Saturday, December 10, 2016



( Photo Albert Camus being interviewed after he received the Nobel prize).

 Camus stands erased  from his own  Algeria . His  name stands removed from Books . No Literature book mentions him. His works  are not sold in  book stalls  and no Library stores them .  No  memorial and nothing to make you feel that this great writer was born and brought up in this country that he proudly claimed his own and that he loved intensely. And  apart from the terrorism , Camus is the only   reason for any  outsider to remember Algeria. Camus can be described as the  real ambassador of that  country in the entire world .

Catherine , daughter of Albert Camus   informs this:-

“ Camus is regarded as a colonist and that is what is taught in Schools.”

 Camus belonged to an extremely poor family of French immigrants. His mother worked as maid and house cleaner . His father died of a  gun wound in world war I. Prior to that , he  worked   as an  unskilled labourer in a vineyard . The family lived  with  working class Arabs  . 
There is a select group of writers (   with marginal voice ) who feel about this  disservice to a person who should otherwise have been a national hero. A person who presented Algeria to the world . A person who earned Nobel prize essentially for two books    “ Outsider” and  “Plague “ , both  set  and written   with  Algeria in the  Background. Algeria is the country that comes up in his works when he writes about sunshine , sea breeze, beaches , swimming  , rocks , date palms ,  blue water  of the Mediterranean  Sea , hills   and soccer . 

He obtained a degree in philosophy from University of Algiers in 1936 and    in 1938, he joined  as  reporter for ”Algerian Republic” . During that period , Camus   truthfully  covered  murder trials , famines and neglect of  locals or Arabs by French rulers/ colonists . For those , quite often,he    faced  the wrath of the establishment .  As a result of this anti establishment stance ,   the newspaper was   shut down and  Camus  blacklisted .

Tipasa ( In Algeria ) has  been mentioned in great detail by Camus.  About this place ,He wrote :-

“ In springtime , gods dwell in Tipasa . They speak through the sun , wormwood perfume , the sea in its silver armour  and the great bubbles of light in piles of rocks “

Camus’s  loud  anthem of existentialism  that  a reader comes across in  “Outsider “was also born in Algerian landscape . So was his Metaphor “ Benign Indifference of the Universe"  ,  a  mystical  product of Algerian landscape. 

It is only on  an Algerian sea beach   and under the blazing sun,  Meursault  ,  the hero   in  his novel  Outsider  , fires four shots  from the  gun to “ Destroy the Balance of the day"  and give four sharp knocks at the door of unhappiness. 

Again his masterpiece, " Plague " is set and written against the background of Oran , a coastal town of Algeria .This philosophical work is written in the background of a devastating plague that visited  this town in 1849 following French colonization. Through this work ,  Camus addresses the collective response to  a catastrophe and  goes on to test the tension between individual self-interest and social responsibility.

In a way ,  It is difficult to  look at   Camus’s  works without Algerian landscape.

It was again   Oran ( Algeria )  where  Camus met   Francine , han accomplished pianist whom he later married. They set up a home in Oran and lived there for some time.

The Algerian War of  Independence(  started in 1954) , created many issues for camus who had always  considered himself  Algerian.  At that time , one million French citizens lived in Algeria, three-quarters of them born there. He was a supporter  of the then Arab leader Farhat Abbas .

Camus was always sympathetic to Arab cause. He possibly got wrongly  identified with Pied Noirs ( black foot ) , a name given to French settlers  after Algeria was conquered by France  in 19th century .For his Algeria , he always sought a middle path from French  Government . He was always supportive of an ideology that ensured   peaceful coexistence  and sanctity of life .Though he  refused to support killings, violence and  gun culture of Algerian freedom fighters , he always intervened and saved the lives of many Arabs put in Jail. As an established and influential writer ,  Camus  raised his powerful  voice against death penalty    .  

About the violence that killed so many people  he wrote ;

“ Many of my young Arab brothers are planting bombs in tramways . May be my mother is on  that  tramway, if  you feel that is  justice , then I am with my mother.”

In the din and bloodshed  of  present  turmoil   and fighting between Islamic Militant groups and the  Government  forces in Algeria ,  memory of Camus is no priority for any person  .  And   terrorism in Algeria can not be the sole reason for Camus’s neglect. It happened much before .

Yes there is a  residual  trace of Camus in Algeria ; an old   tombstone monument near Tipasa sea  that was erected by  his friends  after he  died in the car accident in 1960. Alas ! This residual trace has also been defaced and vandalized .  The Inscription put by his friends has also withered away by sea winds , dust and  abandon. It is not visible any more. 

 For  all the  Algerians , he always   remained a    sympathiser and  a well wisher .  And he rightly wrote :

“ Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

 ( Avtar Mota )

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