Presidential Reading

You may already have heard that President Bush’s summer reading included Albert Camus’s The Stranger. Poets & Writers tells us about some of the other titles on his recent list online.

Wonder if the President would now enjoy my review essay on Camus at Combat: Writing 1944-1947, in the Winter-Spring 2006 Chattahoochee Review.

That piece is only available in print, but I’ll give you (and the President, of course) a peek here into the first several paragraphs:

Albert Camus entered my life in 1986, when I was a high school junior assigned to read The Stranger in French IV class. As a college sophomore studying Modern European History and Literature a few years later I read The Plague. And our relationship could have ended there. That’s about as much Camus as most Americans will ever read.

But Camus, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 (he was then 43 years old) and died in an automobile crash three years later was, as I learned during my junior spring semester in Paris, much more than a mere novelist. He was a journalist, too.

And he was a journalist in difficult times, including the moment of German occupation. In fact, it was en pleine occupation that Camus became editor-in-chief of Combat, a resistance newspaper published clandestinely and irregularly until the liberation in the summer of 1944. This translation of Camus at Combat, which was originally produced in France in 2002, collects 165 of his Combat editorials and articles, some attributed to him from Combat‘s clandestine phasae, but most dating from the post-liberation and early postwar period.

It is a tremendous book. And it is significant not only for those, like me, with longstanding intellectual and emotional attachments to the author and the original texts (that junior spring I chose the postwar purges of French writers and journalists as my senior honors thesis topic; before I left France that summer I spent many hours in the French National Library, reading Camus’ many Combat editorials on the subject on microfilm), but for anyone interested in history, politics, or journalism.

2 thoughts on “Presidential Reading

  1. Benji says:

    Somehow I wouldn’t have felt as bad if Mr. Bush had ignored an attack on the World Trade Center to finish reading The Stranger. Or even La Peste.

  2. grackyfrogg says:

    this is a tough one to swallow. i have a hard enough time imagining the president reading a newspaper; it’s all but impossible to think of him making his way through camus. especially since i never have!

    also, if it’s true, i can’t decide whether it’s comforting that bush is reading camus (i.e., he’s reading real literature!) or disturbing (he’s reading french existentialism).

    it would be pretty funny if they started calling it “freedom” existentialism. ha!

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