Camus, our Summer Companion

For those who (still) believe that Camus is a depressive thinker, obsessed with death and existential angst, I strongly recommend ‘Summer in Algiers’ (‘L’été’), first published in 1954 and available as part of the Penguin edition of ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. Camus invites his reader to follow in his footsteps as he immerses himself in the seaside landscape of his younger years and recaptures part of the sensual happiness he experienced among the Roman ruins of Tipasa, in a silent communion with the forgiving sky and the mythical Mediterranean sea. For the author of ‘The Outsider’, the Algeria of his childhood and adolescence was an eternal reminder of what men have been pursuing from time immemorial: the transient moment of reconciliation and fusion with a physical world forever estranged from the tragedies of human existence. Here lies the source of the Absurd and here lies the possibility of all possible happiness, too.

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech of 10 December 1957, Camus reiterated his dual preoccupation as a writer and a thinker, the former’s task being to bear witness to the beauty of this world as the latter’s duty was to work for the ultimate liberation of all his fellow-beings against all forms of social injustice and political oppression. In his dark moments of doubt, Camus cast his mind back to the magic beauty of the Mediterranean light and its promise of a soothing redemption. In Tipasa, every morning brings new hope and the philosopher-writer drew both his strength and his inspiration from the spectacle of a perennial light which lay inside him like an ‘invicible summer’ and saved him from despair as he prepared for the new day.

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