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Monday, May 24th, 2021

Book review / archive | Article from January 26, 2010

Albert Camus: "Wedding of Light", Arche Paradies, Zurich / Hamburg 2009, 171 pages

Albert Camus

Sun, light, heat, wind and the sea: in his filigree prose texts, which were written in the thirties and forties, Camus circles the landscape of his youth and makes it the starting point of his writing.

The viewer literally merges with his surroundings. He dissolves in the voices he hears, perceives scents, touches ruins and plants with his hands and wants to absorb the world completely. The focus is on the sensual experience: "See! See on this earth! How could one forget this teaching?", It says emphatically.

The blazing brightness of Algeria seems to conceal the core of existence. The description of swimming in the sea is similarly metaphorical - here the bath becomes an image of the meaning of existence and the necessity of love. In another text it is the wind that leads the first-person narrator back to himself. In this environment there would be a "friendship with death," it continues. In general, Algeria is a place where youth and a flawless body are important. The solemn celebration of physical beauty also accepts rapid decline.

The plot of the prose texts is extremely sparse overall. Apart from the fact that the narrator goes for walks in the "ardent glow", visits the city of Oran, strolls down the boulevards in Algiers, drinks a coffee, watches a boxing match or goes for a swim, not much happens. In "Heimkehr nach Tipasa", the return after a long absence brings disillusionment with it. The sensual abundance of youth has been lost and only lives in memory. At the same time, the African past is the prerequisite for Camus' eternal search for love and beauty.

Camus' prose texts from "The Wedding of Light" occupy an intermediate position in his work: They alternate between diary entries, stories, philosophical discussions and travelogues. The descriptions of the light-flooded landscape are reminiscent of the famous scene in Camus' novel "The Stranger" (1942), when the hero Mersault shoots an Arab on the beach in Algiers and later stands before the judge without any internal involvement.

Similar to his plays and novels, the prose revolves around the ability of humans to endure extremes and to convert the ugliness of the world into a moment of knowledge - only then is he free. At the same time, the impressionistic descriptions underline the reference to Greek mythology and conceal a private side of the writer.

Albert Camus, who moved to France in 1940, was active in the resistance, became a literary star and, alongside Sartre, rose to become the most important French intellectual after the war, longed for Africa throughout his life. At the very end of the volume, it says that he always had the feeling that he was living on the high seas. This fits his spectacular death: Camus died on January 4th 50 years ago in a car accident. The driver Michel Gallimard had crashed into a tree on a perfectly straight stretch.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) wrote novels, plays, prose and philosophical essays and is considered a representative of existentialism. Seriously ill with pulmonary tuberculosis in his youth, he was obsessed with creativity. In 1940 he went from Algeria to France, was active in the resistance, became a lecturer at Gallimard and after the end of the war one of the outstanding intellectuals of the French post-war period. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1957.

Reviewed by Maike Albath

Albert Camus, wedding of light,
From the French by Peter Gan and Monique Lang,
Arche Paradies, Zurich / Hamburg 2009, 171 pages, 16.00 euros

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