One of my favorite BBC radio shows is In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, billed as a discussion on the history of ideas. It is broadcast every Thursday and I have a subscription through iTunes. While I worked on Paul's socks, I listened to this week's discussion was over the life and works of Albert Camus. When I was working on my undergraduate degree in French, I had to take a class entitled "French Literature 1800 to present" in which we read Flaubert, Claudel, Duras, Colette, and, naturellement, Camus. I don't remember actually enjoying reading La peste (The Plague), but I was intrigued by it and I thought Camus was a rather intelligent man. There are two ideas from his writing (both of which were discussed in the radio program) that have stuck with me. One is because of the nature of mortality, we all have a right to be happy right now because none of us can know how much time we have left. I know it's morbid, but it puts things in perspective. Another of his tenents that arose from his atheism is the idea that religion is unnecessary for establishing the moral compass of a human being. He argued that we instinctively know what is right and wrong and that fear of the wrath of God hasn't prevented many Christians from behaving immorally. This also places a lot of social responsibility on the individual, which I like. I think that there are too many people out there looking to blame someone or something else for their own shortcomings. However, Camus also understands and laments the fact that the majority of people will never take the responsibility we should be bound to take.
I really mean to read the rest of Camus's work. I think I will read L'étranger or La chute this summer. With thinking of reading Camus comes thinking of reading Sartre and de Beauvoir. I actually enjoyed Simone de Beauvoir's La deuxième sexe, but Erika has made me a little wary of reading Sartre after telling me about La nausée.
Check out this week's broadcast of In Our Time here. The "listen again" option is only available until the next episode. It's also available free on iTunes.
Above: my copy of La peste; Below: excerpt from back of novel, click to enlarge
Below: My collection of folio novels--I love how they are all the same height and all have the numbers at the top and the titles all in the same typeface. I am a great admirer of uniformity.