Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Camus v. the Bourgeoisie

Portrait from New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, 1957

The Anti-Bourgeois
by Rosette C. Lamont

In his Preface to the 1958 edition of L'Envers et l'endroit, a group of essays written by Camus at the age of twenty-two, the author asserts his life-long need for the state of availability, "disponibility" as
the French say, a total freedom in regard to ideas, sensations, experiences
quite incompatible with the patterns of bourgeois living. Now,
in 1960, as we look back upon the work of Camus, we see it bear witness
to the writer's struggle against "les idees reques." In the tradition
of Cartesianism Camus questions our values and our institutions, and
his hero, be he victim or rebel, wields the weapon of his clear consciousness
against a society ruled by convention.
Camus despises comfort and well-being, qualities inherent to a culture
of "'Thomme sensuel moyen." The emphasis on cuisine, the greed
over inherited pieces of furniture, silver and linen, regulated sexual
behavior (outside the bonds of marriage as much as within), ritual family
relationships too often turning ties of blood into "viper knots" of
avarice and suspicion-these are some of the features of French life
which according to Camus serve to shield the individual from the
realities of the human condition. Camus' anti-bourgeois feelings do not
stem from the scorn of one born into this class like Flaubert or Baudelaire,
nor does he seek as they did to amaze the bourgeois. A workingman's
son, marked in body and soul by early poverty, yet possessed
by an unquenchable thirst for life, he denounces a way of thinking
which blunts consciousness, robbing one of terror but of lucidity as
well, a way of feeling which substitutes sentimentality for sentiment,
and small pleasures for joy.
Camus is not a pessimist. Simply for him there is no love of life without
the knowledge of despair, no fullness without "ce gouit du nuant"
(L'Envers et l'endroit, p. 99). However, he welcomes the adventure of
flesh in its encounters with nature (the sun, the sea), and with the flesh
of another. In his respect for desire he is not only a Mediterranean
but an Ancient Greek...
(the essay is 14 pp.)

1 comment:

  1. "Like." Thanks for posting, Jack. Need to read up on Camus.