Wednesday, 9 October 2013

What about Albert ?

I’ve been party to several Twitter and email exchanges around the French author Camus (yes, French) in relation to Algeria over the last week or so. This speedily composed but typical sentence suffers from at least three identity problems. One of the main questions in the French media is: Camus is a controversial figure in Algeria. Wait, that’s not a question mais on s’en fiche, French media agencies don’t ask questions, they’ve already got the answers t’as compris.

France is apparently celebrating the man’s centenary, while Algeria has just celebrated 50 years of its independence, who is mocking who. It goes without saying that by ‘France is celebrating’ we are talking about a small wannabe elitist group (elitist is like punk in France, it’s been long dead), unrepresentative of discussions around the table in flat-screen-TV obsessed homes, ZEP schools, monolingual universities, and unemployment agencies around the country. But should Camus be dropped in the onion soup, it would not be to discuss his Algerian or French passport, nor whether he is the icon of French youth.  At no point in my schooling were we ever asked: is Camus a French or Algerian author, is he a controversial figure in Algeria? My school wasn’t a bad one, it’s just not what generations upon generations of lyceed and universitied individuals are (dare I say “ever”) asked to consider.  French literary circles debate whether or not he could be hailed as a philosopher, so France can peacock about him. But then we have Sartre.

So is Albert Algerian? Should 20 to 30 year-old Algerians care about Camus’ mother more, and what about justice?

It seems to me that these questions are strictly French in that they emerge from the continuing propaganda in France of a single identity and a singular allegiance. 

Why should Algerian youth give a thought about Camus unless they study him of their own free will and independently enjoy his work. This author is 100 years-old this November and FIBDA started yesterday.




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