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Jean-Marie Apostolidès on Albert Camus

Professor Apostolidès was educated in France, where he received a doctorate in literature and the social sciences. He taught psychology in Canada for seven years and sociology in France for three years. In 1980 he came to the United States, teaching at Harvard and then Stanford, primarily French classical literature (the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) and […]

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[ Music ]
This is KZSU Stanford.
Welcome to entitled opinions.
My name is Robert Harrison.
And we're coming to you live from the Stanford campus.
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I grew up with the sea and poverty for me was sumptuous.
Then I lost the sea and found all luxuries gray and poverty unbearable.
Every artist keeps within himself a single source which nourishes during his lifetime what he is and what he says.
I know that my source is the world of poverty and sunlight I lived in for so long.
Whose memory still saves me from two opposing dangers that threaten every artist.
Resentment and self-satisfaction.
Among my many weaknesses, I have never discovered that most widespread failing, envy,
the true cancer of societies and doctrines.
Silence must be true.
[ Music ]
That was a quote from Alberka Moo to whom we'll be devoting the next hour.
Do you remember the 1999 Oscars when Robert Dobinini made such a charming spectacle of himself after winning two Oscars?
In his last remarks at night on stage, he thanked his parents for giving him the greatest gift that life has to offer.
What in the world did he mean by that?
And could he have made that statement in a more unlikely setting than Hollywood's trying to the American imaginary?
What do we in America know about the virtues of poverty, the dignity of poverty?
For us, poverty is an unmitigated disgrace or at best an unfortunate social ill which we must work to eradicate so that everyone can be happy.
That is to say, well off or rich.
To understand the spirit of Benini's remark, one has to access the wisdom of a very different tradition, a very different world than the one most of us Americans belong to.
Call it the world of the South.
Alberka Moo who grew up on the shores of Algeria before joining the French Resistance in Europe believed that the tragedies of the 20th century were due to the
triumph of northern European values over the values of the South.
The triumph of the will to power over the solar fatalism of the South by which he meant the Mediterranean basin as well as the African continent.
One finds many injustices in the world, Camus once wrote, but there is one that is never mentioned, climate.
He goes on to say, and I quote him, "Poverty was never a misfortune for me. It was radiant with light. Even my revolts were brilliant with sunshine."
The southern world as he understood it was placed halfway between poverty and the sun.
And my favorite quote from all of Camus writings, "Poverty kept me from thinking all was well under the sun and in history."
The sun taught me that history was not everything.
If ever history with its rage, death and endless suffering were to become everything, human beings would succumb to madness.
History is reality, and as T.S. Eliot put it in his four quartets, human kind cannot bear very much reality.
This is not a short coming on our part, on the contrary, are refusal to be tyrannized by history's realities, sponsors much of what makes human life bearable.
Our religious impulses, our poetic imaginations, our moral ideals, our metaphysical dreams, our storytelling, our aesthetic pleasures, our romances, and our love of nature.
The difference between a northern and southern sensibility as Camus understood it is the difference between an acceptance of life and an assault on life.
I quote him again, "I wanted to change lives, yes, but not the world which I worshiped as divine."
That's the basic issue, isn't it? Morality and fatalism can coexist in a southern temperament.
But what, one out in the modern era was the will to change the world, and not just the lives in it.
This was the main ideological divide between the solar humanism of Camus and the militant Marxism of Jean-Paul Saft.
For Saft, history was everything, and the task of those who allied themselves with history was to change the world, whatever the costs.
For Saft, there was nothing redemptive in the sun or sea.
Sun and sea are not reality, and we must keep our eyes fixed on the Medusa head of reality.
Nusom, Suhampla, Uyidnyakadezom.
We are on a plane where there are only men.
Now wait a minute. Only men? What about nature? Are we not also on a plane of nature?
Not for Saft. Nature is at best an antagonist in our fight to change the world.
In Saft's petrified gaze we are trapped in history, condemned to history as he put it.
That is finally the decisive difference between Saft and Camus, and the reason why the dust bin awaits the one, but not the other.
Or better, that is why one was perfectly at home in the dust bin.
While for the other, I quote, "The sun that rained over my childhood freed me from all resentment."
I am happy to welcome to the show today my friend and colleague, Jean-Marie Apostoli-Dess, Professor of French Literature here at Stanford.
He knows the work of Camus as well as anyone, and we are going to talk to him today about this Algerian-born Frenchman,
who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, and who died in a car accident in 1960 at the age of 47 when he was at the height of his creative powers.
Jean-Marie, welcome to the program.
Thank you for inviting me to the show.
I was a bit harsh on Saft in my opening remarks, too harsh I'll admit, but before we get to that controversy,
between Saft and Camus, can we give our listeners a brief biography of Albert Camus?
You already have sent plenty of things.
He was born in 1913.
One thing is important in his life, and this is something he has in common with Jean-Marie Saft.
He lost his father during his childhood, his father was killed during the First World War.
Therefore, Camus hardly knew his father, and for a long, long time, he had, it seems to me, a non-biggest relationship to the figure of the father.
If we can use this opposition between the realm of the mother and the realm of the father, definitely the sea is associated to the figure of the mother in Camus, and this is where he has his roots, his emotional roots, definitely.
Another thing to be mentioned here is at early age, Albert Camus was attracted by sport, particularly by soccer.
But he suffered at the age of 11 or 12 from very strong sickness, which was tuberculosis,
and he was almost quote unquote "sentence" to death by the medical doctors at the age of 12.
That has completely transformed his life, he lived with the feelings that his own life would be short, and he had to take everything to gasp almost everything on the very moment.
Therefore, if we can already enter into the comparison between Sartre and Camus, Sartre is dealing with the notion of time and the long term, what you call "rader" history, where as Camus, both in his life and in his writing, is much more attracted by the notion of instant, less time, the very moment.
And that is due to his sickness.
Yeah, there's a sense of the precious nature of presence, absolutely in here, in the body, with the elements.
So we'll talk more about the role of the mother in Camus, especially when we talk about Le Tange, and later in his life.
So, after he moves, he writes plays and he comes to journalists.
Another important aspect in Camus is attraction for theatre.
Camus wanted to be a nectar, and stage director, and he started at an early age to play, to create a top in Algeria, which was very important to even, if not totally,
professional. Before his death, he was nominated as director of one of the major theatre in theatre, so he saw himself first as a man of theatre.
And theatre is also something which is an art which lives nothing behind it, means once you have done a show, there is nothing to be kept, where as in painting in film, you still have the work in theatre,
no, you have to deal on the moment, on the notion of presence, that is also important.
He became a journalist, which is also a job dealing with present moment, he participated, contrary to Saar, to the resistance, particularly in 1943.
So he moves the Paris at a certain point from Algeria.
During the Second World War, the beginning of the Second World War, and had a very different life. He had a difficult personal life in married twice.
In the first case, he did not have a very strong relationship to his power, he did not have any children.
Then he married another woman, Francine, with whom he had two children, twin children, a son and a daughter.
But very early, he was engaged to one of the most famous actress, Marjac Cazares, who was probably the great love in his life.
However, we cannot solve without being too inquisitive considering as sort of the usual complex sentimental and sexual life, which is also dealing with present moment.
He became very successful at the gnarly edge with two of his books, the myth of the philosophers, but first the stranger, the liturgy, which was a big success and continues to be a big success.
Let's talk a little bit about the stranger. The notion of the mother, the role of the mother in that book is quite interesting.
In the first case, I think that he was a book published in the war, which had a huge impact.
Still today, I think, is very much in the curriculum of the Baca Lurea, many of the French students.
It's required reading in grade schools and France, so forth.
What was it about that book that had such an effect when it was published?
I think that the first item is a style itself, where the Roland Bartwood called "Lecreture Blanche", sort of neutral distance style, very simple at the same time, and very effective.
The narrator, who is also the same person and the mentor actor in the book, speaks from a distance perspective about his own life, like if he could not connect himself to his own life.
And curiously, in the first sentence of the book speaks about the root of the mother, Ujordry Mamalemort, today, mother died, and that starts a story.
He enters into the story once he has created a root of the root with the body of the mother.
Of course, the famous failure to cry at his mother's funeral, which then later in the book he causes him to be sentenced to death after he is arrested for the murder of an Arab.
We want to talk about it as well.
It is a very alienated character, this muscle. He seems to not be very affected either by his mother's death or his relationship with Mahi that there is a kind of indifference that seems to run throughout his way of being in the world.
And of course, the one question that every French school child is asked about Pouquois et tier l'Hab, why does much so on a beach at a noon hour, early after noon hours, and this blazing sunshine?
And why does he kill the Arab in the famous climactic scene of that novel?
First, I should say here that several different interpretations can be presented of these marvelous novels.
So please do keep in mind that this is only my own subjective interpretation.
I am not certain first that Merso is totally indifferent to the mother or to Marie.
The other tries to distance himself from the mutant silent love of the mother.
There is a disconnection in Merso between the way he uses language, perjour vocabulary, and what he feels in himself and is unable to put words on his most important personal feeling.
He probably kills the Arab because he feels threatened by the Arab civilization, which is all around him, and he does not really understand him.
He does not know how to talk with them, and he sees them as a threat.
And he has a reflex to the defense mechanism of defending himself when he is not really threatened.
And he kills the Arab.
You can probably see this murder as exemplary of the misunderstanding between the people from European origin in Algeria and the native Arab civilization.
Let me say that is a possible interpretation, but I will tell you why I resist it.
First, it gives an explanation in a psychological or sociological or political explanation.
In my reading of the whole point of that act is that it is supposed to be gratuitous and that it does not have an explanation, that there is some underlying absurdity to it.
If we were able to give an answer as you did, then it would lose this opacity of a stigma that I think Camus was very committed to maintaining.
Do you agree with that?
I agree with you, and yet at the same time I maintain my interpretation because I think maybe it is a professional deformation, but I think the role of the interpreter is to provide explanation.
I do agree with you that the text is opaque and there is a confrontation to adjust to it, which is totally absurd.
But at the same time it calls constantly for interpretation.
That might explain also part of the success of this book.
It is calling for an interpretation. I provide one knowing that it is only subjective and I do not take it as an absolute explanation.
The other reason I would also resist that interpretation that you gave is that it seems to imply that there is this animus between the French Algerians and the Arab Algerians.
The text is the question posed to high school children and France.
The universal reply to why does my so-called the Arab is a cos-dusole because of the sun, which is not really an explanation.
But why is it the first answer that comes to the high school's person's mind?
Because it is written first because it is written in the text itself. It is because he is blinded by the sun that he reacts in a violent manner.
And also because there is an illusion to La Roche Foucault's Santos, neither the son nor the desk can be directly faced.
The person who is not connected to the school is not connected to the school.
They are just repeating what they are read in the footnote.
I reread it for our little conversation today, that passage.
It struck me that the description on the beach is the sun is so oppressively overhead and hot and brilliant and blinding.
It seems like all of the time has come to a absolute standstill.
The only way to get time moving again is to commit an act to violently intervene in mobility of the hour.
That is somehow shooting, letting off the revolver, restores time, the flow of time.
That was my impression, just my most recent one.
No, you are absolutely right. If you pardon me for being a little bit pedantic, you will notice that the book is divided in two parts.
The opposition with one another even if he does not appear in the title.
But Camus books are very often... Camus titles are very often in opposition, such as exiling kingdom.
The first part is the first part is the sun.
The second part is devoted to shadow, longbar.
The first part is devoted to the figure of the mother and is in the realm of the memory.
The first part is the confrontation to the figure of the father and then it is not memory anymore.
But history as it is opposed to memory.
And it does not want to conform that because at the end of the line of history there is death.
Nevertheless, this is what happens.
Well, at the end of the stranger is very enigmatic as well. The priest comes to visit him and he wants him to...
I'm sure to call him father and he does not want to call him father.
He says you are not my father and he has a... what we would call a hysterical crisis.
And he shouts the priest out of his cell.
And then the book ends with a page or two of this kind of poetic, sort of expansive sense of the love of mankind,
the love of the present and the senses and the sunlight.
And very hard for me to figure out what's going on at the end of litongy.
But to speak about a bit of the philosophy of the so-called absurdity,
the concept of absurdity that we associate with come here so much.
Would you agree that in litongy at least he is laying down the ground for the sense that the universe that we inhabit,
cannot be humanized, that there is no foundation for our own personal ideals or moral values or our judgments of right and wrong.
And therefore there is this essential absurdity of the human condition where nature does not answer our demands.
We cannot humanize nature and nevertheless we have to live within this absurdity and somehow so becomes aware of this condition.
At the end of the book.
Certainly, I do agree with you.
My own modest interpretation of the end is that he refuses during the second part or the different figures of the father of the judge and the priest is on his last one and the most ridiculous one.
And by choosing this and the blood he tries to find something equivalent to the sun, something red, something in which he will be totally drawn.
But definitely he sees the immersile seas, the absurdity of nature and the fact that nature has no direct message to teachers.
Therefore our values are relative but nevertheless we have to create them for all of the philosophers is to open the door to meaning your sinification, to go beyond the absurdity in order to find within the human collectivity meaning to our life even if we know that it's an habit of having one.
I agree with that, that's why we wouldn't want to say that the world of the philosophers go beyond the realm of absurdity but rather to always remember that the human condition is absurd and that it's in the face of such absurdity that we must stake out our claims and decide upon our values and to humanize our relations with our fellow man and discover what he called the solidarity between the humanities.
But never forgetting that nature that there is this failure on the part of the world to satisfy the human demand that it provide a basis for human values.
True, probably at least at the beginning of his career, came here as a conception of the philosopher who is close to the donkey, he explains it in the different chapters in the myth of the philosophers.
And the role of the philosophers is only to warn people and to let them know each time you try to convey meaning to something, you are going beyond the absurdity, it's alternative to escape what is the foundation of human life and relationship to life which is absurdity, absurdity is almost the constant weapons that you have in your mind.
And you have to keep it constantly present in order to remember always the human condition.
And this gets further elaborated and complexified in this very important book which is not a novel that he wrote later, "Lom Revalzte" or I don't know how it's translated in English.
What is this concept of "Revalzte" amount to?
For me, it's a very important concept and maybe one of the key for future success or future interest in chemosworth.
It might not be the greatest philosophical concept ever, nevertheless, at least time and even today it's extremely important.
It's important to remember that this concept belongs to the second part of chemos' life when it goes beyond the notion of absurdity.
You know as well as I do that chemos were confronted to a huge Marxist and even totalitarian philosophy in France at that time and it constantly opposed this expectation of a huge socialist war which is linked to the notion of revolution.
We did not want a revolution but yet at the same time it did not want to accept the sort of passivity that bourgeois attitude was to wildlife.
So it coined this medium way between revolution and acceptation which he called "Rebelian" is a much more modest attitude but lucid.
It consists of non-accepting the current situation and yet at the same time you don't want to change everything around you or in life in order not to create new conditions for new totalitarianism.
It seems to me that today this notion of rebellion is still very important for us.
I agree.
It would seem that he's gone from litonje to this other period where now absurdity is not just in the world of nature's
inability to respond to the human demand for value but that now it's the absurdity also of human injustice not just in nature's injustice and that you can revolt either against absurdity or you can revolt against the human condition which is wrapped up in absurdity.
I think that's a crucial difference that sets him off from the Marxist, the totalitarianists and Jompal Safft in particular which is that taking into account the absurdity of the human condition you revolt against it and in the name of that revolt you found values of solidarity or fraternity and you find a way to champion the absolute value of life of human life as such.
The other people that revolutionists were really in revolt against the human condition as such and were out to change the human condition through revolution and it would feel that any means were justified.
If you can bring about this transformation of the world, that's my opening remarks, I said he says I did try to change lives but I did not want to change the world which I worshiped as divine.
So, do you think that this is the main point of controversy between Camru and Safft at this period?
The definitely, Camrua to deal directly or indirectly on many occasions with Safft and was opposed to Safft on civil domain.
What was Safft's criticism of the rebel when that book appeared?
He thought that it was a book written by a pretty bourgeois who did not belong to, who did not care with revolution and working class but it's in a certain way, paradoxical because Safft himself came from a pretty bourgeois milieu, his grandfather was an intellectual pretty bourgeois, where as Camrua came himself free from the lower class.
I don't want to reduce someone from his social roots but it's a paradox.
Bear in mind, Robert, that Camrua at the beginning was attracted by communism.
He was even during a brief moment during his use, a member of the communist party in Alizaria and he left it very quickly because Marxism brought with it at the beginning a call for faith.
But, seriously enough, this philosophy, because it's a philosophy led to the most drastic dramatic and abominable totalitarianism ever.
And Camrua was opposed to any totalitarianism, so he was strongly disappointed by Marxism and in a certain way associated with the authoritarianism of Nazism.
And this is where someone like Safft, I said I was harsh on him in my lead-in and I was, but he told Camrua that he had no right to criticize the gulags in the Soviet Union because as long as we have this enemy, which is the bourgeoisie, we don't criticize anything that happens in the Soviet Union because we share an enemy.
And I think this is grotesque for an end to that whole period in French history where Marxism dominated in a way that the intellectuals and for Safft, who was the ringleader of his kind of a willingness to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being committed in the Soviet Union and being such a hysterical denounceor of any other kind of
And even, even in the Soviet Union and being such a hysterical denounceor of any other kind of fascism or even less, you know, any kind of bourgeois transgressions.
Safft, I think in retrospect, is scary. And Camrua's estrangement from Safft and the whole meteor that Safft belonged to led him into kind of isolation, intellectual isolation for sure everyone was attacking him for a while there in France. And it got to him.
And he really did bother him. He didn't know which way to turn. Every time he said something, he was a co-sileb. But do you agree that in retrospect, maybe Camrua was right?
Well, yeah, he did well to resist this demand for conformity to a party orthodoxy and to tow the party line.
And I agree with you. Allow me few comments on what you said. First, from a philosophical perspective, it is certain that Safft is a greater philosopher than Camrua's return, led Trelunio and above all critical, a reason on the electric, which is a superb book.
This said, if you take these two men as artist and writers, I would be hesitant, but it seems to me that Camrua is a greater writer. But from a sheer moral perspective, today, at least in my own interpretation of what happened during that period, it seems to me that Camrua was totally right, even if the publication of the rebel,
raised many, many negative comments, not only Safft, but on the bottom as well, and many other people, basically Camrua displeased everyone with this book. And yet, it seems to me that today, and even yesterday, because my love for Camrua goes back to my youth, to my youth, he was totally right.
And Safft, left, stopped being a companion, the root, basically, the Duke of the Communist Party in May '68, only to embrace something which was as much ridiculous, Maoist, French tendency.
And it is embarrassing when you read some text, yes, written, or some interview read, yet with a character, particularly, at that time to see that this very intelligent man probably the most intelligent French philosopher of the 20th century was also one of the most blind guy of his period.
Many people, but Papayonah, Gret, Greg, French philosopher of the period, denounced him as totally blind, and it is amazing how you can be on one side, so intelligent, so perceptive, so so bright.
And yet, at the same time, blind to the point where he was obliged to swallow many snakes given to him by the Communist Party.
And he wasn't alone in that. There are a lot of brilliant intellectuals who follow that same sort of syndrome. Many of them.
In this period, there is also another point of controversy was the Algerian War of Independence.
And of course, the Communist Safft, and they were all on the side of the Algerians, and they expected Camu, who was an Algerian, some poor and Frenchman, to come out unambiguously on one side or the other.
Hopefully, on the side of the Algerian War of the Algerian rebels. But of course he didn't.
His attitude was quite ambiguous. And he took a lot of grief for that as well, no?
Yes. First, bear in mind, Robert, that it took the Communist and even Safft many years before the step on the side of the independent movement,
because the problem is extremely complex and ambiguous. However, at the end of the '50s and early '60s, basically Safft and the Communist were on the side of the independent.
And Camu was not. He was not first for personal reason, because he thought, and legitimately so, that Algeria was his own country.
Mother, London, his mother, and you know how important the figure of the mother is for Camu.
But at the same time, on some aspect, Camu definitely himself was also blind. That means he did not trust the Algerian people. He thought they were not capable of governing their own country if they were to become independent. And for that reason, he was not in favor of independence.
Here's where I think something fundamental happens in Camu's psyche and in his career. He gets a Nobel Prize in 1957. And until that point, all his thinking had been fundamentally moral, kind of moral thinking, trying to work out a morality for human beings in a world that is absurd,
to work out human solidarity, to always be on the side of justice. And I agree with you that philosophically, there is a lot of weakness in his arguments. It's very hard for me to be persuaded that human solidarity is the natural outcome of a realization of absurdity or revolt against absurdity. He said that it was and that totalitarian was not.
But regardless of the philosophical cogency of his arguments, he was always putting himself on the side of justice in an abstract sense against injustice. That the rebel is someone who revolts against injustice because of it, the injustice is absurd and the rebel is a rebel against absurdity.
Then along comes the Algerian War, and as you said, he considered it as a homeland. His mother was still living in Algeria. He receives a Nobel Prize and in his acceptance speech, he says, when it comes to a choice between justice and my mother, I will side with my mother, which is in some ways a devastating thing to say.
stating thing to say." Very honest, at the same time. But what it seems for me, at
Market Turning Point in his awareness that it's very easy for the intellectual to go on
always being on the so-called right side of any issue. The way Sast, who would every day have
a comment in the newspaper, would always take a position on everything, because it's
a song as "J" for song as "J". But it's when things become personal and specific. That
sometimes you will not side with justice. You will side with your mother. Do you agree
with me that this was a realization that caused Camus in the last few years of his life
to write a different kind of literature and to have a sort of self interrogation that
led him to write a book like the fall, lest shoot in order to maybe put himself on himself
and his fellow intellectuals on trial for the the "Fastile Way" in which you embrace justice
when it's in the abstract, but you never put yourself to the test of what you would do in
the particular situation. You are raising a very important issue. Let me send you some comments
on what you just said. First concerning injustice and the mother, we should bear in mind
that the relationship between Camus and his mother, a very strong bound, was beyond words.
Camus' mother was illiterate. She never read any of his books and she could hardly speech
because of a speech in pichman. She shared some problems, physiological problems, which prevented
from speaking. So in a certain way, Camus' strong bound to his mother is beyond and sometimes
against words, sometimes his reflection, philosophy. That should be kept in mind. So second
thing, it seems to me that Camus, because of the enormous international success in
the country, it is a very important thing.
Second also from the image of the "good guy" which was constantly associated to him.
And neither in his life nor in his thinking he was totally a good guy in his life. He had
several alkylic crises. He was very unfesful to his spouse, his sattanies, his family life
because of some, let's say, "good and good debauchery." And he was also attracted by
literary figure, very dark, very obscure. And particularly, several of his texts you mentioned
the fall, "la shoot." It is one of them. The short story called "Zorrenegate" also.
To me, a very important literary text, because the "go be young" is positive, let's
say, almost politically correct figure of Camus. And this is a true Camus he wanted to
explore and could not. He wanted to be more of a creator. He almost coined a myth at the
end of his life. The myth of the first man is so his confather as the first man, but he is so
himself as the creator of doing something new. And this myth of the first man on compass
both the positive side and the negative side. And the negative side is visible in "la shoot"
and "Zorrenegate."
You invent the figure of the first man, but he also invents the figure of the "Zorrenegate."
The penitent judge, who is the narrator of "la shoot." So is "la shoot" an act of
penitent on Camus's part, do you think? And what is this, let's tell our listeners,
what is this "la shoot," what kind of story is it? I can summarize it very briefly,
of course, inadequately, but it's a first person narrative of Frenchman intellectual, who
was a judge in Paris. He's now living in Amsterdam in the north and he... It's a whole
long, sililoquier monologue, even though there isn't interlocutor there, in which he gradually
reveals himself to be someone who has been pastoring his whole life about being on the
side of the good and doing philanthropy and so forth. And yet it was... The revelation is that
it was all motivated by his desire to feel himself superior to his fellow beings and that
there is a moment of cowardice when a woman jumps off of bridge in Paris and he feels like
he should go and rescue her, she's screaming for help and he just keeps walking on. This
gives him a sense of guilt, the title itself, the fall is a Christian topos, you know, of
loss of innocence. And at the end, I think the narrator, Clamos, Jean-Battis,
Clamos, also his name Jean-Battis. And Clamos? Clamos, yes. He did for Phonise, Claméli,
I said Domingo. He put himself on trial and he comes out guilty at the end.
Now, what is in your reading of that book, what is Clamos guilty of finally?
First we should remind our listener that it is certainly the most complex and in my view,
certainly the best community. Clamos' books very difficult to analyze into interpret. If I
propose you an interpretation, you will accuse me of closing the ambiguity of the text.
Now, I don't want to interpret it in the early of the text as a whole, but how do you understand
the guilt that is guilty, obviously, of letting this woman drone in Paris. She was a desperate
woman. He could have done something and he did not. But he is imitating sir by saying,
"I am a culprit, therefore everybody is." If we go beyond that, this aspect, which is really
well known because under the guise of Clamos, he is on one side, making fun of sirs, but he is also
criticizing himself as a good soul as someone who is constantly on the right. If we go beyond that,
so where I read this text today, ask to do something with the Holocaust. It seems to me that what
does characterise France after the Second World War is the incapacity of French people and of French
intellectual to recognise what they did or what they did not do during the Second World War.
And an enormous capability came out of this which could never be explained in clear words. This is
yet must fear of a shoot. There is a huge cloud of capability and nobody knows the origin of this big
cloud. I associate it with the Holocaust. And it seems to me that my own personal, if you allow me to
speak of my own personal opinion, is that after May 68, France switched from culture of
a victimisation, what is reading in the shoot is already the beginning of this victimisation system
which is so important today in France and in America as well, but particularly in France.
Yeah, you wrote a great book on that. Heroism and victimisation, so I recommend that highly to any
of our listeners there who can read in French. Thank you, Jean-Marie, I post-Sou di des with whom we're
talking about Camu. We only have about seven or eight minutes left. The idea of the Holocaust is
very compelling. It seems to fit the Credpa Bilete. At the same time, I want to hold on to my sense of that
book as having been the result, at least of some of the controversies that affected his life with
Saft and his realisation that his whole life long, he felt like he was on the side of justice in an
abstract way that the Algerian War made him realise that it's again, as I was saying earlier,
that it's very easy to be on the side of the just when nothing is at stake, but when your mother
is in the picture and you opt for your mother instead of justice, that model, I mean this book of
the fall, I think, is saying to all of his fellow Frenchmen in a certain sense that one has to really
look deep inside oneself and see what are the true sources of our motivation whenever
when we espouse our moral ideals, is there a something much more perverse going on. I agree with you,
it's one of the very obscure texts, very hard to penetrate what's really going on in the depths of it.
Written in 1957, that means before really the most important part of the Algerian War,
so in a certain way it's a prophetic text as well.
Yeah, so you mentioned the first man that is a book that Gamu was writing at the time of his
a very sudden and tragic death in a car accident in 1960. It's been published, it was finally
his daughter and son, the twins that you were referring to were
reluctantly but eventually did release that book of a publication completely unrivised, unfinished.
Do you like that book?
enormously. A few things should be said about that because
Camus, children, catrini, and Jean, have behaved very, very well for the memory of their father.
They did not really sit reluctantly, it's only because after Camus death,
the political commitment was such that their thought, if their release is booked immediately,
Camus would have been seen as a bourgeois writer and they did not want it seems to me that he was
writing probably his greatest novel ever and yet he died in a car accident in the car of his
publisher, Gellima, so it seems to me that Gellima achieves the secret dream of any publisher to kill
their other but in the case of Gellima. They could really do it and that put an end to Camus's life,
but this book even if it is not finished yet is extremely appealing to contemporary
a reader because in this one he's capable of mixing the emotional aspect of his life and the
philosophical aspect in one complete novel dealing truly with his life and the myth of the first man.
Yeah and it's also involved in return to Algeria and a re-visitation of his childhood.
Exactly, exactly, describing each extremely autobiographical, it's almost a complete autobiographical
of Camus himself. It's also likely that Camus would have been very unhappy to know that it was
published in that form of course he's dead and he can't object from beyond the grave and I think
that we're much better off having the book than not having the book but it's also such a pity
when you read that book to think of what it would have become had the time to
perfect it and finish it and what other kind of books he might have written later of course that's
as T.S. Eliot says, "What might have been remains a perpetual possibility only in the world of speculation
but there's plenty of evidence that Camus was far from having consummated his literary career in 1960."
It was almost the beginning probably he would probably have been the greatest play writer of his time.
I agree with you that it's a pity that he died but at the same time we cannot recognize that
since it is a first draft what the great writer is because even the first draft is fascinating.
Yeah, you teach Camus here don't you? Yes, from time to time yes. So hopefully you'll be offering a
course on albedcomery of any of the students here you want to take it maybe next year or the year after
next. No during the third quarter I will teach a seminar on albedcomery. This year yes, this year.
Great great great. It's great voice here. It's a spring quarter and I think it is someone who is still
very close to students and to students concerns and it is much more accessible as a writer
than Jean-Paul Sartre or Meluponti for example for sure and of course he would be reading
the plague lapest which is a book that unfortunately we didn't get time to talk about
which many people consider his most achieved work but the time goes very quickly on the program we
weren't able to cover either lapest or other his theater. We had some great plays as well and the
essays. I love some of the essays. In fact most of my quotes in my opening lead-in came from
from his essays. But let's expect that we have given to some people an interesting opening
table because this was a purpose of a meeting. Exactly thanks a lot for the conversation John
Muddy and we will continue this. Maybe we'll do a SASH program why not maybe we'll revisit him as
well. So I want to remind our listeners that this is entitled opinions with Robert Harris and
they've been talking to Jean Muddy up with SOTY this from the French Department here at Stanford.
We have a web page you just log on to the home page of the French and Italian department
and click on entitled opinions and there you can download previous programs or podcasts them.
I want to thank our assistant producer David Lummis who is in charge of all the technical aspects
and who really makes the whole thing work finally. And thanks again John Muddy and see you next week.