Thursday, November 7, 2013

Library Walk: Albert Camus

Albert Camus: Born 100 years ago today.

Awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times" the Bar None Group recognizes Albert Camus on the centennial of his birth.

Primarily described as an existentialist — a label he never agreed with — Albert Camus gave rise to absurdism as philosophy and literature. The Plague, published as La Piste en français in 1947, emphasizes our lack of control in life and its inevitable irrational conclusion. Set in Oran, Algeria in the 1940s The Plague tells the story of medical workers — primarily Dr. Bernard Rieux — and the effects of a plague on its various characters while raising questions of our ultimate destiny.

The quote on Library Walk from The Plague reads:

"...Dr. Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle, so that he should not be one of those who hold their peace but should bear witness in favor of those plague-stricken people; so that some memorial of the injustice and outrage done them might endure; and to state quite simply that we learn in a time of pestilence: that there are more things to admire in men than to despise."

Camus is a virtual stranger in his native Algeria. The centennial of his birth will go unnannounced by the Algerian government as it harkens back to the days of French colonialism.

In 1996, the New York Public Library, the Grand Central Partnership and the New Yorker Magazine convened a panel of esteemed lovers of the written word and came up with a collection of quotations from the never-ending oeuvre of literature.

These quotes were cast in bronze by New York sculptor Gregg LeFevre and then laid out as sidewalk plaques on E 41st Street in 1998. In 2003, the stretch of E 41st Street from the New York Public Library entrance on Fifth Avenue to Park Avenue was renamed Library Way.

Whether it be a birth day, anniversary or publication date of a seminal work, the Bar None Group will revisit these 40+ quotations from time to time — quotations that inspire one to write, read, explore and embrace literature. We last visited Dylan Thomas.

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