Archive for the ‘albert camus’ Tag

The Plague 2

So I am still ploughing my way through Albert Camus’ 1947 novel The Plague / La Peste. I am not rushing, savouring it – got plenty of time on my hands! The parallels continue to resonate. So here’s picking up from my first post on the subject…

la peste the plague albert camus 1947 1971 novel le livre de poche

I recently acquired this 1971 copy of a 1966 edition

[Sunday posting] “Only as the sermon proceeded did it become apparent to the congregation that, by a skilful oratorical device, Father Paneloux had launched at them, like a fisticuff, the gist of his whole discourse. After launching it he went on at once to quote a text from Exodus relating to the plague of Egypt, and said: “The first time this scourge appears in history it was wielded to strike down the enemies of God. Pharaoh set himself up against the divine will, and the plague beat him to his knees. Thus from the dawn of recorded history the scourge of God has humbled the proud of heart and laid low those who hardened themselves against Him. Ponder this well, my friends, and fall on your knees.”

“ ‘Ah, if only it had been an earthquake! A good bad shock, and there you are! You count the dead and living, and that’s an end of it. But this here blasted disease – even them as haven’t got it can’t think of anything else.’ ”

[on the day of the UK Government’s first daily Coronavirus news conference] “a new paper has been launched, The Plague Chronicle, which sets out “to inform our townspeople, with scrupulous veracity, of the daily progress or recession of the disease; to supply them with the most authoritative opinions available as to its future course; to offer the hospitality of its columns to all, in whatever walk of life, who wish to join in combating the epidemic; to keep up the morale of the populace, to publish the latest orders issued by the authorities, and to centralise the efforts of all who desire to give active and whole-hearted help in the present emergency.”

“During the last 24 hours there had been two cases of a new form of the epidemic; the plague was becoming pneumonic. On this very day, in the course of the meeting, the much-harassed doctors had pressed the Prefect – the unfortunate man seemed quite at his wits’ end – to issue new regulations to prevent contagion being carried from mouth to mouth, as happens in pneumonic plague. The Prefect had done as they wished, but as usual they were groping, more or less, in the dark.”

[self-reflexive about these posts] “They began to take a genuine interest in the laborious literary task to which he was applying himself while plague raged around him. Indeed, they, too, found in it a relaxation of the strain.“

“ ‘If things go on as they are going,’ Rieux remarked, ‘the whole town will be a madhouse.’ He felt exhausted, his throat was parched. ‘Let’s have a drink.’ ”

[on the day UK government calls up retired doctors and final year medical students] “ ‘Haven’t doctors and trained assistants been sent from other towns?‘
‘ Yes,‘ Rieux said. ‘10 doctors and 100 helpers. That sounds a lot, no doubt. But it’s barely enough to cope with the present state of affairs. And it will be quite inadequate if things get worse.’ “

“At 11 o’clock that night, however, Rieux and Tarrou entered the small, narrow bar of the hotel. Some 30 people were crowded into it, all talking at the top of their voices. Coming from the silence of the plague-bound town the two newcomers were startled by the sudden burst of noise, and halted in the doorway. They understood the reason for it when they saw that spirits were still to be had here.”

“ …there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is – common decency.’
‘ What do you mean by “common decency”?’ Rambert’s tone was grave.
‘ I don’t know what it means for other people. But in my case I know that it consists in doing my job.’ ”

“ Tarrou said he knew the latest figures, and that the position was extremely serious. But what did that prove? Only that still more stringent measures should be applied.
‘How? You can’t make more stringent ones than those we have now.‘
‘ No. But every person in the town must apply them to himself.‘
Cottard stared at him in a puzzled manner, and Tarrou went on to say that there were far too many slackers, that this plague was everybody’s business, and everyone should do his duty.”

[full UK lock-down was announced last night with a rousing Churchillian speech by PM Boris Johnson] “Now, at least, the position was clear; this calamity was everybody’s business.”

The Casting Game No. 288

humphrey Bogart actor cigarette hat mackintosh

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart actor cigarette

AS

albert camus french novelist philosopher

Albert Camus

Coincidence No. 544 – Outsider

I am doing a day-long Zoom session for Documentary Campus Masterclass (was supposed to be in Copenhagen but had to be shifted online). I take a short break of 15 minutes and decide to use the time to start re-reading Albert Camus’ L’Etranger in French (the first book, other than comic books, that I have read in French for ages). The usual translation of the title is The Outsider (rather than The Stranger – it means both in French). I read the first couple of pages.

I rejoin the Zoom session and start a one-to-one meeting with a German filmmaker currently based in Thailand. From Chang Mai his very first statement is: “I did a lot of films about outsiders.”

Existentialist philosophy as propounded by the likes of Camus and Sartre has the universe as without meaning and pattern, and man as always striving to see pattern and sense in things.

the outsider albert camus novel l'etranger penguin

The Plague

Back in the good old days of my youth Corona was fizzy drinks

corona fizzy drinks pop 70s

corona fizzy drinks pop 70s truck lorry

In those days when I was doing A Level French and studying Albert Camus among others – in particular L’Etranger (The Outsider) which happily coincided with The Cure’s early single Killing an Arab, based on that slim book) – I read about Camus’ 1947 novel La Peste (The Plague) without actually reading the work itself, often considered Camus’ masterpiece. What I was left with was the notion that you can’t be individually happy without having collective happiness. I applied this in an old post – looking back no idea where it came from, probably from thinking about The Terminatora notional film collaboration between James Cameron and Albert Camus!

This day last week I walked into the small bedroom where my Penguin Modern Classics reside and spotted The Plague just above my head, reached it down and began reading on the basis that there will never be a better time to read this book.

The parallels between Camus 1940s plague in Oran, Algeria and the current global pandemic of Coronavirus or Corvid90 didn’t disappoint. Camus was evidently combining an actual outbreak of a virus in that city in his native country with the realities of living under the Nazi Occupation of France during the Second World War, during which Camus had worked with the Resistance as the editor of Combat, a banned newspaper. Nonetheless the viral spread parallels were very striking so each morning I have published on social media via Instagram a resonant quote from La Peste as I read through and thought this morning that it would be worth aggregating all those posts here on Simple Pleasures Part 4. There’s nothing like a plague to refocus you on the simple pleasures of life.

Albert Camus The Plague La Peste novel book french 1947

Adam Gee
8 March at 18:25
Seems like the perfect time to read this – so I am #Camus #Corona
Albert Camus The Plague La Peste novel book french 1947

 

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky.”

“No, all those horrors were not near enough as yet even to ruffle the equanimity of that spring afternoon. The klang of an unseen tram came through the window, briskly refuting cruelty and pain. Only the sea, murmurous behind the dingy chequerboard of houses, told of the unrest, the precariousness of all things in this world.”

“This bacillus is such a queer one.”
“There,” Castel said, “I don’t agree with you. These little brutes always have an air of originality. But, at bottom, it’s always the same thing.”
“That’s your theory, anyhow. Actually, of course, we know next to nothing on the subject.”

“One of the cafés had the brilliant idea of putting up a slogan: ‘The best protection against infection is a bottle of good wine’, which confirmed an already prevalent opinion that alcohol is a safeguard against infectious disease.”

“ …though in their heart of hearts they were far from recognising the enormity of what had come on them, they couldn’t help feeling, for obvious reasons, that decidedly something had changed. Nevertheless, many continued hoping that the epidemic would soon die out and they and their families be spared. Thus they felt under no obligation to make any change in their habits, as yet. Plague was for them an unwelcome visitant, bound to take its leave one day as unexpectedly as it had come. Alarmed, but far from desperate, they hadn’t yet reached the phase when plague would seem to them the very tissue of their existence; when they forgot their lives which until now it had been given them to lead. In short, they were waiting for the turn of events.”

Albert Camus The Plague La Peste novel book french 1947 picasso

Coincidence No.388: Sisyphus

 

mythofsisyphusThis morning I was talking to Enfant Terrible No. 1 (who is currently doing a Philosophy course) about Camus and Existentialism. I mentioned Sisyphus, an important figure for Camus, and the image that first comes to mind when I think back to my undergraduate studies of Camus, alongside the killing of the Arab on the beach.

the-cure-killing-an-arab

This evening I was working on my family tree and added Karl Radek, a cousin of my grandmother Dora, and an international Communist leader to boot (in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution). His real name was Karol Sobelsohn and he took the name Radek from a favourite character, Andrzej Radek, in ‘Syzyfowe prace‘ (‘The Labour of Sisyphus’), written in 1897 by Stefan Żeromski.

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Sisyphus coming up twice in 12 hours – a bit Twilight Zone but I imagine he’ll be happy to be remembered.

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Rising from the Ashes

nowhere-boy-anne-marie-duffIf I wanted to boost the SEO for Simple Pleasures part 4 I’d be writing this evening about Jim Morrison, The Snowman, lonelygirl15, Dylan Thomas, Lara Croft and Albert Camus, but I’ve got other stuff in mind, first and foremost The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley, London N2. I’m just back from there where we went for a family matinee outing to watch Glorious 39.

Glorious 39 is considerably less glorious than Inglourious Basterds – basically it belongs on TV like many BBC Films ‘movies’ – but the Phoenix itself was its usual blaze of Art Deco glory, gilded but faded but ready to rise again in even greater splendor…

…which is why two nights ago I arranged a preview screening of Nowhere Boy at the Phoenix. It was just the second public screening of Sam Taylor-Wood’s new film about the young John Lennon and it was raising money towards the Phoenix Restoration Fund. The Phoenix is the UK’s oldest purpose-built cinema and to celebrate the centenary of its 1910 opening the charity trust which runs it is striving to complete a major restoration by its 100th birthday next year. (If you feel like donating a couple of quid, you can do that here – we’ve got 90 grand left to raise to release the lottery grant needed to do the job.)

Anne-Marie Duff – of Channel 4’s Shameless, Film4’s Garage and The Virgin Queen fame (especially Shameless! pretty much the best TV drama of the last decade) – kindly pitched up to do a Q&A after the screening and gave a great insight into her intelligent and feeling approach to acting. She plays Julia, John Lennon’s mother, who found herself giving him up as a child but later helping spark his musical genius. The scene of Julia teaching John to play the banjo and then his swift but hard-earned mastery of the instrument is thrilling.

Film4’s Nowhere Boy was rousing. I didn’t like Matt Greenhalgh’s script for Control but this was a story well told and moving. Anne-Marie as Julia and Kristin Scott-Thomas as John’s aunt Mimi (who raised him) were both powerful and affecting, making sense of a tragic love tussle. But the big revelation was the charismatic Aaron Johnson as the young Lennon, old school charisma and strikingness on screen.

Sam Taylor-Wood came in to visit us a couple of years ago at Channel 4 to talk about her work and inspirations, and showed us a short art video depicting the decomposition of a partridge and a peach – very impactful in a short, sharp way. A feature is a very different prospect and she pulled this one off with energy and aplomb. I suspect her interactions with the actors were lacking in experience but the thesps were all good enough to make up for any wooliness in that aspect of the direction.

One of my first insights into Channel 4 was in 1988 when a programme called Lennon /Goldman: the making of a best-seller was being cut in Solus Productions where I was working, my first job. It was about the rather grubby biographer of Elvis and Lenny Bruce and his biog of Lennon which was due to come out shortly after. The director, Binia Tymieniecka, kindly gave me a copy of  it, The Lives of John Lennon, which I dug out after the Phoenix show.  I could see from a cinema ticket bookmark that the last time I had dug it out was in April 1994 when Stephen Woolley (who I believe used to work at the Phoenix) & Nik Powell’s Backbeat came out. The inscription reads: You’ve heard the gossip. You’ve seen the rough cut. Now read the book. The gossip and the aforementioned insight involved Goldman pulling all his contributions from the documenatry at the 11th hour (not sure what kind of C4 contract allowed for that kind of veto, but Channel 4 was still in its naively golden first decade then).

This week (Tuesday) was the 29th anniversary of John’s death. I remember it clearly – I was in Tijuana in Mexico and saw the headlines in Spanish, struggling to translate them exactly. I associate that time with realising for the first time my eyesight was dodgy, taking off my specs and realising the degree of my myopia (your youropia, his hisopia), getting a bit upset about it as a person who’s always been visually driven, through still and moving pictures. There’s a lot of play in Nowhere Boy about John’s short-sightedness – Mimi’s always reminding him to put on his specs and he’s always taking them off again as soon as he gets out of range. He has to put them on when Paul (superbly played by the fresh-faced Thomas Sangster) is teaching him guitar. The chemistry between John and Paul is palpable. On Tuesday I was listening, trusty ol’ iPod on shuffle, on my walk home past the Phoenix to Yer Blues from the White Album and was greatly struck by the haunting words he wrote in India and recorded just a few miles from the Phoenix at Abbey Road:

Yes I’m lonely wanna die
Yes I’m lonely wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

In the morning wanna die
In the evening wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

My mother was of the sky
My father was of the earth
But I am of the universe
And you know what it’s worth
I’m lonely wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

The eagle picks my eye
The worm he licks my bones
I feel so suicidal
Just like Dylan’s Mr. Jones
Lonely wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

Black cloud crossed my mind
Blue mist round my soul
Feel so suicidal
Even hate my rock and roll
Wanna die yeah wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why.

The-Snowman

I'm coming down fast but I'm miles above you

Terminated

Notes for a movie by Albert Camus & James Cameron

terminator

We are biological machines programmed only to survive.

We are born condemned to death.

To survive we must not take that ludicrous condition lying down.

We must rebel against it with kindness (as in ‘mankind’).

We need to learn to live in the present to maximise our own happiness.

That happiness must be available to the whole of our kind as a context for our individual happiness.

albert camus

Marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on 27th January 1945

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