Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, in Mondovi, Algeria. His father,
Lucien, died in 1914, during World War I's Battle of the Marne. War was to
remain a constant throughout Camus' life -- and his literature.
Camus' mother was left to raise her son alone, in extreme poverty. Widowed
and apparently deaf, there was little possibility of her earning a reasonable
income. According to Camus' accounts, she was permanently melancholy. To
escape this homelife, Camus buried himself in studies and participation in
local athletic teams. He distinguished himself in sports as a leader and
competitor. In academics, Camus also excelled.
An important step out of poverty, Camus was accepted into the University
of Algiers' school of philosophy. In 1930, his studies were interrupted by
severe tuberculosis. The disease took one of his most important posessions
-- his strength. As a result of the disease, Camus reduced his studies to
a part-time pursuit.
Between 1931 and 1935, Camus worked in a string of low-paying jobs, including
positions as a police clerk and salesman. He also had a brief marriage during
this period, which ended in divorce.
While a student at the University, Camus joined and left the Communist Party.
His stormy relationship with the party continued throughout his life. Still,
he remained a socialist, and founded The Workers' Theater in 1935. The Workers'
Theater was intended to present socialist plays to Algiers' working population.
Camus hoped to educate the workers, in accordance with his own beliefs. The
theater company survived until 1939.
Between 1937 and 1939, Camus wrote for the Alger-Republicain,
a socialist paper. As a reporter, he compiled a detailed account of the lives
of poor Arabs in Kabyles. Camus later published a collection of essays on
the conditions and ethnic discrimination faced by the Arabs in Actuelles
III. In late 1939 and early 1940, he edited another socialist paper,
the Soir-Republicain. His editorship lasted only a few short
months, as the paper closed in the midst of tensions between Algiers and
In 1940, Camus left Algiers for Paris, hoping to establish himself as a reporter
in the leftist press. Unfortunately, the German army invaded France, and
Camus returned to North Africa. The invasion of France left a terrible impression
Camus remarried in Africa, and found a teaching position in Oran. During
the coming year he produced some of his greatest essays and short stories.
In less than a year, Camus wrote drafts of The Stranger, The
Myth of Sisyphus, and The Plague. In addition to these
works, Camus filled notebooks with his thoughts on philosophy and politics.
In 1941 Camus was compelled to return to France and join the French Resistance.
He joined a clandestine resistane cell known as "Combat" -- also the name
of the organization's newspaper. Camus became editor of Combat
in 1943, editing the newspaper for four years. His columns and reports often
called upon people to act in accordance with strict moral principals. It
was during this period that Camus formalized his philosophy that human life
was sacred, no matter how inexplicable existence of life might be.
Following the war, Camus toured the United States. Camus found that French
Existentialism, as promoted by Jean-Paul Sartre, was widely misunderstood as a philosophy of hopelessness. Camus did hold
that life was absurd -- defying logical explanation, and ultimately irrational.
However, Camus considered life valuable and worth defending. While the American
public thought existentialism was devoid of morality, Camus' experiences
in Algiers and France had led to a strong ethical system.
Camus succumbed to illness in 1949, a relapse of his tuberculosis accompanied
by other difficulties. For two years he remained in seclusion, writing and
publishing political essays. Camus recovered in 1951, and published The
Rebel, a collection of his thoughts on metaphysical, historical, and
artistic rebellion. The book so angered some of his counterparts that he
was ostracized by many French intellectuals. It was this work that led to
Camus' split with long-time friend Jean-Paul Sartre.
The stress of The Rebel's reception among philosophers and
historians led Camus to seek out more relaxing work. He spent the next few
years translating his favorite plays. This work as a translator led to successful
French-language productions of plays by Larivey, Buzzati, and William Faulkner.
The Fall was published in 1956, marking Camus' return to novels.
The book was well received, bringing Camus back into favor in intellectual
circles. The following year, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
It seems almost fitting that Camus died at the pinnacle of his career as
a writer. Camus died in a freak automobile accident near Sens, France, on
Janurary 4, 1960.