Nada en la tierra puede herirlo, ni el desamor de una mujer, ni la tisis, ni las ansiedades del verso, ni esa cosa blanca, la luna, que ya no tiene que fijar en palabras.
Camina lentamente bajo los tilos; mira las balaustradas y las puertas, no para recordarlas.
Ya sabe cuántas noches y cuántas mañanas le faltan.
Su voluntad le ha impuesto una disciplina precisa. Hará determinados actos, cruzará previstas esquinas, tocará un árbol o una reja, para que el porvenir sea tan irrevocable como el pasado.
Obra de esa manera para que el hecho que desea y que teme no sea otra cosa que el término final de una serie.
Camina por la calle 49; piensa que nunca atravesará tal o cual zaguán lateral.
Sin que lo sospecharan, se ha despedido ya de muchos amigos.
Piensa lo que nunca sabrá, si el día siguiente será un día de lluvia.
Se cruza con un conocido y le hace una broma. Sabe que este episodio será, durante algún tiempo, una anécdota.
Ahora es invulnerable como los muertos.
En la hora fijada, subirá por unos escalones de mármol. (Esto perdurará en la memoria de otros.)
Bajará al lavatorio; en el piso ajedrezado el agua borrará muy pronto la sangre. El espejo lo aguarda.
Se alisará el pelo, se ajustará el nudo de la corbata (siempre fue un poco dandy, como cuadra a un joven poeta) y tratará de imaginar que el otro, el del cristal, ejecuta los actos y que él, su doble, los repite. La mano no le temblará cuando ocurra el último. Dócilmente, mágicamente, ya habrá apoyado el arma contra la sien.
Así, lo creo, sucedieron las cosas.
”—"Mayo 20, 1928" de Jorge Luis Borges. (via rever-ie)
"Everything you do is planned out in advance the stars push their dark wills down on you and wolves all tear themselves apart better in packs that’s just a function we’ll have to work on through we are machines that eat and breathe and look really cool you’re reacting just the way I thought you would but I’ve replaced my heart with metal parts and I’m working just fine, but I can’t get it to start we are machines that breathe and weep and look really good trained to kill send me back in time and I’ll bring us back in line just tell me who’s mother I have to kill I’m fine like I’ve always been, except I don’t remember-when my conscience didn’t act up again we’re living on borrowed time and it looks like they want it back”
That Camus became one of the finest writers of the 20th century and a Nobel laureate is something of a miracle. The writer was born 100 years ago, on November 7th, in a remote corner of colonial Algeria, where his father was employed as a labourer in a vineyard. When the first World War started, Lucien Camus joined a Zouave infantry regiment. He was killed weeks later, at the Battle of the Marne.
Camus’s mother, Catherine, the daughter of Spanish immigrants, was half-deaf and suffered from a speech impediment. She cleaned houses to support her two sons. The family kept the piece of shrapnel that killed Lucien in a biscuit tin in their two-room flat in Belcourt, a working-class district of Algiers. The flat had no bathroom, heat or plumbing.
His brother worked full time as an errand boy from the age of 14. The same fate would have befallen Albert if his teacher, Louis Germain, had not persuaded Camus’s grandmother to let him try for a scholarship to the lycée. Germain gave Camus two hours of private lessons daily, free of charge. In December 1957 Camus dedicated his Nobel Prize acceptance speech to his former teacher.
Despite extreme hardship, Camus remembered his childhood fondly. “I was born poor and without religion, under a happy sky, feeling harmony, not hostility, in nature. I began not by feeling torn, but in plenitude,” he wrote in 1948.
Camus recounted his childhood in an unfinished autobiographical novel The First Man, which remained unpublished for 34 years after his death in 1960. “For you who could never read this book,” was the handwritten dedication to his illiterate mother.
Camus planned his oeuvre in three successive stages: the Absurd; Revolt, which he saw as salvation from the Absurd; and Love. Shortly before his death, he said he had completed only a third of his oeuvre. Though he had written extensively on the Absurd and Revolt, he barely broached the subject of Love. The First Man, a moving paean to his silent, long-suffering mother, is all we know of what Camus would have written of love.
In his male friendships, Camus seemed to search for the father he never knew. On the advice of his philosophy professor in Algiers, Jean Grenier, he briefly joined the Algerian communist party. He was expelled after a year, and his subsequent membership of the French communist party lasted scarcely longer. “I’m not cut out for politics, because I’m incapable of wanting or accepting the death of the adversary,” he wrote later.
Yet Camus is often described as the moral conscience of his generation. He never forgot his Spanish blood, and was a lifelong opponent of Franco’s dictatorship. During the second World War, he joined the Combat Resistance group, whose newspaper he edited in Paris.
Camus was one of the first western intellectuals to condemn the American bombing of Hiroshima. In a Combat editorial published on August 8th, 1945, he wrote of “the terrifying perspectives opened up to humanity”. He campaigned against capital punishment. The Nobel committee praised Camus’s “important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times”.
Diagnosed with TB
Camus was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 17, and was heart-broken at having to give up his position as goalkeeper on the University of Algiers football team. He suffered relapses of TB throughout his life.
Camus’s lifelong passion for the theatre began in 1936, when he founded the Théâtre du Travail in Algiers. Two of his four long-term mistresses, Maria Casares and Catherine Sellers, later acted in his plays in Paris. Asked why he wrote and directed theatre, Camus answered: “Simply because a theatre stage is one of the places in the world where I am happy … Through the theatre, I escape from what bores me in my profession as a writer.”
In his novels, plays and essays, he struggled to find meaning in meaninglessness. Though he showed lust for life and a Mediterranean oneness with nature, happiness was an unrelenting quest. “Heroism is accessible,” he wrote. “Happiness is more difficult.”
In 1943, Camus met Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir at a rehearsal of Sartre’s play, The Flies. From the Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the three dominated French intellectual life for the following decade.
In his 1951 book The Rebel, Camus denounced the totalitarianism of the Soviet bloc. Sartre was a pro-Soviet communist who labelled anti-communists “dogs”. Sartre commissioned an underling to write a scathing review of The Rebel in Les Temps modernes, the influential magazine he edited. Camus protested in a letter to “Monsieur le Directeur”, to which Sartre replied with his own 19-page epistle. Their rupture was complete. In her 1954 book The Mandarins, de Beauvoir maligned Camus as a repugnant character and collaborationist.
Camus had always maintained that he did not adhere to existentialism, the philosophy invented by Sartre. Asked later if he was a left-wing intellectual, he replied, “I’m not sure of being an intellectual. As for the rest, I am for the left, despite myself and despite the left.”
Also in 1954, Camus’s wife Francine, who suffered terribly from his infidelities, attempted suicide by jumping from a window. In The Fall, perhaps Camus’s finest novel, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a lawyer who has specialised in defending noble causes, recounts his life during a night-time stroll through Amsterdam, whose concentric canals recall the circles of Dante’s hell. Clamence/Camus admits he cannot pass a pretty woman in the street without turning to look at her. He is haunted by the memory of a woman who threw herself from a bridge in Paris, whom he did not try to save.
During the 1954-1962 Algerian war, Camus refused to chose between the Algerian Arabs, whose rights he had often defended, and his own people, the European pieds noirs.
His calls for non-violence and a federal Algeria where they would live in peace angered both sides. After his Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden, he was accosted by a young Algerian to whom he said, in a fit of pique, “I believe in justice, but I will defend my mother before justice”. The quote was misinterpreted as support for l’Algérie française.
With his Nobel Prize money, Camus bought a house in Lourmarin, Provence, which reminded him of Algeria. On December 28th, 1959, he wrote to his former professor, Jean Grenier that “working conditions for me have always been those of the monastic life: solitude and frugality. Except for frugality, they are contrary to my nature, so much so that work is a violence I do to myself.”
Six days later, Camus decided to drive back to Paris with Michel Gallimard, his publisher’s nephew, in Gallimard’s Facel Vega sports car.
It swerved off the road and crashed into a tree. Camus was killed instantly. Gallimard died five days later. Camus’s unused train ticket was found in his coat pocket. As he had often told friends, to die in a car crash was the height of the Absurd.
“Today you still suffer from the multitude, you individual: today you still have all your courage and your hopes. But one day the solitude will weary you, one day your pride will yield and your courage quail. You will one day cry: “I am alone!” One day you will no longer see your loftiness and will see your lowliness all-too-near; your sublimity itself will frighten you as a ghost. You will one day cry: “All is false!” There are feelings that want to slay the lonesome one; if they do not succeed, well, then they themselves must die! But are you capable of it?”—Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (via hollowstimulation)
“I am always trying to convey something that can’t be conveyed, to explain something which is inexplicable, to tell about something I have in my bones, something which can be expressed only in the bones.”—Franz Kafka (via lalablues)
O Satan, I acknowledge you as the Great Destroyer of the Universe. All that has been created you will corrupt and destroy. Exercise upon me all your rights. I spit on Christ’s redemption and to it I shall renounce. My life is yours Lord, let me be your herald and executioner. My actions shall lead other hearts away from salvation All shall acknowledge Your sacred royalty and crawl in terrified devotion.
Where is the book of truth, or the inheritance that’d enlighten me? No voice shall answer to my probe and throbbing prayers… But certainty and madness write in ashen letters
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works And by works was faith made perfect?
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.
“The essence of Revelation lies in the fact that it is the direct speech of god to man”