Biography of Albert Camus

On November 7, 1913, Albert Camus was born in Mondovi, Algeria to Lucien Camus, whose family had settled in Algeria in 1871. Albert's father, a vineyard laborer and thus essentially part of the peasant class, was nevertheless a self-educated man. A year after Albert's birth, his father was mortally wounded in the Battle of the Marne during World War I. Albert's mother, Catherine Sintes, was an illiterate woman with Spanish roots who worked as a cleaner. Catherine Sintes moved her sons, Lucien and Albert, into her mother's apartment in the working-class Belcourt neighborhood of Algiers.

Camus grew up when the French education system was at its peak. He did very well in his classes, and was soon a proud and confident young Frenchman. Camus had a rough and poor childhood, but he enjoyed playing soccer, spending time in the sea and soaking up the Mediterranean sun. At the age of seventeen, however, he caught tuberculosis, which troubled him consistently for the rest of his life. Despite his illness he continued to lead an outdoor life. He was energetic and handsome, and was powerful charmer of women. His sickness prevented him from becoming a teacher, and also kept him out of the military. In many ways, however, he was very similar to his friends, such as Jean-Paul Satre, Arthur Koestler and Romain Gary. They chased women, drank and smoked to excess.

During the years of 1918-1923, Camus attended primary school and met Louis Germain, who acted as a father to the boy, helping him win a scholarship to high school. Thus, between the years of 1924-1930, Camus was a scholarship student at the University of Algiers. Following the onset of tuberculosis, Camus went on leave from school. He recommenced his studies later in 1930, and paid his way by working odd jobs as a tutor, a salesman of car parts, and a weather bureau worker. Camus lived at the home of his uncle, Gustave Acault, where he began exploring modern literature. During these years, he also met Jean Grenier, the man who introduced Camus to thinkers such as Nietzsche and Bergson. He and Grenier focused much of their writing on the duality of mortality. At the University of Algiers Camus received a degree in letters, and a master's in philosophy, and received his diplôme d'études supérieures in 1936. In the years between 1934-1936 he was married to Simone Hie, the daughter of a wealthy ophthalmologist.

Camus joined the Communist Party 1934 in response to the rise of fascism in Europe; he was entrusted with propaganda work among the Muslims. Camus' affiliation with the Communist party did not last long, however, and by 1935 his disillusionment had begun. He poured his energy into the theater group, Theatre du Travail, where he worked as an actor, director, and playwright. He formulated a philosophy of moralism that led to his ideas of the absurd, a state which he posits can only exist if God is absent.

Camus soon left Algiers to travel Central Europe. His marriage to Simone broke up due to her serious drug addiction. He was still able to produce his own play that year however, Revolt in Asturias. In 1937, Camus completed the book, A Happy Death, though it remained unpublished during his lifetime. However, Camus did publish the essay collection, The Wrong Side and the Right Side. He supported the Blum-Viollette legislation on mitigating social problems in Algeria and was expelled from the Communist Party. He then wrote a characteristic essay, Betwixt and Between. He continued to run his theater group, renamed the Theatre de l'Equipe, until 1938, producing the works of many renowned playwrights, such as Malraux, Gide, Synge, and Dostoevsky.

In 1938, Camus became a journalist at Alger-Republicain and met the influential Pascal Pia, who taught him the craft of journalism. His report on the unhappy state of the Muslims of the Kabylie region aroused the support of the Algerian government and brought him to the attention of the public. As World War II began, his essay collection Nuptials was published and he married Francine Faure in 1940. He found a teaching position in Oran. During this time he was a vocal, self-proclaimed pacifist. In March of that year he was advised to leave Algeria because he had become a "threat to national security." The same year, the Alger-Republicain was banned. Camus moved to Paris and worked at Paris-Soir. He also completed one of his most famous works, The Stranger. However, in 1941 he lost the Paris-Soir post and returned to Oran, Algeria where he wrote The Myth of Sisyphus. In 1942, illness forced him to return to France and convalesce in the Massif-Central region where he published The Stranger. He remained in Southern France because of the allied invasion of North Africa and was separated from his wife in Algeria until after the liberation in 1944. In the meantime, Camus moved to Paris where he was employed as an editor at the publishing house Gallimard. During 1943, he joined the French Resistance and became a journalist at the resistance newspaper, Combat. He also wrote a series of Letters to a German Friend. As the country was liberated in 1944, Camus came into contact with many of the figures who shaped the moralist philosophies of his life: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Arthur Koestler, and Maria Casares, who also became his lover. In 1944 he fully rejected communism.

After the war, Camus's family expanded with the birth of twins, Jean and Catherine. He visited Algeria and wrote articles attacking French policy. The first performance of his play, Caligula, was produced. Camus toured the United States and published Neither Victims nor Executioners. In 1947, Camus left Combat and published The Plague. State of Siege came out the next year. Camus resumed the love affair with Maria Casares that had started during the War until another attack of tuberculosis forced him to convalescence at Grasse in 1950. He then published The Rebel in 1951. During the following couple of years, Camus was depressed and unable to write. However, he remained politically active, opposing the suppression of a workers' revolt in East Berlin and protesting the seven Tunisians condemned to death for political activity. In 1954, he published his work, Summer. With the start of the Algerian war for independence, he began to contribute articles to L'Express, supporting the French government. In 1956, he called for a truce in Algeria and plead on the behalf of certain Algerian liberals and nationalists who had been arrested. Soon after, Camus and his wife were separated and he again suffers from illness and depression. The Fall was published soon after.

Amazingly, in 1957 Camus not only revived Caligula and published Exile and the Kingdom and "Reflections on the Guillotine," but he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Following the biggest award of his life, Camus republished The Wrong Side and The Right Side with a new introduction. He bought a house at Lourmarin in Southern France and chose to turn down an offer to have artistic control over the Comedie Francaise. Instead, in 1959, he adapted and directed Dostoevsky's The Possessed for the experimental stage. He also worked full time on the novel, The First Man.

On the 4th of January, Camus was killed in a car accident at Villeblevin. A Happy Death and The First Man were published posthumously decades later. The sudden death cut short the life of the great moralist of twentieth-century French letters.


Study Guides on Works by Albert Camus

The Fall is a fictional, philosophical novel written by Albert Camus and was published in 1956 by Vintage Books publishing company. It has been translated and released in both English and French copies.

The novel is made up of numerous dramatic...

The Guest, or L'Hote, is considered one of Camus's most important works of fiction. It was published in 1957 as part of the collection titled, Exile and the Kingdom. The Guest touches on many of Camus's major moral and philosophical ideas. It is...

Camus was influenced by a diverse collection of foreign authors and philosophies in the 1930s. The mood of nihilism was high. Nietzsche and Dostoyevsky had remained significant in thought since the turn of the century. German phenomenology was...