Archive for Albert Camus
I grew up in the sea and poverty was sumptuous, then I lost the sea and found all luxuries grey and poverty unbearable. Since then, I have been waiting. I wait for the homebound ships, the house of the waters, the limpidity of day. I wait patiently, am polite with all my strength. Men see me walk by in fine and learned streets. I admire landscapes, applaud like everyone else, shake hands, but it is not me speaking. Men praise me, I dream a little, they insult me, I scarcely show surprise. Then I forget, and smile at the man who insulted me, or am too courteous in greeting the person I love. What can I do if all I can remember is one image? Finally they call upon me to tell them who I am, ‘Nothing yet, nothing yet…’
–Albert Camus, from The Sea Close By, Philip Thody trans.
You doubtless need to spend a long time in Algiers to understand how desiccating an excess of nature’s blessings can be. There is nothing here for people seeking knowledge, education or self-improvement. This land contains no lessons. It neither promises nor reveals. It is content to give, but does so profusely. Everything here is revealed to the naked eye, and is known the very moment it is enjoyed. Its pleasures have no remedies and its joys remain without hope. What it demands are clear-sighted souls, that is to say those without consolation. It asks us to make an act of lucidity as we make an act of faith. Strange country, which gives the men it nourishes both their wretchedness and their greatness! It is not surprising that the sensual wealth heaped on the man of feeling in this country should coincide with the most extreme deprivation. There is no truth that does not carry its bitterness within itself. Why then should it be surprising if I never love the face of this country more than in the midst of its poorest inhabitants?
–Albert Camus, from Summer in Algiers, Philip Thody trans.
Deserts themselves have taken on meaning, have been overladen with poetry.
They have become sacred places for all the sufferings of this world.
But what the heart requires at certain moments is, on the contrary, a place without poetry.
To escape from poetry and rediscover the peacefulness of stones, we need other deserts, and other places with neither souls nor resting places.
Text by Albert Camus, The Minotaur or the Halt at Oran
Photos © Stephen Shore
Poverty, first of all, was never a misfortune for me: it was radiant with sunlight. Even my revolts were lit up by the sun. These revolts were almost always, I think I can say this in all honesty, revolts on everyone’s behalf, aimed at lifting up everybody’s life into the light. Quite possibly my heart was not naturally disposed to this kind of love. But circumstances helped me. To correct my natural indifference, I was placed half-way between poverty and the sun. Poverty prevented me from thinking that all is well under the sun and in history; the sun taught me that history is not everything. Change life, yes, but not the world which I worshipped as my God. It is thus, no doubt, that I embarked upon my present difficult career, stepping innocently on to a tightrope along which I now move painfully forward, unsure of ever reaching the end. In other words, I became an artist, if it is true to say that there is no art without refusal or consent.
–Albert Camus, from the preface to Betwixt and Between, Philip Thody trans.