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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2007

1 - Camus: a life lived in critical times


The life of Albert Camus (1913-60) was profoundly affected by the three major tragedies which dominate the history of twentieth-century France: the Great War (1914-18), World War II (1939-45) and the Algerian War of Independence (1954-62). It is unusual that Camus's destiny should have been so closely bound up with that of metropolitan France. As a French petit colon born in Algeria, he spent most of his life outside France. It was not until he was in his late thirties that, as a celebrated writer, Camus settled in France permanently. After the very successful publication of La Peste in 1947, he was able to set up house in the sixth arrondissement in Paris, near the premises of his editor, Gallimard.

Camus was born on 7 November 1913, on the eve of the First World War, in the little village of Mondovi near Constantine, one of the major cities of what was then French Algeria. His mother was of Spanish origin, his father a so-called pied-noir, a Frenchman born in the colony and whose family had lived there for several generations. In his last and unfinished work, the autobiographical novel Le Premier Homme, Camus claims that his forebears had fled from Alsace after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1. According to Camus's biographer Olivier Todd, however, the Camus family came from the Bordeaux region in the south-west of France. This would make it more probable that it was economic rather than political reasons that led them to try their fortune in Algeria.

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The Cambridge Companion to Camus
  • Online ISBN: 9781139001397
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