Albert Camus - Biography, Studies, Death, & Facts

The French journalist, writer, and philosopher Albert Camus (1913 – 1960) was one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957. His work includes novels, plays, and philosophical treatises in which he developed his "philosophy of the absurd".

Albert Camus

Childhood and youth (1913 – 1930)

Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, in Mondovi, present-day Algeria. He spent his childhood in great poverty. When he was one year old, his father died in World War I. His mother, who was hard of hearing and could neither read nor write, supported him and his older brother with cleaning jobs and factory work. At the age of ten, Camus received a scholarship for high school and graduated from high school in 1930.

Studies and theater work (1932 – 1938)

Camus contracted tuberculosis that same year, but two years later he began studying philosophy at the University of Algiers. Here he met the intellectual Simone Hié, to whom he was married from 1934 to 1940. In 1936 he presented his diploma thesis on Plotinus and Augustin. Due to his illness, however, he was not admitted to the state examination. The possibility of working as a high school teacher remained close to him throughout his life.

In 1935, Camus, who was associated with the labor movement and for a time belonged to the Communist Party, founded the theater group "Théâtre du Travail". In 1937 he founded the "Théâtre de l'Équipe", with which he staged Dostoyevsky's "Brothers Karamazov" in 1938. In addition to his theater work, he wrote numerous essays during this period, which he printed in 1937 under the title L'Envers et l'Endroit.

The Second World War (1939 – 1945)

To earn a living, Camus worked as a journalist in 1939. In his articles, he repeatedly criticized colonial abuses. With the outbreak of the Second World War, he volunteered for military service but was rejected because of his illness. In 1940 he married the mathematics teacher Francine Faure. Camus joined the French resistance movement in 1942 and became one of its leaders.

Also in 1942 was the novel The Stranger and the philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus. Both works revolve around the human effort to wrest meaning from a life that has been recognized as meaningless, on their own and without metaphysical support. In 1944 Camus met Jean-Paul Sartre, who influenced him greatly and with whom he was friends for several years.

Post-war period and literary fame (1946 – 1960)

After the war, another collection of essays with works from the years 1947 to 1951 was published under the title "Man in Revolt". This collection led to a rift with Sartre, who accused Camus of betraying left-wing ideals. Camus himself had always refused to be mentioned as a representative of existentialism in the same breath as Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Rather, he saw himself as a moralist.

In 1947 Camus' famous novel "The Plague" was published, which made this position understandable. With it, the author went beyond the mere depiction of senseless inhumanity in war. Human solidarity, active help, and brotherhood are contrasted with it as a way out of the absurdity of being. To this day, »The Plague« is required reading in French high schools.

In 1956 the novel "Der Fall" was published. Considered by many to be Camus's masterpiece, he also questions the individual's responsibility in a meaningless world. In December 1957, Camus received the Nobel Prize in Literature for his literary and philosophical oeuvre. In 1959 his drama Die Besessenen premiered. In the meantime, he had made a career for himself at the Gallimard publishing house in Paris, where he held a position as director.

Accidental Death (1960)

On January 4, 1960, Albert Camus died in a car accident on the way from his home in Lourmarin, southern France, to Paris. His tomb is in the mountain village of Lourmarin.

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