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Albert Camus: Elements of a Life Hardcover – January 5, 2010

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About the Author

Robert Zaretsky is Professor of French History in the Honors College of the University of Houston. He is author of several books, includingNimes at WarandCock and Bull Stories: Folco de Baroncelli and the Invention of the Camargue. Most recently, he is coauthor ofThe Philosophers' Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume and the Limits of Human Understanding.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801448050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801448058
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
That is from Albert Camus's speech in Stockholm upon being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. To me, it exemplifies the man.

For anyone interested in Albert Camus and his thinking, this is a very worthwhile book. It is NOT, however, a biography, as is alluded to by the word "elements" in its subtitle and as is expressly stated by author Zaretsky on the second page. (Just two indicia of how the book is not a biography: there is no mention whatsoever of Camus's first wife Simone Hié, nor is there any mention of his closest friend Michel Gallimard, who was driving the car that ran off the road into a tree taking the lives of both him and Camus). Instead, Zaretsky sets out to explore three different popular "ideas" or conceptions of Albert Camus: (a) the thinker who probed the notions of freedom and justice and how they might be reconcilable; (b) the "outsider" who wrote about exile, both from one's homeland and from a world overseen by a god; and (c) a 20th-Century guru of silence. Zaretsky traces the ways these ideas weave through four distinct episodes of Camus's life, which correspond to the four chapters of the book: (1) Camus's tenure as a journalist in Algeria in the late 1930s writing about the oppressed and impoverished conditions of the local Arabs; (2) his decision in 1945 to reverse his position on capital punishment as appropriate "justice" for the worst of the Nazi collaborators; (3) his famous quarrel with Jean-Paul Sartre over communism and whether, in politics, the (theoretical) ends justify the means; and (4) his self-imposed silence, beginning in 1956, over the war in Algeria.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Bill Hughes on May 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Every author in some degree portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will." - Goethe

One of Algeria's greatest sons, the late Albert Camus, is back where he rightfully belongs--center stage! Thanks to Elizabeth Hawes' delightful and vibrant book, "Camus, A Romance,"Camus, a Romance and Robert Zaretsky's scholarly and insightful tome, "Albert Camus: Elements of a Life." Camus, a talented writer and philosopher, has again risen from the literary ashes. His clarion call for "limits" in the pursuit of otherwise laudable causes; and for truth-telling in the realm of political injustice and social inequities, is as relevant today, as it was during his turbulent lifetime.

Camus was a French-Algerian. He was born in 1913, and raised in the city of Algiers, in a run-down neighborhood. His father, whose ancestral roots were French, was killed fighting in WWI for France against the Germans; while his mother, of Spanish stock, was half-deaf, uneducated and rarely spoke. Is the latter, the origin of the importance of "silence" in Camus' persona? Zaretsky thinks it played a relevant part and I agree with him.

Algeria, in Camus' days, was a French colony, although its Arab population, was in the majority. Life was hard for the budding writer and for his family, but for many of his Arab contemporaries, discrimination, starvation and illiteracy were often their lot.

When I was in high school, at Calvert Hall, a Christian Brother institution, in downtown Baltimore, I remember mostly counting the bricks on a wall located across the street, I was so terribly bored! One of the exceptions was in my "literature" class with Brother Gregory at the the helm.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any fan of Camus' writing will appreciate the way this small volume, and for that matter Robert Zaretsky's other works, sheds light on his thought.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Clearly written, cohesive and a helpful insight into the conflicts between Sartre and Camus, which as it turns out were fundamental.
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