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Who is Albert Camus?

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Albert Camus was born in Mondovi, Algeria in 1913. An author and philosopher, he was the second youngest winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, receiving the award in 1957. His writings and philosophies brought to the world the idea of Absurdism. His idea of the absurd was the human search for meaning and clarity within a world that offers no explanation of either.

In his early years, Albert Camus studied at the University of Algiers, but he contracted tuberculosis, which forced him to continue his studies part-time. In 1934, he joined the French Communist party, but soon found himself in trouble and was denounced as a Trotskyite. He married Simone Hie, a morphine addict, in the same year. The marriage soon broke down due to infidelities on both sides.

Throughout his life, Albert Camus was always a political activist. He spent his whole life strongly objecting to capital punishment. During the war, he joined the French Resistance group Combat and wrote for an underground paper of the same name. In 1943, Albert Camus became the paper’s editor, and when the allies liberated Paris, Camus was to report on the last of the fighting. It was during his time at the paper that he became acquainted with the existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre.

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In 1947, Albert Camus toured America lecturing on French existentialism. His strong views against communism alienated him from the Communist party and eventually from Sartre. His book The Rebel, published in 1951, was an analysis of revolution and rebellion which clarified his stance against communism.

In 1940, Albert Camus married Francine Faure, a mathematician and pianist. Camus argued passionately against the institution of marriage, claiming it to be unnatural. Although he loved Francine and had twins with her, he continued to tell friends that he was not cut out for marriage. Camus had many affairs, including a very public one with the Spanish actress Maria Casares.

Although he rejected the title of "existentialist writer," Albert Camus also disliked the title of "philosopher of the absurd" with which he was tagged. Camus’ writings reflect on the experience of the absurd, rather than trying to define the philosophy. In 1942, he published L’Etranger (The Stranger/Outsider), his most well known story of a man living an absurd life.

Camus’ philosophies of the absurd deal with the ideas of dualism; life and death, happiness and sadness, dark and light, and so on. He brings to the reader's attention that happiness is short and death is inevitable. His goal is not to be morbid, but to stress that people should enjoy happiness while it lasts. In Le Mythe, dualism is a paradox. We can live with the dualism of happiness and unhappiness, but we cannot live with the paradox of thinking that our lives are at the same time very important and also very meaningless.

Albert Camus died in a car accident three years after receiving the Nobel Prize for literature. Earlier in his life, he had said that the most absurd way to die was to be killed in a car crash. Two of Camus’ works were published after his death, A Happy Death in 1970, and the unfinished The First Man in 1995.

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