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Losing the Light

Michael Wood: Memories of Camus, 19 August 2010

by Albert Camus.
Gallimard, 192 pp., €18.50, February 2010, 978 2 07 012927 0
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Albert CamusSolitaire et Solidaire 
by Catherine Camus.
Lafon, 208 pp., £39.90, December 2009, 978 2 7499 1087 1
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Albert CamusElements of a Life 
by Robert Zaretsky.
Cornell, 200 pp., £16.50, March 2010, 978 0 8014 4805 8
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Albert CamusFils d’Alger 
by Alain Vircondelet.
Fayard, 396 pp., €19.90, January 2010, 978 2 213 63844 7
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... The last piece in L’Eté, a collection of Camus’s essays first published in 1954, ends on a characteristic note of risk and grandeur: ‘I have always had the impression of living on the high seas, threatened, at the heart of a royal happiness.’ The high seas and the happiness frame and reduce the threat, perhaps even make it part of the glamour, part of the flourish ...

Something Royal

John Sturrock, 8 September 1994

Le Premier homme 
by Albert Camus.
Gallimard, 331 pp., frs 110, April 1994, 2 07 073827 2
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... It is all but thirty-five years since Albert Camus was killed, when the Facel Vega sports car in which he was a passenger went off the road between Sens and Paris. Among his things was found Le Premier homme, the manuscript he had been working on for nearly a year at the time of the accident and on which there was still some way to go ...

On holiday

Amit Chaudhuri, 21 July 1994

The Harafish 
by Naguib Mahfouz, translated by Catherine Cobham.
Doubleday, 406 pp., £15.99, June 1994, 0 385 40362 3
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... an avid reader, he has been influenced by many Western writers, including Flaubert, Balzac, Zola, Camus, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and, above all, Proust.’ A quote on the jacket from Edward Said, writing for the London Review of Books, says: ‘He is not only a Hugo and a Dickens, but also a Galsworthy, a Mann, a Zola, and a Jules Romains.’ While this may be ...

At the Crime Scene

Adam Shatz: Robbe-Grillet’s Bad Thoughts, 31 July 2014

A Sentimental Novel 
by Alain Robbe-Grillet, translated by D.E. Brooke.
Dalkey Archive, 142 pp., £9.50, April 2014, 978 1 62897 006 7
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... the world meant something, and that it was the job of the writer to reveal its meaning; so did Camus, the philosopher of the absurd. ‘The world is neither significant nor absurd. It is, quite simply,’ Robbe-Grillet wrote in a passage with Heideggerian undertones. ‘That, in any case, is the most remarkable thing about it.’ The task was to liberate ...

Raging towards Utopia

Neal Ascherson: Koestler, 22 April 2010

Koestler: The Indispensable Intellectual 
by Michael Scammell.
Faber, 689 pp., £25, February 2010, 978 0 571 13853 1
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... Watched from a safe distance, Arthur Koestler’s life was like a Catherine-wheel breaking free from its stake. Leaping and spinning and scattering crowds, emitting fountains of alarming flares and sparks as it bounded in and out of public squares and unexpected back gardens, flinging dazzling light into dim minds, Koestler’s career left scorch marks and illuminations across the 20th century ...

Always on Top

Edward Said: From Birmingham to Jamaica, 20 March 2003

Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830-67 
by Catherine Hall.
Polity, 556 pp., £60, April 2002, 0 7456 1820 0
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... astonishing reversal of Conor Cruise O’Brien, who wrote the first really devastating critique of Camus as an accomplice of French colonialism in Algeria, and then a few years later enlisted as a defender of Menachem Begin’s Israel, Ulster Unionism and South African apartheid? Gérard Chaliand performed a similar about-face in Paris. Then there are the many ...

Mon Charabia

Olivier Todd: Bad Duras, 4 March 1999

Marguerite Duras 
by Laure Adler.
Gallimard, 627 pp., frs 155, August 1998, 2 07 074523 6
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No More 
by Marguerite Duras.
Seven Stories, 203 pp., £10.99, November 1998, 1 888363 65 7
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... rich and much older lover, and later cropped up in at least two pieces of fiction and a film with Catherine Deneuve. As Adler puts it, ‘Marguerite was on sale’ to Leo the Chinaman; in French it sounds better: ‘Marguerite était à vendre.’ The girl was her mother’s property. (Years later, Duras, a taker rather than a giver, would turn her lovers ...

The earth had need of me

Joanna Biggs: A nice girl like Simone, 16 April 2020

Becoming Beauvoir: A Life 
by Kate Kirkpatrick.
Bloomsbury, 476 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 1 350 04717 4
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Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me, a Memoir 
by Deirdre Bair.
Atlantic, 347 pp., £18.99, February 2020, 978 1 78649 265 4
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Diary of a Philosophy Student, Vol. II: 1928-29 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Barbara Klaw.
Illinois, 374 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 0 252 04254 6
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... a cinema queue with Violette Leduc, or sitting on the snowy kerbside at two in the morning while Camus ‘meditated pathetically’ on love. Beauvoir and Sartre set up a journal, Les Temps modernes (named for the Chaplin movie), with Michel Leiris, Merleau-Ponty and Raymond Aron on the editorial committee, and she went to the Ministry of Information to beg ...

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