The final journals of Albert Camus were withheld from publication in France for twenty-nine years after his death in 1960, and are now published in English for the first time. His final journals offer a rare, intimate glimpse into the mind of one of the most important men of letters and authors of twentieth-century French literature. The first two volumes of the Camus Notebooks began as descriptions of the progress of his mind in regards to his writing; this final volume, recorded over his last nine years, is more a personal diary. As in the earlier Notebooks, the final volume includes reflections of Camus's greatest works: The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and his unfinished masterpiece, The First Man. His gorgeous travel descriptions, his political observations, and his philosophical musings are the most appealing features of these recorded thoughts. Notebooks 1951-1959 completes one of the most important sets of literary "working papers" of the twentieth century.
The French existentialist literary lion's belief that one writes as one lives suffuses these journals covering his last decade. Especially in the earlier years, these are very much working notebooks, full of undigested, fragmentary, sometimes cryptic raw material for later writings. Smoothly translated by Bloom, who teaches at the University of Maryland-Baltimore, the entries include thoughts on passages from Tolstoy, Dostoyevski, Emerson and Nietzsche; philosophical pens�es (Naturalness is not a virtue that one has: it is acquired); jotted ideas for novels and plays (Play: A happy man. And nobody can put up with him); and crumbs of surreal whimsy (A courageous cravat reads one entry in its entirety). Later entries become more diaristic, expansive and self-revealing. They include Camus's agonized ruminations on France's war with his native Algeria, letters attacking French intellectuals' Stalinist sympathies, observations on his wife's depression, an affecting homage to his ailing mother and elaborations on his project of rescuing humanism from ideology. The notebooks' atmospherics, like a Gaulois-hazed room, are serious and tinged with thoughts of suicide. But there are extended breaks in the angst--including luminous travelogues from sojourns in Greece--that reinforce Camus's stubborn determination to lead a meaningful life in an indifferent universe. (May 18)
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Ivan R. Dee
May 24, 2008
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