the algerian camus


As the writings in “Algerian Chronicles” make clear, Camus’s position in “no man’s land” left him increasingly isolated: hated by the right for his condemnation of government policies, scorned by the left for his inability to imagine an independent Algeria from which the French would be absent. Kaplan’s introduction traces the evolution of Camus’s positions on the Algerian conflict, as well as the ups and downs of critics’ judgments of them. While Camus’s first readers saw him as a philosopher concerned with universal questions of human existence, some influential critics writing after the 1970s considered him a typical pied noir (the usual, sometimes pejorative designation for French people from Algeria), whose works present a colonialist perspective. In recent years, however, the pendulum has swung back; Kaplan notes that the bloody civil war of the 1990s in Algeria has made many Algerian intellectuals appreciate Camus’s steadfast rejection of violence, even when it is committed in the name of high principles. Obviously, this does not apply only to Algeria. Some of the most memorable pages here restate an argument Camus had already developed at length in “The Rebel”: not all means are acceptable, even when employed for noble ends; terrorism and torture destroy the very goals they are supposed to serve.

more from Susan Rubin Suleiman at the NY Times here.