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The Great Literary Battle - Jean-Paul Sartre vs Albert Camus

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Albert Camus published The Fall in 1956, it was his last major novel. Jean-Paul Sartre named it as his finest. It was known that there was mutual admiration between the two but by the the late 1950's the relationship was so fraught that this remark was all there was to indicate congratulations. It would have been so very different years previously. Then, Camus regarded Sartre as his friend and mentor. Sartre saw Camus as a protoge. Now, literary criticism was the only means of communication.

This was the finest literary battle of them all, Albert Camus vs Jean Paul-Sartre, The Absurdist vs The Existentialist. At the beginning of the 1950's Jean-Paul Sartre had announced himself as a Marxist. He publicly supported the Soviet Union and believed political violence to be necessary and just. Albert Camus, through his work The Rebel, 'L'Homme revolte', clearly stated his case against political violence and absolute ideals, like Marxism. Two explorers of freedom so ideologically opposed.

Jean-Paul Sartre was the editor of Les Temps modernes, The Modern Times, an influential publication. The review magazine was the platform from which Sartre would shoot Camus down.

Literary criticism was standard fare but Albert Camus was regularly attacked. Abandoned by his friends, the majority of them had chosen to side with Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus withdrew into isolation and depression. Eventually Albert Camus responded with his novel The Fall.

The main character Jean Baptiste Clemence was how Camus saw Sartre. Jean Baptiste Clemence was a man who accused himself only in order to accuse others, a 'Judge-Penitent'.

This struck at an idea at the core of Sartre's philosophy of existentialism, a constant absolute freedom where we oppress and are oppressed. Free to do what we want yet unable to avoid the judgments, the oppression, of others. Hell is other people indeed. Jean-Paul Sartre never did write a great novel and Albert Camus gradually convinced himself of his ability to avoid the controversy that the battle with Sartre was bringing. Camus might have lost the literary battle of the century but he has joined the likes of Dostoevsky, Kafka and Lermontov as a world renowned writer, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Sartre won the Nobel Prize for Literature too, in 1964, but he refused it.

When Camus died in 1960, just 46 years old, Sartre wrote in his obituary ''Camus could never cease to be one of the principle forces in our cultural domain, nor to represent, in his own way, this history of France and of this century.'' The greatest literary battle of them all, Sartre vs Camus, was over.




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