Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Today would have been Albert Camus’s 100th birthday, which makes the scandal of his death a little less scandalous. That’s at least how his daughter, Catherine Camus, puts it. When in January 1960 her father died in a car accident at the age of 46, his brutal disappearance was like a sad, last chapter of the work of the one they called the master of the absurd.
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A few weeks ago, I had the chance to meet Catherine Camus. She and her twin brother Jean were 14, when their father died. It was shock, a kind of Tsunami, she says today, a wound that never will completely heal. Catherine is still living in the house Camus bought from his Nobel Prize money in the little village of Lourmarin, in South of France, together with four dogs and countless cats. Here, in his former office with a splendid view on Southern landscape, she is managing his work.
Camus’s 100th birthday, you might think, must be a huge event in France. But no, it’s not. The French always had a complicated relationship with this Algerian-born writer. He never really fitted into the Parisian circles of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He never forgot his origins and the extreme poverty he experienced. He somehow might have been too serious, too honest for the Paris show. Catherine explained, that neither the French government nor the cultural Ministry had planned to remember his father. Marseille had big plans for Camus when the city asked to become cultural Capital of Europe, but nothing is left. A huge exhibition failed for obscure reasons. All is left is a show in the library Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence. How does Catherine explain this? “The one who loves the power, can’t love Camus.”
After all those years, Camus is still a bestselling author. Every year, more than 160 000 copies of “The outsider” are sold in France. For Catherine this constant success is easy to explain: “It’s because my father not only wrote with his head, but also wrote with his heart and his flesh. He’s a hundred percent human. He never refuses contradictions, because contradictions are part of our lifes. And he was convinced that every human being is unique. That’s why his work still touches people’s hearts.”
When leaving Lourmarin, I had the impression to leave a friend behind. Catherine is such a warm and smart person, someone dealing honestly with her own injuries and as generous as her father was. She is convinced that there’s nothing in life being only bad. Even the hard things that might happen, the misfortunes or the cruel strokes of fate can give us a more profound vision of life. They make us more human.
And what does she recommend to read? His novels, the essays? “No matter what”, she says, “just read Camus, because he will sooth you, he makes you feel good”.