Read The First Man by Albert Camus Free Online
Book Title: The First Man|
The author of the book: Albert Camus
Date of issue: August 29th 1995
ISBN 13: 9780679439370
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 7.21 MB
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Reader ratings: 4.5
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Basically an autobiography by Camus. The manuscript was found in the car when Camus died in a car crash in 1960, when he was 57, and just 3 years after he won the Nobel Prize. It’s clearly a draft with a lot of footnotes and other notes that that show a writer at work. (Change names; don’t use the real names; develop; illegible; add this; take out that.) Obviously it could use editing, but it’s a good book as is.
In an editor’s note we’re told the manuscript was not published until 1994 (by his daughter) because her mother’s friends (Camus’s wife) had advised her that by denouncing Communism, yet advocating for a multicultural Algeria that gave native Algeria the same rights as whites, Camus “alienated both the left and the right.”
Maybe – while there are occasional references to politics, colonization and the treatment of Arabs, I certainly would not call this a “political novel.” Camus does note the racial tension: If a bar fight broke out between a Frenchman and an Arab, it was not the same thing as a fight between two Arabs or two Frenchmen. And there is an incident where a terrorist bomb goes off in the street.
The autobiography is encased in a very undeveloped shell story of an older man returning to Algeria from France to learn of his roots, especially of his father who died in WW I, before the son knew him. Camus’s father was a man who knew nothing of France and yet was forced to go off and die for that country.
Camus was born to European parents but, with the early death of his father, grew up in poverty in a mixed white-Arab neighborhood. His home had no books, newspapers or radio. No outsiders, only relatives, ever visited. It was an ethnically diverse neighborhood: there were Arabs, of course, but also M’zab’s (a fundamentalist Islamic non-Arab Berber group), Maltese, Italians and others.
Camus had a semi-deaf, very distant, mother who was a maid. His father’s mother ran the household and severely disciplined Camus and his brother – they would get a whipping for playing soccer in their shoes. A deaf uncle, his father’s brother, also lived with them. Camus’s ancestors had come to Algeria when the Germans took over Alsace and threw the French out.
Although Camus was nominally Catholic (as the saying goes, his family only went to church when someone was hatched, matched or dispatched), he never heard the word God spoken in his house. Even when someone died, the most his grandmother said was “Well, he’ll fart no more.”
The work pays homage to one particular teacher who championed Camus, challenged him, gave him books, got him a scholarship, and intervened with his family when they wanted him to drop out to work. The Appendix includes a letter Campus wrote to this teacher in gratitude when Camus received the Nobel Prize.
You get the impression this book was a work of love for Camus. He gives us detailed, multi-page, descriptions of hunting with his uncle and friends; activities at the cooperage where his uncle worked; a visit to stables; descriptions of making pies, the local dog catcher, the local bazaar, trolley operation, helping his grandmother kill a hen, his school and a local park where he hung out with friends. Fascinating things through a young boy’s eyes.
Camus was prescient when on the very last page, he says of the main character: “…he, like a solitary and ever-shining blade of a sword, was destined to be shattered with a single blow and forever…” The car crash? Although this book does not have the philosophical heft that his other works have, I found it a good read that kept my interest.
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Read information about the authorAlbert Camus (1913-1960) was a representative of non-metropolitan French literature. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest in philosophy (only chance prevented him from pursuing a university career in that field), he came to France at the age of twenty-five. The man and the times met: Camus joined the resistance movement during the occupation and after the liberation was a columnist for the newspaper Combat. But his journalistic activities had been chiefly a response to the demands of the time; in 1947 Camus retired from political journalism and, besides writing his fiction and essays, was very active in the theatre as producer and playwright (e.g., Caligula, 1944). He also adapted plays by Calderon, Lope de Vega, Dino Buzzati, and Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun. His love for the theatre may be traced back to his membership in L'Equipe, an Algerian theatre group, whose "collective creation" Révolte dans les Asturies (1934) was banned for political reasons.
The essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), 1942, expounds Camus's notion of the absurd and of its acceptance with "the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement - and a conscious dissatisfaction". Meursault, central character of L'Étranger (The Stranger), 1942, illustrates much of this essay: man as the nauseated victim of the absurd orthodoxy of habit, later - when the young killer faces execution - tempted by despair, hope, and salvation. Dr. Rieux of La Peste (The Plague), 1947, who tirelessly attends the plague-stricken citizens of Oran, enacts the revolt against a world of the absurd and of injustice, and confirms Camus's words: "We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them". Other well-known works of Camus are La Chute (The Fall), 1956, and L'Exil et le royaume (Exile and the Kingdom), 1957. His austere search for moral order found its aesthetic correlative in the classicism of his art. He was a stylist of great purity and intense concentration and rationality.
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