Sunday’s Sermon – “The Stranger”

Review – Looking for The Stranger Albert Camus and the Life of a Literary Classic

by Alice Kaplan University Of Chicago Press, 2016

Review by Bob Lane Mar 14th 2017 (Volume 21, Issue 11)

We are in the midst of an ongoing Camus renaissance, one traced by Matthew Sharpe in his book Camus, Philosophe: To Return to Our Beginnings to four causes: The publication in 1994 of Camus’ Le Premier Homme, a true literary event; the fall of Stalinism; the war on terror; and the decline of the hegemony of post-modernism and post-structuralism with academia. We are blessed with many recent books on Camus [Sharpe produces an exhaustive survey of the recent secondary literature on Camus, heavily footnoted and annotated] and his works have continued to be a resource for philosophical inquiry even as his literary works have continued to be read and written about — or responded to as in the case of Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation which considers the same killing on the beach but from the Arab victim’s point of view.

Read the review.

Sunday’s Sermon

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Who is the author? Regular readers of the Blog will recognize this quote from Albert Camus, who is one of Bob’s heroes. I just did a search for Camus on the Blog and this list will indicate the many times he has been written about here.

It was on January 4, 1960 that Camus was killed in a car crash.

His works live on though, and he continues to be relevant. Take a look at the list.

In January of 1960, a powerful sports car was traveling north in France towards Paris. Albert Camus was a passenger in the car. He had won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957 and had been called in the presentation speech “the conscience of the 20th century.” He had been an actor and an editor, a dramatist and a novelist, and was active in the underground resistance against the Nazis in World War II. He was forty-six years old and well known around the world. Camus was traveling to Paris with friends after spending the New Year holiday on his property in the south of France. It was raining. The car came out at one point on a straight, clear stretch of road. About midway it went off the road and rammed into a tree. Camus was killed. One newspaper at the time reported, “It was a dramatic end for the young writer who was a leader and interpreter of the philosophy of postwar France’s wild, young existentialist set.”

If the existentialist set in France was wild, this is hardly a charge that can be leveled against Camus. A more thoroughly earnest man it would be hard to find anywhere. And yet, his sudden senseless death there on the road lends support to one of the fundamental ideas of the existentialists movement: that life is absurd, senseless, that anything can happen to anyone at any time, without rhyme or reason; life is illogical; the only god is the god of chance; “Time and chance happeneth to all men,” as the preacher said many years ago. And yet, in his works Camus is stating, is demanding, that life has value without having meaning. In so doing he is rebelling against two things: on the one hand, nihilism, that is the belief in nothing; and on the other hand, the Christian concept of contemptus mundi, contempt for the world, which forces one to turn away from the living, present moment and to be concerned about some time in the future. ( Humanist in Canada, Lane)

End of sermon.

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Beckett

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David Kleinberg-Levin

Beckett’s Words: The Promise of Happiness in a Time of Mourning

David Kleinberg-Levin, Beckett’s Words: The Promise of Happiness in a Time of Mourning, Bloomsbury, 2015, 313pp., $29.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781474216838.

Reviewed by Gerald L. Bruns, University of Notre Dame

This book is the third volume in a trilogy in which David Kleinberg-Levin attempts to develop an unorthodox philosophy of hope, one derived from the reading of a number of twentieth-century literary texts — in other words, a philosophy that diverges from the politico-theological tradition represented by such canonical works as Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope (1938-47) and Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology (1964).[1] Levin does not engage these texts — instead his recurrent references are to Walter Benjamin’s secularized Messianism and T. W. Adorno’s critique of Enlightenment, from both of which he takes his starting point: namely that neither a theocracy nor a world administered according to the principles of reason can save us from the ongoing catastrophes of history. For Levin, as (in different ways) for Benjamin and Adorno, the experience of disaster (hence of mourning) is the paradoxical condition that makes hope possible, if only in the form of the memory (or imagination) of happiness, or maybe simply a semblance of momentary freedom from the world as we know it.

Why turn to literature in search of hope?

Read the review.

Albert Camus

Albert Camus, Nobel prize winner, half-length ...
Albert Camus, Nobel prize winner, half-length portrait, seated at desk, facing left, smoking cigarette (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Camus died in an auto accident 53 years ago. He had a profound influence on me.

*“For a generous psychology.

Notebooks 1951-1959

We help a person more by giving him a favorable image of himself than by constantly reminding him of his shortcomings. Each individual normally strives to resemble his best image. Can be applied to teaching, to history, to philosophy, to politics. We are for instance the result of twenty centuries of Christian imagery. For two thousand years man has been offered a humiliating image of himself. The result is obvious. Anyway, who can say what we should be if those twenty centuries had clung to the ancient ideal with its beautiful human face.”  – Albert Camus — Notebooks

In January of 1960, a powerful sports car was traveling north in France towards Paris. Albert Camus was a passenger in the car. He had won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957 and had been called in the presentation speech “the conscience of the 20th century.” He had been an actor and an editor, a dramatist and a novelist, and was active in the underground resistance against the Nazis in World War II. He was forty-six years old and well known around the world. Camus was traveling to Paris with friends after spending the New Year holiday on his property in the south of France. It was raining. The car came out at one point on a straight, clear stretch of road. About midway it went off the road and rammed into a tree. Camus was killed. One newspaper at the time reported, “It was a dramatic end for the young writer who was a leader and interpreter of the philosophy of postwar France’s wild, young existentialist set.”  read the review here.

* Camus’ Nobel speech

* The Boxer and the Goalkeeper – review by Christopher Bray

* The Outsider by Albert Camus – review by Lucian Robinson

* Interview with Camus – video

* ALBERT CAMUS: The Absurd Hero by Bob Lane

[This essay was originally published in Humanist in Canada, Winter 1984/85, Volume 17, Number 4. Copyright by Bob Lane 2012.]

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