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A Camus Notebook 1942

French Existentialist Writer/Philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960)

I have been Reading Albert Camus’ Notebooks 1942-1951 from which I have excerpted the following selections from the year 1942. Even a fragmentary work by such a great writer is well worth the effort. I keep thinking of Blaise Pascal, whose Pensées have been a major part of my life since high school.

Secret of my universe: Imagining God without human immortality.

Capital punishment. The criminal is killed because the crime has spent all the capacity for living a man has. He has experienced everything if he has killed. He can die. Murder drains a man.

“What am I thinking that is greater than I and that I experience without being able to define it? A sort of arduous progress toward a theory of negation—a heroism without God—man alone, in short.”

Nostalgia for the life of others. This is because, seen from the outside, another’s life forms a unit. Whereas ours, seen from the inside, seems broken up. We are still chasing after an illusion of unity.

Solitary arrivals at night in strange cities—that sensation of stifling, being transcended by an organism a thousand times more complex. It is enough to locate the main street on the morrow, everything falls into place in relation to it, and we settle in. Collect memories of night arrivals in strange cities, live on the power of those unknown hotel rooms.

Novel. Beside the dying body of the woman he loves: “I can’t, I can’t let you die. For I know that I shall forget you. Hence I’ll lose everything and I want to keep you on this side of the world, the only one where I am capable of embracing you, etc., etc.”
She: “Oh, it’s a dreadful thing to die knowing one will be forgotten.”
Always see an express at the same time the two aspects.

Sexual life was given to man to distract him perhaps from his true path. It’s his opium. With it everything falls asleep. Outside it, things resume life. At the same time chastity kills the species, which is perhaps the truth.

Wuthering Heights, one of the greatest love novels because it ends in failure and revolt—I mean in death without hope. The main character is the devil. Such a love can be maintained only through the ultimate failure that is death. It can continue only in hell.

Living with one’s passions amounts to living with one’s sufferings, which are the counterpoise, the corrective, the balance, and the price. When a man has learned—and not on paper—how to remain alone with his suffering, how to overcome his longing to flee, the illusion that others may share, then he has little left to learn.