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BACKGROUND INFORMATION - BIOGRAPHY
Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, at Mondovi in Algiers. His father, Lucien Camus, was killed in 1914 during World War I. His mother, who was deaf, sullen, and poor, struggled to raise her two young sons. As a result, Camusí childhood was not a happy one. Once he started school, Camus spent as much time away from home as possible, playing athletics, studying, and working part-time. After graduating from high school, he entered the University of Algiers to study philosophy. In 1930, while a student at the university, Camus contracted tuberculosis, a disease from which he would suffer from time to time throughout his life.
Because of finances, Camus (like Mersault, the protagonist of The Stranger) was forced to discontinue his studies and go to work. Between 1930 and 1935, he held various jobs as a police clerk, a salesman, and a meteorologist. During this period, he also married and divorced. In addition, he joined and then left the Communist party. In 1935, he founded the Workersí Theater, which performed plays in Algiers for the working class. Then in 1936, he finally completed his degree, graduating from the University of Algiers.
Before the Workersí Theater closed in 1939, Camus had begun to devote himself to his literary career, writing book reviews and essays for periodicals. His first book was a collection of essays entitled Betwixt and Between; the essays deal with manís isolation in the world and the finality and absurdity of death. Camus also became an outspoken critic of the French governmental control of Algeria, which made him unpopular with the French leadership. As a result, he had trouble finding a job in Algiers and went to live in Paris in 1940.
He went to work
as a journalist for the Paris-Soir, but his career was cut short by the
outbreak of World War II. As a result, he returned to live in North Africa, remarried,
and worked as a teacher in a private school. He also continued to write. In 1942,
he published The Stranger, his first novel. In the same year, he also published
"The Myth of Sisyphus," his most famous essay. He also returned to France
to commit himself to the Resistance Movement and edited a newspaper called Combat.
In 1944 and 1945, his plays, Le Malentendu (The Misunderstood) and Caligula were presented and considered significant productions in the Theater of the Absurd. In 1945, he toured the United States as a lecturer. Another novel, The Plague, was published in 1947 and became an immediate success with both the critics and the public. In 1949, Camus toured South America. Upon his return, he became gravely ill and went into isolation. After his recovery, he published a collection of essays entitled The Rebel (1951). Another novel, The Fall, appeared in 1956. In 1957, he published a collection of short stories, called The Exile and the Kingdom.
In 1957, at the age of 44, Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Two years later, in January of 1960, he was killed in an automobile accident. Despite his early death, he had made significant contributions as a novelist, playwright, moralist, and political theorist. Today he is remembered for his existential ideas and his concern over the alienation of man in an indifferent world.
The Stranger, published in 1942, captures the feeling of manís alienation in a cold, cruel world. After enduring the hardships of World War I, many European writers lost hope and began to ask philosophical questions about life. The existential writers, like Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, and Albert Camus, became to question manís very existence. Since they did not believe in God or an afterlife, they viewed life as largely meaningless, hopeless, and absurd. They judged that most of life was dull and monotonous and that nothing that man did on earth made a difference. These existential ideas are clearly developed in the character of Mersault.