Camus, Albert (1913-1960), French novelist, essayist, and dramatist, regarded as one of the finest philosophical writers of modern France. His work is characterized by a vigorous, concise style, and is based on the philosophy that developed after World War II (1939-1945) concerning the futility and meaninglessness of human life. At the same time Camus's works reveal a more hopeful outlook.
Camus was born in Mondovi (now Drean), Algeria, and was educated at the University of Algiers. His studies were cut short because of recurrent tuberculosis. Active in social reform, he established an amateur theater to bring worthwhile drama to working-class audiences. He also worked as a journalist and traveled extensively in Europe. In 1939 he published Noces (Weddings), a collection of essays incorporating reflections inspired by his reading and travels. In 1940 he moved to Paris and joined the staff of the newspaper Paris-Soir. During World War II he was active in the French Resistance and from 1945 to 1947 was editor of Combat, an underground paper.
An Algerian background provides the setting for Camus's first published novel, L'etranger (1942; The Stranger, 1946), and for most of his subsequent fiction. This work and his essay on which it is based, Le mythe de Sisyphe (1942; The Myth of Sisyphus, 1955), reveal the influence of existentialism on his thought. Of his plays that develop existentialist themes, Caligula (1944; Caligula and Three Other Plays, 1958), produced in New York City in 1960, is one of the best known. Although in the novel La peste (1947; The Plague, 1948) Camus still was concerned with the fundamental absurdity of existence, he recognized human courage in the face of disasters. His later works include the novel La chute (1957; The Fall, 1957), also based on an earlier essay, L'homme révolté (1951; The Rebel, 1951); a play, L'état de siege (1948; State of Siege, 1958); and a collection of stories, L'exile et le royaume (1957; Exile and the Kingdom, 1958), in various styles but reworking earlier ideas. Collections of his journalism were published under the titles Actuelles (3 volumes, 1950, 1953, and 1958) and L'été (Summer, 1954). La mort heureuse (1971; A Happy Death, 1972), although posthumously published, is actually his first novel. His Carnets 1942-1951, covering the years 1935 to 1951, were also posthumously issued (1962 and 1964; Notebooks, 1963 and 1966), as was Le premier homme (1994; The First Man, 1995), an autobiographical novel narrated in the third person. Camus was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize in literature. He was killed in an automobile accident at Villeblerin, France.