'exil et le royaume)
A collection of six short stories. Each deal with existential and absurd themes, strong religious allusions and the problem of communication. The six stories included in the collection are The Adulterous Woman, The Renegade, The Silent Men, The Guest, Jonas or The Artist at Work, and The Growing Stone. Camus had originally planned The Fall to be part of the collection but chose, correctly, to treat the work as a standalone novella.
1970 - A Happy Death (La Mort heureuse) published posthumously
Camus wrote The Happy Death before The Stranger and chose not to publish. The book was first published a little over ten years after Camus' death. The hero is Mersault a working class Algerian bored with his lot in life. He meets an elderly man, Zagreus, whom he kills and then steals from. The money frees him from his life of working class drudgery and Mersault embarks on a life of travel. Dissatisfied he returns to Algiers to live a hedonistic life with three young girls. However life still fails to satisfy him. Eventually he decides on solitude and discovers happiness at which point he develops a terminal illness and dies a happy death.
1995 The First Man (Le premier homme) published posthumously
Camus was still working on The First Man when his life was prematurely ended in a car accident. From the notes and manuscripts he had competed a book was published in 1994, thirty-four years after Camus' death. The novel is semi-autobiographical, set in Algiers , and follows the life of Jacques Cormery from his birth until secondary school. It is impossible to tell for sure but from what we have of the novel it is possible that Camus' hopes for this work – that it would be his masterpiece – may well have been realized.