King, Adele Camus (Writers & Critics S.)

ISBN 13: 9780050014233

Camus (Writers & Critics S.)

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9780050014233: Camus (Writers & Critics S.)

Camus’s works keep being rediscovered and set against a contemporary backdrop. While he is often said to be a writer of allegories and moral abstractions, his fiction and philosophical essays are, as this book aims to highlight, autobiographical in their origins and incidents. The Stranger is usually regarded as a classic, one of the few novels taught in schools and universities and found on most lists of the best modern novels. Born into a poor, uneducated family in Algeria, raised by an illiterate mother and tyrannized by his grandmother, he was expected to quit school at 14 and join the working class like his brother. Instead he went on to become one of the greatest French writers and a Nobel laureate. As a journalist he was an early defender of the rights of Muslims, a position which led him into conflict with the Communist Party, of which he was for a time a member. He felt himself neither entirely French nor solely Algerian, and believed that the Muslim and French communities should be able to live together. Less than three years after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957, at the age of 44, he died in an automobile accident.

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Review:

Adele King’s brief new biography, Albert Camus, joins a growing number of books published on or about Camus in the past few years. The biography is part of Haus Publishing’s Modern Library of Biography series. Although there is relatively little new information regarding Camus, King’s book is a wonderful addition to the growing ranks of commentary on the Nobel Prize–winning author. In 2000 Carroll & Graf published the English translation of Albert Camus: A Life, by Olivier Todd. Although the English translation was severely cut, Todd’s biography can be considered the official biography of Camus to date. For those of us who have read Todd’s biography, King offers a much-needed refresher course on Camus’s life and work. For those who may be looking for a biography on Camus, King’s book is a wonder- fully manageable place to begin. In fact, King’s biography proves to be an insightful companion to any simultaneous reading of Camus. Camus offers the reader a wealth of information in a relatively short time. King includes photographs, breakout descriptions of certain key people in Camus’s life adjacent to the text, as well as notes and a very useful index. But perhaps the most useful aspect of her biography, apart from the narrative itself, is the extensive reading list she supplies at the end of her book. She gives the reader a sampling of primary and secondary sources that are an invaluable resource for those interested in reading and researching Camus. The biographer always runs the risk of either exalting or damning his or her subject. It’s sometimes too easy to become caught up in the life of the subject, and this in turn renders the necessary objectivity for a biography difficult. King’s take on Camus is admirably objective. Yet she also very subtly injects her own views on Camus from time to time. Perhaps the strongest moment comes when she probes the criticism that Camus has historically come under regarding his treatment of Arabs in his fiction. King, quite rightly, argues that Camus’s fiction in fact rises above the criticism of scholars like Conor Cruise O’Brien and Edward Said without really mentioning them; and she does this without belittling that criticism. At the end of her book she states, “Camus the Algerian who lost his country seems increasingly sympathetic and a forerunner of many displaced by decolonization and independence movements.” The reader immediately picks up on her designation of Camus as “the Algerian,” a fact that is all too often lost on more than a few scholars. Adele King’s Albert Camus should be on the shelf of every home and college library. She provides her reader with a knowledgeable yet neutral voice and an easy, jargon-free prose that captures the essence of Camus without the least bit of pretension. (Andrew Martino World Literature Today 2010-12-01)

About the Author:

ADELE KING is Professor of French at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She is the author of monographs on Proust (1968), Camus (1971), Paul Nizan (1976), and more recently French Women Novelists: Defining a Female Style (1989) and Camus s L Etranger : Fifty Years On (1992).

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