When Sartre was reading “The Stranger” by Camus


In May 1942 Albert Camus, at the age of 29, published his first novel Abroad, published by Gallimard. The book caused a stir in the Landerneau. Jean Paul Sartrewho published Nausea took on the task of writing a review of the novel in the magazine three years earlier Southern Notebooks (different version of the New French Review then led by the “fascist socialist” Drieu-la-Rochelle), in the February 1943 editionHaving already honed his weapons in criticism, Sartre proposes, as the title explicitly states, ” an explanation “ text by Camus.

Why this somewhat academic formula? No doubt we can see in this a form of condescension on the part of Sartre towards Camus, who is almost ten years his junior. After all, one is normal, agrégé, doctor and professor of philosophy in khâgne, while the other is just a journalist armed with a memory of philosophy. Between the lines, Sartre’s text looks like a corrected copy from the hand of a stern professor. quote The Myth of Sisyphuspublished in November 1942, Sartre notes: “M. Camus takes on some coquetry in quoting texts from… Jaspersfrom Heideggerfrom Kierkegaardwhich he doesn’t always seem to understand. †

Like a teacher in front of a class, he presents a problem, all in all very academic: what does the title mean? Abroad

“The Stranger, Man Among Men”

Who is the foreigner of the book? Meursault, undoubtedly the main character. But what does that mean? Sartre uses pedagogy to indicate the different meanings that this term can encompass. First of all, “the stranger is the man to the world”† Man is not thrown into the world, but placed outside it. Hence the sense of nonsense. As a reminder, the disturbing element of the plot is a sunbeam on an Algerian beach that blinds Meursault and whose consequences are tragic: it kills “an Arab” with a knife.

But “the stranger is also the man among men” A certain loneliness is part of our condition. The famous incipit of the novel bears witness to this: Meursault learns with detachment from the death of his ” mom “† He does not shed tears at his funeral. Finally, Abroad ” that is […] myself in relation to myself, that is, the nature man in relation to the spirit.† When the main character steps into court, a whiff of curiosity creeps up on him, as if he were beside himself. In short, the stranger is a certain relationship with the world, with others and with yourself, tinged with nonsense and disillusionment. This is how the Camusian absurdity is defined, as Sartre understands it, this: “original data”

Emphasizing Camusian absurdism

The text commentary then continues on a different ground. What attitude is required for an absurd man? Suicide? Certainly not, Sartre says, because “It’s a passion for the absurd. The absurd man will not commit suicide: he wants to live without giving up any of his certainties, without tomorrow, without hope, without illusions, even without resignation. † Rather, it is an attitude that tries to endure this absurdity by trying to transform it: “The absurd manrebels. He stares at death with passionate attention and this fascination sets him free […] Everything is allowed, because God is not there and we die. † Sartre notices that The Stranger and the Myth of Sisyphus secretly talking: “Certainly the first to appear, Abroad immerses us without comment in the ‘climate’ of the absurd; next comes the essay that illuminates the landscape. †

From this understanding of the absurd flows a characteristic of man: he is neither good nor bad. “The absurd man, cast into this world, rebellious, irresponsible, has “nothing to justify” […] He’s innocent. An innocent in every sense of the word, also an “Idiot”, if you will. † Meursault remains morally innocent in Sartre’s eyes, despite everything. By shaping the world through rebellion, time is revalued: “All experiences are equal, it is only necessary toget as many as you can […] everything is equivalent: write the possessed one or drink a coffee with whipped cream.

An “American style” where every sentence is “an island”

“A novel technique always refers to the novelist’s metaphysics. It is the critic’s job to purify it before appreciating it.Sartre wrote about the writer William FaulknerAbout Sound and anger by William FaulknerSituations, 1939). He applies the same method to Camus’ text. After a careful study of the novel’s metaphysical foundations, Sartre arrives at the author’s own style. From the outset he rejects the equation with kafka“M. Camus’s views are all earthly. Kafka is the novelist of impossible transcendence.) and proposes a different approach. For him, Camus’ style is a “American style”to the Ernest Hemingway

“What our author borrows from Hemingway, therefore, is the discontinuity of his jerky sentences modeled after the discontinuity of time. We now understand the cut of his story better: every sentence is a gift. But not an indecisive present that colors a little and expands a little on the present that follows. The sentence is clear, without burrs, closed in itself; it is separated from the next sentence by a nothing, as Descartes’ moment is separated from the moment that follows. Between each sentence and the next the world annihilates and is reborn: speech, as soon as it arises, is a creation ex nihilo; a sentence from Abroad, It’s an island. And we cascade from sentence to sentence, from nothing to nothing”

Jean-Paul Sartre, quoted in Sartre. A critical writing (Northern University Press, 2010)

in one way or another, “all the sentences of his book are equivalent, as are all the experiences of the absurd man”. Moreover, the time of the story is also inseparable from Camus’ conception of time: “USA”is to accentuate the solitude of each sensory unit that M. Camus chose to tell his story in the perfect composition [passé composé]† The past defined [passé simple] is the continuity time.

General Note: Encouragement

Despite the tone, which could easily be described as doctoral, of Sartre’s commentary, the text remains highly complementary. Some, like Annie Cohen-Solalrecognized biographer of Sartre, have even claimed that this text foreshadowed their friendship – definitively linked when they met for the rehearsal of the piece fly by Sartre in June 1943.

However, there are indications that the latter did not carry it in the air either, as is apparent from, among other things, the connection Sartre makes between Camus and Voltaire† If at the end of his article Sartre hesitates to classify it as “novel” (“Mr. Camus Appoints” [son texte] “novel”. The novel, however, requires a continuous duration, a becoming, the manifest presence of the irreversibility of time. It is not without hesitation that I should give this name to this succession of inert gifts.), he compares it to the genre of the Voltairean tale: Or else it will bet, in the manner of Zadig and from Brighta short moralistic novel, with a discreet touch of satire and ironic portraiture, which, despite the contribution of German existentialists and American novelists, remains essentially very close to a story by Voltaire. † Only, Sartre doesn’t carry Voltaire in his heart! He even considers his style as “language deadlier than Latin”A new mysticSituations, 1943).

Above all, Sartre . qualifies Abroad from“classic work” During his life, however, he will not stop being carried away by the “great classical tradition which, since Descartes and if we exclude Pascal, is completely hostile to history”Reply to Albert Camus situations, 1953). for Sartre, Abroad is not political enough. Or rather, it’s metaphysical, even ethical, but it stops at the threshold of politics. Too bad for Camus, he needed so little to get Professor Sartre’s favors! So judgment? For the author of Abroadmaybe not the honors list, but at least the encouragement.

Leave a Comment