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Albert Camus: A Life
by Olivier Todd
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0786707399, Paperback)Olivier Todd's biography of Albert Camus matches its subject's depth by portraying the man as well as the moralist. Born in Algeria and raised in poverty by an illiterate mother, Camus never forgot where he came from. He made his name in Nazi-occupied Paris--publicly as the author of The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus, covertly as a member of the Resistance and editor of its newspaper, Combat--but he longed for the North African sun of his youth. During the years of crisis when Algeria struggled to break free from France, Camus alienated both colonialists and revolutionaries by supporting full equality for Arabs but denouncing terrorism. "I believe in justice," he told an Algerian heckler at a 1957 meeting he addressed in Stockholm after winning the Nobel Prize. "But I will defend my mother before justice." It is this preference for the concrete over the abstract that makes Camus such an appealing thinker. Todd's biography, which offers the most fully human depiction yet, is equally engaging.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:52 -0400)
In this enormously engaging, vibrant, and richly researched biography of Albert Camus, the French writer and journalist Olivier Todd has drawn on personal correspondence, notebooks, and public records never before tapped, as well as interviews with Camus's family, friends, fellow workers, writers, mentors, and lovers. Todd shows us a Camus who struggled all his life with irreconcilable conflicts - between his loyalty to family and his passionate nature, between the call to political action and the integrity to his art, between his support of the native Algerians and his identification with the forgotten people, the poor whites. A vey private man, Camus could be charming and prickly, sincere and theatrical, genuinely humble, yet full of great ambition.The Paris that Camus was inevitably drawn to is one that Todd knows intimately, and he brings alive the war years, the underground activities that Camus was caught up in during the Occupation and the bitter postwar period, as well as the intrigues of the French literati who embraced Camus after his first novel, L'Etranger, was published. Todd is also keenly attuned to the French intellectual climate, and as he takes Camus's measure as a successful novelist, journalist, playwright and director, literary editor, philosopher, he also reveals the temperament in the writer that increasingly isolated him and crippled his reputation in the years before his death and for a long time after.He shows us the solitary man behind the mask - debilitated by continuing bouts of tuberculosis, constantly drawn to irresistible women, and deeply troubled by his political conflicts with the reigning French intellectuals, particularly by the vitriol of his former friend Sartre over the Algerian conflict.
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