It is time for new readers to come to this book. I would
still like to be one of them, just as I would like to go back
to that evening when, after opening this little volume in
the street, I closed it again as soon as I had read the first
lines, hugged it tight against me, and ran up to my room to
devour it without witnesses. (Camus, On Jean Greniers Les Iles)
How Camus felt about Les Iles, I had felt about his Resistance, Rebellion and Death. And now, this book. Rarely, have I enjoyed just savoring a book. This is not a book I eagerly flipped pages to indulge in. It struck me best in odd moments of my day a few pages at a time. Everyone has their favorite writer that everyone wants others to appreciate and read. Camus has been mine since I was 18 and, at this point, I'm not interested in trying to win converts.
Coincidentally, I read this book as I was reading the works of the Greek Tragic Trio (Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides). It's easy now to see the influence of these writers on Camus and several of his essays make reference to the tragedies they wrote. At one point, Camus discusses the virtues of the Mediterranean Culture versus the principles of Latin Culture based on Rome. "We claim Aeschylus and not Euripedes..." (The New Mediterranean Culture). Given the fondness Socrates had for Euripides, and some of the similar strains of thought I believe connect Socrates and Camus, I was somewhat confused at Camus' disdain for Euripides. However, this was clarified later on.
The essay entitled On the Future of Tragedy further separates Euripides from the others. Camus highlights Sophocles as preserving the true nature of tragedy by keeping the two vital elements balanced: "both a revolt and an order are necessary..." I recall both Meursault and Clamence mimicking this balance (though it has been a few years). For Camus, tragedy is defined by "[t:]he hero [who:] denies the order that strikes him down, and the divine order strikes because it is denied. Both thus assert their existence at the very moment when this existence is called into question." Euripides is thought to be the corrupter of true tragedy for the sake of individual drama. Focusing more on the psychology of the people rather than tragic duality.
The rest of this is for me. Mostly because I'm too lazy to grab a pen to scribble this into a journal like a good tortured soul.
If you choose to read on, please don't disparage this work by dissecting it for a handy quote-of-the-day.
Hypocritical, I know.
"Brice Parain often maintains that this little book contains my best work. He is wrong. I do not say this , knowing how honest he is, because of the impatience every artist feels when people are impertinent enough to prefer what he has been to what he is.... He means, and he is right, that there is more love in these awkward pages than all those that have followed." (Preface: The Wrong Side and the Right Side)
"Everything I am offered seeks to deliver man from the weight of his own life." (Nuptials: The Wind at Djemila)
"It asks that we make an act of lucidity as one makes an act of faith." (Nuptials: Summer in Algiers)
"But even today I cannot see what my revolt loses by being pointless, and I am well aware of what it gains." (Nuptials: The Desert)
"Strength and violence are lonely gods." (Summer: The Minotaur, or Stopping in Oran)
"No man can say what he is. But sometimes he can say what he is not. Everyone wants the man who is still searching to have already reached his conclusions." (Summer: The Enigma)
"Yet people insist I identify my term or terms, once and for all. Then I object; when things have a label aren't they lost already? (Summer: The Enigma)
"A man's work often retrace the story of his nostalgias or his temptations, practically never his own history especially when they claim to be autobiographical. No man has ever dared describe himself as he is." (Summer: The Enigma)
"Gide also suffers from that other prejudice of our day, which insists that we parade our despair to be counted as intelligent." (Encounters with Andre Gide)
"Char will always protest against those who sharpen guillotines. He will have no truck with prison bread, and bread will always taste better to him in a hobo's mouth than in the prosecuting attorney's" (Rene Char)
"One sentence stands out from the open book, one word still vibrates in the room, and suddenly, around the right word, the exact note, contradictions resolve themselves and disorder ceases. (On Jean Grenier's Les Iles)