Man of our times: Why Albert Camus matters

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He’s been gone six decades but after 2020, it feels like French literary great Albert Camus matters more than ever. The year began with tributes for the 60th anniversary of the French existentialist icon’s premature death in a car crash. Then came Covid-19. Confined readers the world over dusted off that go-to guide to making sense of the randomly unexpected, “The Plague”. We ask our panel about the re-reading of a novel set in Camus’s native Algeria in the wake of World War II. But it’s not just “The Plague” that is timeless.

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In all of the Nobel literature laureate’s plays, essays and novels, protagonists struggle to understand where they belong in times of upheaval. Just look at today. We live in an age of alienation, identity politics, the loss of a sense of self. A bit like in “The Stranger” – also set in colonial Algeria.

What would Camus have made of 2020 and an age of digital discourse, where powered by tribal echo chambers, we judge and sometimes sentence our peers without appeal? When Covid-19 is behind us, it will still be worth re-reading “The Fall”. We tell you why.

Produced by Alessandro Xenos, Juliette Laurain and Imen Melllaz.

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