cover image Notebooks: 1951–1959

Notebooks: 1951–1959

Albert Camus, , trans. from the French and with an intro. and afterword by Ryan Bloom. . Ivan R. Dee, $27.50 (264pp) ISBN 978-1-56663-775-6

The French existentialist literary lion's belief that one writes as one lives suffuses these journals covering his last decade. Especially in the earlier years, these are very much working notebooks, full of undigested, fragmentary, sometimes cryptic raw material for later writings. Smoothly translated by Bloom, who teaches at the University of Maryland–Baltimore, the entries include thoughts on passages from Tolstoy, Dostoyevski, Emerson and Nietzsche; philosophical pensées (“Naturalness is not a virtue that one has: it is acquired”); jotted ideas for novels and plays (“Play: A happy man. And nobody can put up with him”); and crumbs of surreal whimsy (“A courageous cravat” reads one entry in its entirety). Later entries become more diaristic, expansive and self-revealing. They include Camus's agonized ruminations on France's war with his native Algeria, letters attacking French intellectuals' Stalinist sympathies, observations on his wife's depression, an affecting homage to his ailing mother and elaborations on his project of rescuing humanism from ideology. The notebooks' atmospherics, like a Gaulois-hazed room, are serious and tinged with thoughts of suicide. But there are extended breaks in the angst—including luminous travelogues from sojourns in Greece—that reinforce Camus's stubborn determination to lead a meaningful life in an indifferent universe. (May 18)