“The curtain of habits, the comfortable loom of words and gestures in which the heart drowses, slowly rises, finally to reveal anxiety’s pallid visage. Man is face to face with himself: I defy him to be happy…” — Albert Camus, Death in the Soul
A collection of short essays by Camus, my favourites being the lyrical essays at the beginning of the book. They were mostly autobiographical, depicting Camus’ time in Algeria and also his observations in the countries he visited.
Camus writes lovely essays about his travels and his time spent in Algeria. It’s evident how much he loved Algeria:
“No, you must certainly not go there if you have a lukewarm heart or if your soul is weak and weary! But for those who know what it is to be torn between yes and no, between noon and midnight, between revolt and love, and for those who love funeral pyres along the shore, a flame lies waiting in Algeria.” – “A Short Guide to Towns Without a Past”
“We enter a blue and yellow world and are welcomed by the pungent, odorous sigh of the Algerian summer earth. Everywhere, pinkish bougainvillea hangs over villa walls; in the gardens the hibiscus are still pale red, and there is a profusion of tea roses thick as cream, with delicate borders of long, blue iris.” – Nuptials at Tipasa
The critical half consisted more of critiquing famous French literature, such as Sartre, that I hadn’t read and for that reason couldn’t fully appreciate.
The book ends with a few interviews which made it clear that Camus denied being an existentialist.
Camus was definitely a thinker. Though I didn’t agree with all his observations and thoughts, this was a fascinating collection all the same. I also noticed the essays covered a lot of themes explored in “The First Man”, Camus’ autobiography. Definitely a must for fans of the literary essay.