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200 × 130 mm
216 pages
28 illustrations
28 Jul 2015
Critical Lives

Albert Camus Edward J. Hughes

One of France’s most high-profile writers, Albert Camus experienced both public adulation and acrimonious rejection during a career cut short by a fatal car accident in 1960. From humble origins in a European family living in colonial Algeria, Camus established himself as a successful novelist, with best-selling titles such as The Outsider and The Plague translated into scores of languages, earning him a reputation as a writer who captured the mood of the age. It was a world dominated, he reflected ruefully, by war and violence. The liberation of France towards the end of the Second World War saw him emerge as one of the country’s most prominent journalists at the newspaper Combat. But his subsequent position on the Cold War, where not unlike Orwell he distanced himself from those sympathetic to the Soviet Union, left him adrift from many on the Left in post-war metropolitan France. The worsening conflict in his native Algeria in the mid- to late-1950s accentuated his sense of alienation, as voices within France increasingly called into question the country’s role in North Africa. Camus reflected on ‘all the errors, contradictions and hesitations’ that had marked his involvement with Algeria but he remained viscerally linked to the place of his birth.

In Albert Camus Edward J. Hughes analyses the life of an author whose work and stance were the subject of both intense interest and scrutiny. ‘I do not guide anyone’ Camus was to plead in his last interview, thereby reinforcing the paradox of a leading figure who in private wrestled with the challenge of pursuing his craft as a writer in an age of pressing ideological conflict.

Winner of the Franco-British Society Literary Prize 2015

‘Though a latecomer to this literary and political tempest, Edward Hughes’s short book is nevertheless a welcome arrival . . . Hughes has written a concise and cogent account of Camus’s life and writings. Unlike many of his biographers, Hughes maintains an admirable critical distance from his subject. With his even language, his balanced summaries and mostly fair analyses, he avoids the appearance of parti pris . . . The territory Hughes covers is well travelled, yet he brings to light telling details and offers readings missed by many other biographers. . . . Clearly written and well researched, Edward Hughes’s book offers a solid introduction to Camus’s life and work.’ – TLS

‘Drawing extensively on correspondence, interviews, notebooks, news articles, and biographies, Hughes traces Camus’s life in detail, from his working-class upbringing in colonial Algeria through his rise to celebrity and untimely death . . . Those looking for a brief yet comprehensive biography will be pleased. Recommended.’ – Choice

‘Anguish and pessimism haunt this biography, but that is the unavoidable result of the biographer’s success in setting before the reader the portrait of a writer forced, as he acknowledged in a letter to Jean Grenier in 1959, to become “resigned to cohabiting with oneself ”’ – French Studies

‘an important addition to the Critical Lives series . . . The richness of this critical study lies very much in the shifting perspective on two countries – Algeria, the land of Camus’ birth on 7 November 1913, and France, where Camus died in a car crash on 4 January 1960, at the age of 46 . . . Hughes writes with a freshness of approach, with compassion for the subject, and makes us regret deeply the loss of a literary giant, an eternally young and youthful meritocrat, cut down in his prime.’ – Franco-British Society

‘La profondeur et le détail de l’analyse de Hughes, en conjonction avec son style d’écriture clair, fait de cette biographie un outil pertinent tout autant pour les spécialistes des recherches camusiennes que pour un lectorat grand public s’intéressant à Camus, à son oeuvre, ou aux questions sociales et éthiques qui ont dominé la majorité du vingtième siècle.’ – French Review

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Edward J. Hughes is Professor of French at Queen Mary, University of London. His books include Writing Marginality in Modern French Literature: from Loti to Genet (2001) and Proust, Class, and Nation (2011). He edited The Cambridge Companion to Camus (2007).