Albert Camus: A Life

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Sep 7, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 468 pages
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 very private man, Camus could be charming and prickly, sincere and theatrical, genuinely humble, yet full of great ambition.

Todd paints a vivid picture of the time and place that shaped Camus--his impoverished childhood in the Algerian city of Belcourt, the sea and the sun and the hot sands that he so loved (he would always feel an exile elsewhere), and the educational system that nurtured him. We see the forces that lured him into communism, and his attraction to the theater and to journalism as outlets for his creativity.

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.

Filled with sharp observations and sparkling with telling details, here is a wonderfully human portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning writer, who died at the age of forty-six and who remains one of the most influential literary figures of our time.

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“Freedom means being able to defend what I don’t agree with, even in a government or a world I approve of. It’s being able to admit your opponent is right.” Women - “They inspire in us the desire to ... Read full review


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In this penetrating biography, Todd, a French journalist and author, clarifies the greatness of the Nobel Prizewinning author while also pointing out toes of clay. Born into poverty in Algeria, Camus ... Read full review


Chapter Twentyseven    180000 Copies
Chapter Twentyeight    Combats
Chapter Twentynine    The Ramberts
Chapter Thirty    The Island with Three Rivers
Chapter Thirtyone    The Terror
Chapter Thirtytwo    Bitterness
Chapter Thirtythree    Dear Comrade
Chapter Thirtyfour    The Unique One

Chapter Seven    The Temptation to Action
Chapter Eight    Heroism and A Load of Crap
Chapter Nine    Saint Augustine Without Marx
Chapter Ten    The Letter from Salzburg
Chapter Eleven    Banned Playwright
Chapter Twelve    The Political Agitator
Chapter Thirteen    Intellectual Worker
Chapter Fourteen    An Older Brother
Chapter Fifteen    Battles
Chapter Sixteen    The Reading Room
Chapter Seventeen    Persistent Hopes for Peace
Chapter Eighteen    A Beach at Bouisseville
Chapter Nineteen    Exile
Chapter Twenty    Exodus
Chapter Twentyone    Stopover at Oran
Chapter Twentytwo    An Important Thing
Chapter Twentythree    Which Absurdity?
Chapter Twentyfour    Short of Breath
Chapter Twentyfive    Mans Prejudices
Chapter Twentysix    Resistances
Chapter Thirtyfive    Three Friends
Chapter Thirtysix    Forty Grams of Streptomycin
Chapter Thirtyseven    5 rue SébastienBottin                              Facing the Garden
Chapter Thirtyeight    On the Courtyard Side
Chapter Thirtynine    Rebellions
Chapter Forty    In a Glass Bowl
Chapter Fortyone    November 1 1954
Chapter Fortytwo    Algeria Is Not France
Chapter Fortythree    The Prisoners Shout
Chapter Fortyfour    A BlackHearted Anemone
Chapter Fortyfive    The Ways of Silence
Chapter Fortysix    The Prize to Pay
Chapter Fortyseven    Algerian Griefs
Chapter Fortyeight    I Dont Know How to Repeat                             Myself
Chapter Fortynine    Grandrue de lEglise

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About the author (2011)

Born in Paris in 1929, Olivier Todd studied at the Sorbonne and at Cambridge University. He taught for a few years before turning to journalism. He has been a reporter, a columnist, and an editor at Le Nouvel Observateur and L'Express. He has also contributed to the Times Literary Supplement and Newsweek International, and worked for the first French television channel and the BBC.

Todd is the author of numerous books, including novels, essay collections, and biographies. Jean-Paul Sartre endorsed Todd's first published novel and later called him--in jest--his "rebel son." Albert Camus has enjoyed both critical and popular success in France, and has been translated into more than ten languages.

A recognized observer of the French political and literary scene, Todd is currently at work on a new biography of André Malraux. He lives in Paris.

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