Albert Camus: The Madness of Sincerity

Like most, my introduction to Albert Camus many years back was via the translated ‘L’Étranger‘ (The Stranger/The Outsider.1942). At that time, and probably more so on re-reads, it became less a parable of the absurd and the existential, and more of a beautiful, fully realized, hallucinatory depiction of living in that heat soaked, summer crazed place. ‘Meursault’, the anarchistic anti-hero, had and still has huge appeal, and is afflicted by what Camus called ‘the madness of sincerity’, a character distinguished by never wanting to say more than he feels. Camus remains one of the most influential writers of the last century, yet the man himself was somewhat of an enigma. In trying to put together the Camus puzzle in 1997, Phares & Balises, the BBC & ARTE came together to actualize this bio-film on Camus, by way of attempting to retrace his life, work and travels. The five women in Camus’ life (who were closest to him) take us on a journey through his times and their recollections interweave through the three chapters Camus himself outlined as the signposts of his literary intentions – the Absurd, Revolt and Happiness.  The film focuses on three of his most essential works – The Stranger, The Fall (‘La Chute’, 1956) and The First Man (‘Le premier homme’, published posthumously in 1995), and returns to the places where they were written – Algeria, Paris and Provence. From his birth in impoverished, working class French Algeria, his early fame (the youngest French writer to win the Nobel Prize), through to his premature death at the age of forty seven, we do come away with a sense of Camus, the impenetrable one. But more than anything else, what I find most resonant through Camus’ ‘being’, is the fact that he was a man of compassion – profound compassion controlled by a tenacious rationality. His abhorrence for the atrocities of warfare, violence and torture, hold very significant lessons for our times.

Albert Camus - The Madness of Sincerity


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