New College of the Humanities

Camus: Out of North Africa

On the centenary of his birth, Martin Evans looks at the evolving legacy of the Algerian-born French writer Albert Camus

Rescuers examine the shattered wreckage of the Facel Vega sports car in which Camus died. Corbis/BettmannIn the afternoon of January 4th, 1960 a powerful Facel Vega sports car skidded off an icy road in Burgundy, hit a tree and ploughed into another. The front passenger was the writer Albert Camus and the driver his friend and editor Michel Gallimard. It took hours to free the bodies from the wreckage, but Camus had been killed instantly. Gallimard died from his injuries a few days later. Incredibly Gallimard’s wife and daughter survived relatively unscathed.

It was a shocking event because by this point Camus was a major cultural figure. Aged 46, he was a veteran of the French Resistance; a leading Parisian intellectual; and the author of a series of internationally acclaimed novels. His was a unique voice, finely attuned to the moral and political issues of the day, a fact recognised by his award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.

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