By Charlotte Barrett
Why and how I fell in love with France’s brightest Mind
“Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken. But I wonder if there’s no breaking then there’s no healing, and if there is no healing then there is no learning. And if there’s no learning then there’s no struggle. But the struggle is a part of life. So must all hearts be broken? “- Albert Camus
When I lived through my teenage years -feeling lost and misunderstood-, my French teacher put L’Etranger (The Outsider) into my hands.
Camus spoke to me. Everything I felt, Camus found a way to put it into words.
I was longing for a meaning to my existence and L’Etranger settled it:
there is none.
I found in the main character’s detachment an incredible resonance with my own emotions.
Camus lays it all here: life is absurd.
Do I love Marie? Meursault doesn’t know, he does not even see the point. But he knows he likes to hold her breast. Maybe it is absurd to learn of your mother’s death through a 4 words telegram.
However, joy is to be found in every single corner of life, in each stolen moment.
If life made no sense, Camus devoured it nonetheless. He grew up wrapped up in his mother’s silence and the warmth of Alger. In spite of his breathing issues, Camus grabbed life with full energy; he swam, played football, wrote, travelled.
Camus was not a snob. He stripped down philosophy to its very essence. That is perhaps why my love for Camus grows wider with time. It seems that for every milestone of my life, I can simply turn to his books. I must have read L’Etranger at least 5 times and each time I uncover another dimension that echoes the moment I am living. Camus’ strength is to be relevant. Are you trying to make sense of a world pandemic in 2020? Read The Plague.
My never-ending devotion to Albert Camus is due to his enduring optimism, one can find comfort in existentialism and accept it. If Camus believed that life was profoundly absurd, he also believed that we had to fight for what was right anyways.
He actively spoke against injustice, oppression and defended freedom. In his 46 years of existence, Camus lived through two World Wars, the Spanish civil conflict and what was for him the most tearing of them all, the Algerian war.
How can we believe in the good of humanity when faced repeatedly with its very worse? Camus gave the answer himself:
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back” (Summer)
Beyond the philosophy and the extremely elaborate understanding of humanity, Camus is hope. Hope that every moment is worth living, hope that we should love and enjoy it. He once wrote: “Live to the point of tears.”
It is therefore not a coincidence if I find myself opening his books when I need answers. He taught me the greatest lesson of them all:
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
Camus was in love with life and maybe it is why I fell in love with him.
After winning a Nobel prize, Camus started to write The first Man, his unfinished novel. When life had given him the highest honour, Camus only wanted to go back to his origins. The search for his dad (who died when Albert was an infant) and more accurately the search for himself is what Camus wrote last. After unveiling the mysteries of humanity, of revolts, he just wanted to uncover his truth. Albert Camus was my first love and will be my last too for there is no erosion of a love that permanently reinvents itself.
Long for: a desire, a feeling of wanting something or someone very much
See the point: To understand or appreciate the meaning, reason, or importance of doing something
Nonetheless: despite what has just been said or done
Wrapped up: If someone is wrapped up in a particular person or thing, they spend nearly all their time thinking about them, so that they forget about other things which may be important
Strip down to: reduce to essentials.
Milestone: a significant stage or event in the development of something
Enduring: lasting over a period of time; durable
Anyway: whatever else is happening, without considering other things
Beyond: further away in the distance
Therefore: for that reason