“Men who share the same rooms, soldiers or prisoners, develop a strange allegiance as if, having cast off their armour with their clothing, they fraternize every evening, over and above their differences, in the ancient community of dream and fatigue.” – Albert Camus, The Guest, from The Exile and the Kingdom, a collection of short stories.
Having been unable to write as of late [and I am not going to discuss that state of affairs yet once again] I have been spending a great deal of time reading. I acquired recently a collected work by the great philosopher/novelist Albert Camus. Along with Exile and the Kingdom, the collection includes The Plague, The Fall and some of his essays like The Myth of Sisyphus, and Reflections on the Guillotine. Existential crises not withstanding, the work of Camus is most beautifully written.
Born to French parents in [French colonial] Algeria in 1913, Camus spent his childhood and early adult years in that country. As a French citizen, though of the poorer class, he was witness to the treatment of the native population by their French counterparts and many of his works are set in Algeria and concern the two cohabiting cultures of the country. His descriptions of the landscape and the people can be breathtaking. See if you don’t agree:
“She had dreamed too, of palm trees and soft sand. Now that she saw that the desert was not that at all, but merely stone, stone everywhere, in the sky full of nothing but stone dust, rasping and cold, as on the ground, where nothing grew among the stones but dry grasses.” The Adulterous Woman.
“The silent city was no more than an assemblage of huge, inert cubes, between which only the mute effigies of great men, carapaced in bronze, with their blank stone or metal faces, conjured up a sorry semblance of what man had been. In lifeless squares and avenues these tawdry idols lorded it under the lowering sky; stolid monsters that might have personified the rule of immobility imposed upon us, or, anyhow, its final aspect, that of a defunct city in which plague, stone and darkness had effectively silenced every voice.” The Plague
Seems eerily prophetic, reading that passage now… Anyway, I am in awe of this ability to paint such vivid word pictures, to evoke the spirit of a place and a time. So that while I am not writing, at least I am continuing to think about it and to learn from a master like Albert Camus.