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Although countless books have been written on Albert Camus, critical monographs devoted to portraits of women in his works are extremely limited in number. To date, only two books have appeared on the subject: Anthony Rizzuto's Camus: Love and Sexuality and Geraldine Montgomery's Noces pour femme seule: le féminin et le sacré dans l'oeuvre d'Albert Camus (Nuptials for Woman Alone: the Feminine and the Sacred in the Work of Albert Camus). Nevertheless, a number of articles have been devoted to the feminine, and especially the maternal, in Camus's fiction and theatre. With the posthumous publication of Le Premier Homme in March 1994, considerable attention has once again focussed on the mother figure in his work, associated, more than ever, with Camus's beloved homeland, Algeria.
The mother figure is central to Camus's work, even when she is more absent than present, as in L'Etranger. In fact, a number of absent women haunt Camus's fiction: Rieux's wife in La Peste and the woman on the bridge in La Chute, to cite but two examples. As for supposedly secondary characters like Marie and even more so the Arab nurse in L'Etranger, they are anything but minor figures. Camus himself remarked in 1959 that the characters dearest to him were, along with Céleste, the café-owner in L'Etranger, Marie and, from Les Justes, Dora (Ess, 1922). With respect to the nurse, whom very few critics have considered, Patrick McCarthy devotes an eloquent albeit brief essay to this woman - watching over the French-Algerian dead - who, in her association with Meursault's mother, already foreshadows the psychoanalytical and political dimension that will characterise the second part of the novel.
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