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Remembering Nobel prize winner Albert Camus

Another literature Nobel prize recipient — Albert Camus — was remembered in January who died, tragically, in an automobile accident that month, in 1960. Forty-seven at the time of his death, he had been one of the century’s most prolific and celebrated writers, devoting his literary career and social-political activism to the causes of peace, liberty, human dignity, freedom from oppression.
In the long struggle for these ideals, he would draw inspiration and spiritual uplifting from nature’s beauty in the landscape and seasons. “If I want to write about men,” he said, “how can I separate myself from the landscape?” His ten most favorite words, he noted, included “earth, desert, summer, sea, [and] world.”
Raised by a grandmother, in very poor circumstances in the then French colony of Algiers, as journalist for an Algerian newspaper he later documented the hardships of the indigenous Muslim population whose lands had been appropriated by French settlers, colonial administrators, and wealthy people.
One evening, watching night fall, he would write: “At that hour when the shadow which descends from the mountains to this splendid earth brings rest to the heart of the most hardened man, I knew nevertheless that there was no peace for those who, on the other side of the valley, were gathered around a biscuit of inferior barley. I also know how sweet it would have been to abandon oneself to an evening so magnificent, but that the misery represented by the fires on the opposite hill placed a kind of ban on the beauty of the world.”
A resistance worker during the German occupation of Paris, Camus maintained a lifelong, committed opposition to war and the horrors it inflicted on people. The carnage in Europe, over 25 years, had left 70 million men, women and children uprooted, deported, or killed. The resumption of colonial war, by France, in Indochina equally roused his opposition as did the war in Korea, or Stalin’s war against the Hungarian people. As the only national newspaper, Le Combat on whose staff Camus worked had editorialized against “the last degree of savagery” faced by humanity after development and use of the atom bomb. Untiringly he would continue to warn against the dangers of war, especially in the nuclear age, support alternative social-service options for conscientious objectors, and defend man’s ultimate right-to-life, against the death penalty. Though admitting hard battles ahead in the struggle for a world without violence, he retained the conviction that “peace will return to this disemboweled earth” and a new generation “remake with all men the Ark of the Covenant.”
Throughout life, he would find comfort, strength, hope in the beauty and resilience of nature.
“I would wait patiently all winter,” he wrote, “because I knew that in the course of one night, one cold, pure February night, the almond trees would be covered with white flowers. I would marvel then at the sight of this fragile snow resisting the rains and the wind from the sea. Every year it lasted just long enough to prepare fruit.”