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1913

French novelist Albert Camus is born

On this day, Albert Camus, future Nobel Prize winner, is born in Algiers to a working-class family.

Camus was a good student and a dedicated athlete who won a scholarship to a prestigious French high school in Algiers. His sporting endeavors were ended at age 17 by an attack of tuberculosis. Instead of pursuing an athletic career, he took a degree at the University of Algiers. He intended to become a philosophy teacher, but another bout of tuberculosis prevented him from taking a position. He became involved with a theater group in Algiers, writing and producing plays, while he also worked as a journalist. At age 25, he moved to France. During World War II, he joined the French Resistance and wrote for a liberal newspaper. He continued political journalism until 1947, while also writing plays, novels, and philosophical essays.

In 1942, his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” set out the philosophical questions that he would also address in his novels. He analyzed nihilism and the absurdity and futility of human labor given the inevitability of death. Camus argued that man must make his own meaning by enjoying his efforts and struggles, despite their ultimate lack of significance. He continued to explore these themes in his first novel, The Stranger (1942). In his 1947 novel, The Plague, his characters maintain dignity and loyalty in the face of an epidemic in an Algerian town. In his later novels, essays, and plays, he explored the search for moral order. Camus won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1957. In 1960, after accepting a ride from strangers while hitchhiking, Camus was killed in a car wreck at age 46.

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