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Albert Camus: Biography, Novels & Short Stories

Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
This lesson discusses the life and work of Nobel Prize-winning author Albert Camus, particularly his most famous work, The Stranger.

Who Was Albert Camus?

If you've ever felt the need to question the purpose of something, then you will most likely understand the need to question the meaning of life, which is integral to the writings of Albert Camus. Yet, whereas you have a sense of worth to life, whatever that may be, Camus would try to dissuade you from that line of thought. Born in Algeria when it was still under the control of the French in 1913, Camus actually came very close to playing soccer rather than writing. After catching tuberculosis at a young age, however, he turned his attention to writing and theater. Ultimately, this would lead to his interest in philosophy.

During World War II, he served in the French Resistance alongside another philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre. It wasn't his wartime service, however, that made Camus so well known in literary circles. It was instead his novels and short stories. He would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature before dying in an automobile accident in 1960 at the age of 46.

Albert Camus
Albert Camus

Novels

Camus' works were especially known for exploring the absurdity of life. In fact, absurdism is what he called his own philosophical outlook. Although both he and Sartre are often referred to as ''existentialists,'' Camus chose to reject this title. Two of his novels in particular deserve special mention:

Published during World War II, L'Etranger, often translated as either The Stranger or The Outsider, tells the story of Meursault, someone who has truly become detached from society. He doesn't weep at his mother's death, and actually starts dating an acquaintance the day after his mother's funeral. In the ensuing weeks, Meursault kills an Arab, shows no remorse, and only comments on the hot weather. Ultimately, he is sentenced to die not because he is guilty of killing, but more because he is not willing to show emotion.

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