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The First Man

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  2,951 ratings  ·  190 reviews
The final, posthumous masterpiece from Nobel Laureate Albert Camus tells an unmistakably autobiographical story of a boy growing up in Algeria, fatherless, in poverty, amid silent, illiterate women. "Radiant . . . one of the most extraordinary evocations of childhood that exists in any language."--The Boston Globe.
Hardcover, 325 pages
Published August 29th 1995 by Knopf (first published January 1st 1994)
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This book was not what I expected. Due to the philosophical, melancholy nature of the first two Camus books I’ve read, (The Stranger and The Plague), I expected this book to be more academic, but it was far from it; it’s a more personal book, nostalgic, full of feelings and memories.

This book is considered to be an autobiographical novel, and its unedited manuscript was found in the car wreckage in which Camus was killed. Even for an unedited piece of work, it is simply a masterpiece. It was int
This begins my Camus’ Centenary year (he was born in 1913) reading list. I plan on reading even more widely than I have of his oeuvre this year, and revisiting some of his works, particularly if there’s a new translation I have not read. On the 7th of November, there will be a celebration at my house.

Now, reviewing a rescued-partial-first-draft manuscript turned into a book is a different kind of thing to other books. When you hover over the fifth star in Goodreads, it says ‘it was amazing’, so
أغبط من عاشوا في النصف الاول من القرن الماضي الي ستيناته ...
فترة التقلبات و الثورات ..
وبزوغ الرؤى والافكار ...
أغبطهم أيضا لغنى الفترة بكثير من المبدعين ...الذين أتسمت أبدعاتهم بالثورة و النضج وتفرد كل منهم بفلسفة خاصه ...ورؤية تستحق الاحترام
ربما كان ألبير كامو من أعظم أفرازات هذا العصر
وروايته الانسان الاول (التي تعد أخر أعماله ) هي نتاج مخاض فكري عميق أمتاز بالوعي و تنقيح العديد من الافكار الطافية على السطح في هذا الوقت ...
الانسان الاول هي قصة طفل فرنسي نشأ في الجزائر و عرف أول ما عرف ان دولته
Henry Martin
It is not often that I struggle to find words; yet, this is one of those times. Reading this unfinished manuscript has left me without words to express how I feel about it. It's not a novel - it's a glimpse into the mind of a great man as he looks back on what was and what was not. It is a rare glimpse into his likes, dislikes, memories, relationships, upbringing, social settings... This 'novel' is full of inconsistencies, missing words, and notes. Nevertheless, such is life - impure, fragmented ...more
Reading this latest "The First Man" (1995) "published thirty-five years after its discovery amid the wreckage of the car accident that killed its author" (back cover) is of course a bit disappointing due to its evidently unfinished story. Moreover, some of its generously-inserted footnotes have not fully clarified, I think, its readers to appreciate more, rather they seem to distract them into vaguely understandable information, for instance:

Three days ago they had finished over the Atlantic, …,
Some of my favorite quotes:

-“There are people who vindicate the world, who help others live just by their presence” (35).

-“There is a terrible emptiness in me, an indifference that hurts” (36).
-“…dependence and necessity remain, and that is not far from resembling love” (222).
-“her son, endlessly, watched her in the shadows with a lump in his throat, staring at her thin bent back, filled with an obscure anxiety in the presence of adversity he could not understand” (228).
-“She embraced him, and t
'El primer hombre' es la novela inacabada que Canys estaba escribiendo cuando murió en un accidente de coche a los 46 años. Se trata también de su novela más autobiográfica, porque habla ni más ni menos de un niño francés que vive en Argel y que está avergonzado de la pobreza y la ignorancia de su familia, una familia formada por una madre medio sorda y ausente, una abuela autoritaria y un tío sordo, y sin padre porque murió en la primera guerra mundial cuando hacía poco que Camus había nacido. ...more
Dave Groff
Read this long ago, but it is a favorite. A very different Camus, very warm and human. His final work, it makes one all the sadder that this great writer did not live longer.
Jun 11, 2007 Lorena rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yes
Arguably my favorite book.
This is Camus's unfinished autobiographical novel that he was working on at his untimely death in a car accident in France in 1960. (Supposedly the manuscript was found in his briefcase at the scene.) It's the story of young Jacques Cormery, who never knew his father - he died in World War I when Jacques was an infant - being raised in extreme poverty in Algeria by his illiterate grandmother and illiterate, nearly deaf-mute mother (she has a vocabulary of 400 words). It's a moving, poignant, lyr ...more
Erika Dreifus
Albert Camus was a forty-six-year-old Nobel laureate in literature when he died in an automobile crash on January 4, 1960. Found amid the debris was an unfinished manuscript, one which remained unpublished until it appeared in France as Le Premier Homme in 1994.

Why the delay? In a compelling introduction to the American edition, Catherine Camus reminds readers of the mood in France in 1960, when her father's moral stances—particularly his open criticism of Soviet totalitarianism and his advocacy
This is a great book for anyone who wants to learn more about Camus and for anyone who enjoys his writing. The book was unfinished and in his daughter's introduction, reveals more of the writer than what typically appeared in a finished manuscript. Despite missing words, the writing is strong, centering on a few themes- Algeria, childhood, poverty and politics. Who else can write as succinctly and as empathetically as Camus (in first draft!), as in passages describing his family's outlook: " ...more
I studied Camus in school, like all French schoolchildren. Apart from chosen excerpts that always pepper young readers' school anthologies, you tackle Camus in high school when you get to Existentialism in your history of French literature curriculum. Well, I remember clearly that I had liked Camus the best... I am not a fan of the Existentialist Posse, that is for sure... but Camus is different somehow, not sure if it the Algerian sun, the very modest origins... he is just so human, so vulnerab ...more
Elisabeth Jaffe
This book is interesting in that it not only describes one man's search for information about his father but also the writing process of an author. Camus died before he could complete this book and throughout there are footnotes describing parts of the book on which he wanted to expand. It also goes through the emotional stages of this man as he explores his father's life, a man he never knew.
Kate Savage
The last words in the manuscript found in the wreckage of the crash that killed Camus at 46:

"an unalloyed passion for life confronting utter death; today he felt life, youth, people slipping away from him, without being able to hold on to any of them, left with the blind hope that this obscure force that for so many years had raised him above the daily routine, nourished him unstintingly, and been equal to the most difficult circumstances -- that, as it had with endless generosity given him reas
Aug 06, 2007 matt marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I think I'll be done with all of Camus' fiction after I read this.
Roger DeBlanck
Camus’ final novel was not published until 1995, over thirty-five years after his untimely death at the age of forty-six. In the wreckage of the car accident that ended his life, Camus carried the manuscript of The First Man. He imagined the autobiographical novel as an epic that would chronicle a life similar to his own, from childhood to manhood, through the character of Jacques Cormery. Camus had completed approximately a third of the novel at the time of his death. What he captured in that s ...more
Chris Watson
This is Camus' last book, unfinished.

It was intended to be a great opus, covering pre-war Algeria, invasion and occupation in the Second World War, the post-war period and the Algerian war of independence.

There are a few asides to Algeria and France during the time of the Algerian War, but most of what he finished was the earliest phase of the story: pre-war Algeria, with the protagonist as a child growing up in a family of poor illiterates; learning to read and gaining a scholarship to the lyc
This manuscript was unfinished upon the untimely death of its famous author. The work is of value for its autobiographical content (Camus's youth has little other documentation) and because it shows the process of creating literature.

The edition I read, Knoph/Borzoi 1995, has sample pages of Camus's handwritten manuscript on both the front and back covers. Most pages have translator notes signaling alternative word choices, places of illegible text, places of blank manuscript, etc. There is a se
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘So, for years, Jacques’s existence was divided unequally into two lives between which he was unable to make any connection.’

In 1960, Albert Camus died in a car accident. The handwritten manuscript of this incomplete autobiographical novel was found in the wreckage. It was published, thirty-four years later, by his daughter Catherine. Albert Camus’s wife and friends were afraid to publish it at the time of his death for reasons Catherine Camus explains in her introduction.
‘The First Man’ is the
My nephew, Mark, drew my name for our Christmas exchange. He, ninja-like, perused my Goodreads listings and discovered that I had read - and loved The Plague, by Camus. He then gifted me with The Last Man - Camus' last book - still in the finishing up stage - a book that I did not know existed. I loved every page. Here was the same exquisite writing (albeit translation) of this author. The more I read it, though, the more I recalled how felt when I read David Copperfield by Dickens. These books ...more
☠ Daniel
Se nos presenta una novela póstuma, inconclusa y autobiográfica.

En ella conocemos la infancia y adolescencia del autor a través de él mismo, conocemos con fidelidad sus emociones, impresiones del mundo que comenzaba a conocer, sin tradición, sin historia sin las enseñanzas del padre.

Nacido en la pobreza más profunda en todos los sentidos, sólo quien viene al mundo sin poseer nada, ni siquiera un pasado, puede ser primigenio; el primer hombre. Solamente quien no tiene nada puede tenerlo todo.


The manuscript for this book was found in the wreckage of the vehicle in which Albert Camus died in . It was incomplete and not at all edited . I am glad that his family put it together and allowed it to be published . I agree with Michiko Kakunati who reviewed it for The New York Times when he wrote "serves as a magical Rosetta Stone to Camus' entire career,illuminating both his life and his work with stunning candor and passion".
I never realized the poverty that Camus was raised in . This lo
Onyango Makagutu
Camus is a great writer and in this book he tells a great story, a story of love, of poverty of race and of daily struggles to make a living. He tells the story of children growing up and of fathers dead in wars and of mothers left without husbands.
It is a great read.
El primer hombre es un libro que merece tu atención, es sorprendente como un libro sin terminar puede ser tan bueno, pero por lo mismo no está pulido y muchas partes se sienten algo tediosas, como si tuviera demasiado descrito, más de lo necesario, sin embargo las palabras cautivan y su descripción tan detallada del mundo en el que Jaques vivía es muy cercano, se encuentra muy vivo.

El libro según he leído tiene mucho de autobiográfico. Es un muchacho que decide superarse, es un joven que sin la

The book provoked thought about my relationship with my parents. In my first memories of them, they were over 10 years younger than I am now. I saw them through the distorted lens of my own childhood. Their struggles blended in to my egocentric world. I was never aware that they existed without me. Camus through his talent as a writer and observer steps out of the scene and observes his birth, childhood and adulthood. We are standing over his shoulder as he tries to make sense of his life.

Sherelyn Ernst
This is a 5-star as far as style is concerned. Camus' writing is amazing. This memoir makes you feel as if you are right there with him in an Algeria and time in which all your senses are alive and quivering. I strongly recommend this if you love great writing--and it's short! I gave it 4 stars only because it seems incomplete--actually, it IS incomplete and was only found and published after his death. Thematically, I couldn't tell where he was going with it, but it didn't really matter. It was ...more
Camus's fantastic posthumously published novel. Actually, the manuscript was found in the floor of the car in which he had his fatal accident.
Did you know that Michel Gallimard, the founder of the great French publishing house, was also killed in that accident. Moreover, in 2011 there was a rather interesting theory that Camus was actually assassinated by the KGB for his criticisms of the Soviet Union in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech? Ultimately, because of the circumstances of the trip, wh
Jeff Abbott
Two things I loved about this book. First is that it's a compelling autobiographical story into the childhood of Camus. Even as an unfinished draft, it's written in a very still-life nostalgia. The sadness of his father's unnecessary brutal demise, his tough minded grandmother, and his sweet deaf mother. Then there's the triumph of his promotion to the lycee with the help of Msr. Benard, his teacher, who as someone who works in education I couldn't help but adore. Camus seems to lay out a series ...more
Una lástima que la incompletitud de esta obra sea tan evidente. Había pasado ya demasiado tiempo desde que leí 'La peste' y 'El extranjero', aunque el recuerdo de sus tramas ha permanecido, así que enfrentarme a la prosa de Camus ha tenido algo de descubrimiento.
La impresión que prevalece tras haber terminado el libro es la de haber encontrado a un precursor de la 'Infancia' de Coetzee. Podría tratarse de una analogía facilona en tanto que ambos libros tratan de las infancias de sus autores, cr
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Why no Arabs? 3 11 Jul 22, 2014 06:45AM  
  • Albert Camus: A Life
  • The Words
  • Hell
  • A Very Easy Death
  • Man's Fate
  • The Immoralist
  • Diaries of Franz Kafka
  • Les caractères
  • Thérèse
  • A Harlot High and Low
  • The Ogre
  • Bouvard and Pecuchet
  • Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy
  • Death on the Installment Plan
  • Sodom and Gomorrah (In Search of Lost Time, #4)
  • Enfance
Albert Camus was an Algerian-born French author, philosopher, and journalist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. He is often cited as a proponent of existentialism (the philosophy that he was associated with during his own lifetime), but Camus himself rejected this particular label. Specifically, his views contributed to the rise of the more current philosophy known as absurdis ...more
More about Albert Camus...
The Stranger The Plague The Fall The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt

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“When the soul suffers too much, it develops a taste for misfortune.” 809 likes
“When I was young I asked more of people than they could give: everlasting friendship, endless feeling.

Now I know to ask less of them than they can give: a straightforward companionship. And their feelings, their friendship, their generous actions seem in my eyes to be wholly miraculous: a consequence of grace alone.”
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