What has always attracted me to the work of Albert Camus – apart from his novels The Plague, The Stranger and the dissertational dictum that is The Rebel - is the notion that realism always takes precedence over idealism (and the fact that neither of the twain ought to particularly meet). Unsurprisingly, such is the case amid the high-octane pages of the more than politically astute Camus at Combat, which (for the first time), presents all of the author’s articles published in the Resistance newspaper Combat - where between 1944 and 1947 he served as editor-in-chief.
Suffice to say, much of the writing(s) remains as quintessentially revelatory and pertinent today, as when originally written. The article Neither Victims nor Executioners (Saving Bodies), could just as easily have been written the week after 9/11, which (according to Messrs. Blair and Bush, inadvertently) triggered the on-going War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, Stockwell and/or anywhere else in the world the US deems fit to destroy: ‘’Just as we now love one another by telephone and work not on matter but on machines, we kill and are killed nowadays by proxy. What is gained in cleanliness is lost in understanding.’’
Not that the myopic Bush has the facility to comprehend, let alone understand, anything, other than that from which he stands to gain.
Reviewed in last month’s edition of Juice, was David Runciman’s The Politics Of Good Intentions, a subject upon which Camus cites: ‘’For what strikes me amid all the polemics, threats, and eruptions of violence, is everyone’s good intentions,’’ of which the Prime Minister clearly has many – much to the chagrin of the increasing number of British (and American) broken hearts of families who have lost loved ones in Iraq. Camus continues: ‘’And yet the conjunction of all these good intentions leads to this infernal world, in which men are still being killed, threatened, and deported, preparations are being made for war, and it is impossible to say a word without instantly being insulted or betrayed.’’ Not that American Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, actually knows what it is to betray…
Shot from the hip with more aplomb than could ever be advised, this book needs to be read (and re-read) by all those in positions of both power and persuasion. For as Camus wrote in The Absurd And Murder: ‘’If we do not believe in anything, if nothing has any meaning, and if we cannot subscribe to any values, anything is possible and nothing is important.’’ And when nothing is important, society loses its way.
Camus at Combat – Writing 1944-1947
Edited by Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi
Princeton University Press - £18.95