The Outsider

By Albert Camus


Albert Camus (1913-1960) was born in Algiers to an illiterate mother and a father who was to die just a year after his birth, in the Battle of the Marne. His childhood was subsequently poor though not unhappy; for Camus, poverty was a means to focusing his view of existence. He believed the misery and the happiness of human life stood out more clearly against a stark setting. In 1923 he went to Algiers to study philosophy where he was influenced by the humanism of Jean Grenier and the pessimism of Nietszche and Schopenhauer. From these he began his search for salvation in a meaningless world. At 17, he was viciously attacked by TB, an illness which was to recur and to lead him to develop a strong sense of the necessity for self- domination and control, and above all over death. Rejected from military service, he went to Paris where he was a member of the communist party for several years and worked on the newspaper Paris Soir. His play Caligula appeared in 1939 and first two novels, The Outsider and the long essay The myth of Sisyphus were published in 1942 bringing him sudden fame. In 1941, with the Occupation of France, Camus became one of the intellectual leaders of the French Resistance, editing and contributing to the magazine Combat which he had also helped to found. His later novels, The Plague (1947), The Just (1949) and The Fall (1956) established his international reputation and in 1957 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Throughout the 1950s he renewed his interest in the theatre only to be tragically killed in a road accident in 1960. His last and unfinished novel, The First Man, appeared in 1994 to widespread critical acclaim. Sartre paid tribute to him in his obituary notice, "Camus could never cease to be one of the principal forces in our cultural domain, nor to represent, in his own way, the history of France and of this century".