Albert Camus: Algerian, French, or just … a foreigner?

Through his works and speeches, Albert Camus has always emphasized his sincere relationship with his native country, Algeria. But Camus died in 1960, two years before Algeria declared its independence. No one could say what his reaction would have been. “I owe Algeria not only the lessons of happiness, but also my lessons of suffering and unhappiness,” said the 1957 Nobel Prize winner in literature.

For the sake of a just island

Camus, a moderate leftist, has always said he has a very close relationship with Algeria, but the period of decolonization would put that relationship into question. Orphaned by his father at a young age, the boy from Belcourt [un cartier muncitoresc din Alger, numit în prezent Belouizdad, n.r.]whose mother was an illiterate maid, declared in December 1957, in Stockholm, to the students:

“I have been and remain a supporter of a just Algeria, in which the two peoples must live in peace and equality. I have said countless times that justice must be done for the Algerian people and that they must be given a system…totally democratic…

I have always condemned terrorism. I must also denounce the indiscriminate terrorism in the streets of Algiers, for example, which could one day strike my mother or my family. I believe in justice, but I will defend my mother in the face of this justice…”

This last sentence made him resent the Algerian Liberation Front. Unlike other European intellectuals who directly supported the struggle of the FLN, such as Germain Tillion, Frantz Fanon and Jean Genet, it was rejected by the Algerian nationalists during the Algerian war. However, the writer has always denounced the fate of the Algerians during colonialism.

As early as 1939, Camus, in a series of articles on republican Algeria, entitled “Misère de la Kabylie”, described the economic misery of Algerians, especially those in the mountains, and denounced “the general contempt in which the hapless colonizer keeps from this country” .

Later the combat journalist denounced the Setif events in 1945 and the torture of the French army. But if journalist Camus provokes an unjust colonial regime that led to injustice, he is not clearly claiming the idea of ​​the independence of the Algerian people.

Our only Nobel Prize

That is why, decades after his death, Camus continues to stir up controversy among the intelligentsia on both sides of the Mediterranean.

Albert Camus is often blamed for his separation from the Algerian people with whom he lived. In his fictional texts, especially The Stranger and the Plague, which took place in Algiers and Oran, respectively, it can be seen that the Arabs are absent. This is blamed on Camus, who It was said that he denied their existence, but if we want to try to understand the trans-existence of Algerians, we must ask ourselves the truth of that time. There is a boundary between them. Camus’ texts correspond perfectly to what was happening at the time,” Algerian writer Mayssa Bey told L’Obs newspaper in 2009.

Camus was initially rejected by the Algerian intellectuals of the time, and later reintegrated into the new generation, such as Yasmina Khadra, Boualem Sensal and Kamel Daoud.

“Kamo was a loyal man,” says Yasmina Khadra in Lopes newspaper. But at no time did the Algerians succeed in putting Camus so clearly. Then he came back … he could not choose, he stuck to this Algeria. Like a man sunk in a shipwreck, he had only one shore: for this country to remain as it had always been for him.

I love this country terribly. He was willing to make any sacrifice. Even to the point of sacrificing his soul for his Algeria. I have always said that a writer should not interfere anywhere other than his text. Camus, when he writes, is a god. We continue to love him. He is a great writer of Algerian origin. He’s our only Nobel Prize winner…”

Arat Kateb Yassin

For his part, Boualem Sensal says: “He floated his appreciation for the Algerian people, the fact that he did not express his sympathy in a clearer and more direct way. I think he made this choice because of his guilt..

Camo rupture. He noticed the existence of colonialism denounced. At that time, the emergency situation was incredibly complicated. Everyone was asking questions, even Camus. We had to pay attention to what was being said. As someone who lives in Algeria today, I have the same reluctance to speak out. Undoubtedly for fear of insulting feelings. Camus was loved by some, hated by others, and he was in a position to give up his word.

From this period, of course, clashes with Kateb Yassin. The two writers joined the Algerian Communist Party and wrote columns for the newspaper Algiers Al-Jumhuriya.

Although the two men’s political commitments were undoubtedly close, Kateb Yacine was in favor of the country’s liberation, while Camus supported the “right” of French Algeria with all its “sons”.

In terms of ideas and political commitment, writer Yassin Kamo from 1956-1957 argued:

“I prefer Faulkner’s creative violence over Camus’ morality. In Camus’s novels, there are no Algerians. In August Light, the hero, Christmas, a black man. However, both Camus and Faulkner were in the wrong attitude toward ‘the country he lived in.'” But Faulkner cried. He struggled. He made his country’s people live, and his hatred of blacks was not far from love. There is no such thing in Camus’s work, and it is a sin, Kateb Yassin wrote in a letter to a student in 1968.

Camus took a lot of blame for avoiding the independence issue. We can imagine that if he had known independence he would have loved it. We will never know. I see him first and foremost as a writer from Algiers, the cosmopolitan city. Even. When he left, he always thought of Algiers, the city he remembers.

As a writer from French Algeria and a writer who grew up in Algeria, it is difficult to separate the two terms. It is clear, from the outside, that when he was awarded the Nobel Prize, he was a French writer. When he makes his speech, he honors the school of the French Republic,” said Hugo Honoré, head of the publishing department of the culture department at Agence France-Presse.

A “Rehabilitation of French Algeria”

In 2010, fifty years after Camus’ death, Algerian intellectuals opposed, through a petition, the passage of “Albert Camus’s Caravan” through eight cities in Algeria. The initiative of this honor belongs to the Algerian Cultural Center in Paris.

The signatories denounced the “rehabilitation of the discourse of French Algeria” by honoring the author of the book The Angry Man. From 1937 to 1939, Camus did not cease to demand charitable measures to pull the rug out from under the feet of the Nationalists, culminating in the coverage of the Messali El-Hajj trial in 1939. In 1945, he remained silent. [făcând aluzie la masacrele de la Sétif, Guelma și Kherrata din 8 mai 1945]The signatories accuse.

Albert Camus wrote: “I loved passionately this land in which I was born, and drew from it all that I am, and I have not separated in my friendship any of the people who live there …”.

Translated by Sparrows of our club after the article was published rfi.fr

Editor: Urban Georgescu

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