He’s been gone six decades but after 2020, it feels like French literary great Albert Camus matters more than ever. The year began with tributes for the 60th anniversary of the French existentialist icon’s premature death in a car crash. Then came Covid-19. And readers locked down the world over dusted off that go-to guide, “The Plague”, to make sense of the randomly unexpected. We ask our panel about the re-reading of a novel set in Camus’s native Algeria in the wake of World War II. But it’s not just “The Plague” that is timeless.
In all of the Nobel literature laureate’s plays, essays and novels, protagonists struggle to understand where they belong in times of upheaval. Just look at today. We live in an age of alienation, identity politics, the loss of a sense of self. A bit like in “The Stranger” – also set in colonial Algeria.
What would Camus have made of 2020 and the age of digital discourse, where powered by tribal echo chambers, we judge and sometimes sentence our peers? When Covid-19 is long behind us, “The Fall” will still be worth re-reading. We tell you why.
Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Juliette Laurain and Imen Melllaz
Albert Camus delivered this lecture on “La Crise de l’homme” in 1946 at Columbia University, on his only trip to the United States. The lecture is presented here in English translation.
00:20 Introduction by Shanny Peer, Director of the Maison Française 05:35 Introduction by Alice Kaplan, Professor of Yale University 11:50 Reading of ‘The Human Crisis’ by Viggo Mortensen 56:50 Discussion with Viggo Mortensen, Alice Kaplan and Souleymane Bachir Diagne
On April 28, 2016 a reading by Viggo Mortensen of a speech by Albert Camus, and roundtable discussion with Viggo Mortensen, Alice Kaplan and Souleymane Bachir Diagne Albert Camus originally delivered this lecture on “La Crise de l’homme” on March 28, 1946, to a very full house at the McMillin Academic Theatre at Columbia University,
on his first and only trip to the United States. 70 years later, to celebrate Camus’s visit to New York and Columbia, his lecture will be delivered in a dramatic reading by the actor Viggo Mortensen, in a version newly translated into English by Alice Kaplan.
In the 1960s, French intellectuals and artists, Gérard Philipe Jean-Paul Sartre, flocked to Havana, fascinated by the Cuban revolution. For them, Fidel Castro, died on the night of Friday to Saturday, will incarnate “hope”, at least for a time.Fidel Castro arrived when Stalinism was beginning to decline in ideals. He embodied hope, as something salutary, “said Jean Daniel, co-founder of L’Observateur, which then journalist with L’Express, met with Cuban in 1963. When on 1 January 1959, on the balcony of Santiago city Hall Cuba, Castro proclaimed the “beginning of the Revolution,” it is not yet a Marxist. But it is undeniably left and represents a great hope to some intellectuals after the Stalinist debacle.