Albert Camus, French novelist and dramatist, was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature. Although he is generally thought of as being French, he was actually born in Algeria into a French ‘pied-noir‘ settler family. His father was French, his mother was of Spanish descent. His father having died when he was barely one year old.
Camus grew up in poverty in the proletarian neighbourhood of Belcourt in Algiers. His natural talent was spotted by teacher Louis Germain who helped the young Camus win a high school scholarship.
Camus would later dedicate his 1957 Nobel Prize acceptance speech to Germain.
While at school Camus developed a love of football and played well in goal. He wanted to play professionally but tuberculosis, a disease that would plague him for life, ended these dreams.
He took odd jobs including private tutor, car parts clerk and work for the Meteorological Institute.
He completed his Licence de philosophie (BA) in 1935; in May of 1936, he successfully presented his thesis on Plotinus, Néo-Platonisme et Pensée Chrétienne for his Diplôme d’études supérieures (roughly equivalent to an M. A. by thesis).
Not only did Camus’ mother hail from Spain, but from the Balearic Islands, and from Menorca in particular. Apparently, Camus visited Menorca to connect with his mother’s and grandmother’s roots, the grandmother also being Menorcan. Camus also visited Mallorca, where he met his first wife, Simone Hié, then a morphine addict. His stay in Palma is told in the chapter Love of Life from his book The Wrong Side and the Right Side.
In the 1950s Camus devoted his efforts to human rights. In 1952 he resigned from his work for UNESCO when the UN accepted Spain as a member under the leadership of General Franco. In 1953, he criticized Soviet methods to crush a workers’ strike in East Berlin. In 1956, he protested against similar methods in Poland (protests in Poznań) and the Soviet repression of the Hungarian revolution in October.
He maintained his pacifism and resistance to capital punishment anywhere in the world. One of his most significant contributions to the movement against capital punishment was an essay collaboration with Arthur Koestler, the writer, intellectual and founder of the League Against Capital Punishment.
In 1957, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, officially not for his novel The Fall, published the previous year, but for his writings against capital punishment in the essay Réflexions Sur la Guillotine. When he spoke to students at the University of Stockholm, he defended his apparent inactivity in the French/Algerian conflict and stated that he was worried about what could happen to his mother who still lived in Algeria. This led to further ostracism by French left-wing intellectuals.
Camus is also the shortest-lived of any literature Nobel laureate to date, having died in a car crash only three years after receiving the award.
Camus was interred in the cemetery at Lourmarin, Vaucluse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France .
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