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(l to r) Producer Karen Holden, Catherine Camus, Andrew Hussey

Professor Andrew Hussey is presenting a forthcoming documentary about Albert Camus's seminal novel, L’Étranger (The Outsider).  

I first read Camus - The Outsider, of course - at the age of 16. I wasn't particularly interested in literature but I'd seen references to Camus in the New Musical Express, and that was enough to attract my attention. As soon I started reading the novel, I was gripped - not so much by the story (there isn't one really) but by the atmosphere: Algiers was a steamy city, sun, boredom and sex. And then the mystery of the killing of the Arab. It’s still a mystery and that's the whole point of the book.
 
Fair to say that Camus changed my life - I began to immerse myself in French literature, much to the surprise of my teachers, and began the journey, via various degrees and travels, that ended with me becoming a professor of French.

Camus has been with me every step of the way. Not just professionally. There is deep wisdom in Camus's philosophical writings that I have always turned to in difficult times. A wisdom and a nobility, too.

It has been an adventure tracing Camus back to Algeria - I have visited Algiers several times and noted how people's attitudes are now softening towards him - there is a new generation of Algerians who, rather than seeing Camus as the colonial enemy, see him as one of their own.

Most startling of all while making the programme was meeting his daughter Catherine Camus. Now in her sixties, she has her father's leonine features and soft eyes. She lives with a tribe of dogs in Camus's old house in Lourmarin. It was an extraordinary and very moving experience to be talking with Camus about her father in a garden overlooking the same landscape that Camus had loved ...

Albert Camus: Inside the Outsider will be broadcast on Radio 3 on Sunday 3rd November. Follow this link for full details.

Radio 3 Camus Weekend

 

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  • Comment number 2. Posted by John Thompson

    on 4 Nov 2013 14:33

    Thanks for revisiting Camus and especially The Outsider.The strange thing about the book is its hold on generations of young people and writers.There's a mystery that has never been explained.The character Meursault is enigma personified,from the opening about mother dying, where he forgets the date of death,her age,his lack of tears,and yet much time is giving to her death and funeral,to his seemingly cold-blooded despatch by bullet into the nameless Arab,as if driven by the sun’s heat.

    His inability to lie about his feelings,makes him seem passively to accept his fate.Heonly comes alive through the sense of impending death,where the intense feeling for the life of the senses, his girlfriend Marie,to whom he is unable to declare his love .Camus is able to juggle the complexity of the ideas in simple prose,he makes us sympathise with this character who blames the sun for the killing.Camus,himself reveals the complexity of feeling by the many meanings revealed by the title,his use of the expression ‘maman’,his atheistic love of life,with a religious undertow,whichappeals to those with religious inclinations.The meaning of the ‘absurd’to Camus,
    which he reveals by the operations of randomness and chance.

    The fact is Camus,who depicts the Arabs as shadowy,without real humanity,name or face,cared about integration and equality of Muslim and French Algerians,he also cared deeply about
    his mother,and placed her famously above ‘justice’ in the scheme of things.There has also been the notion that the French justice system would not have condemned a French Algerian or pieds noirs,if he was acting in self-defence.The ending is very positive as Meursault opens himself to the’ tender indifference of the universe’.

    Camus was not a politically committed writer(like Sartre),he wrote from a young age essays, plays and novels out of his experience of growing up in childhood poverty in Belcourt, which he depicts well and his feeling for the wealth of the sun-kissed beaches,the water,the beauty of the landscape of Algeria,as well as his awkwardness towards his illiterate mother,whom he could only talk to but not with his whole life.His star has risen as Sartre’s has fallen,he was the moralist and conscience of his age.Whereas Sartre was the patriarch,Camus was everyone’s brother,you surrender to his writing like he surrendered to women,in love with the sense of beauty and life.

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by Charlie

    on 30 Oct 2013 15:46

    Have you become an insider in your old age, Andrew? c;4)

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