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The First Man

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  3,521 ratings  ·  234 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
Jun 16, 2015 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Camus & readers who don't mind winding prose
Who knew I would be reading Camus' last novel as though it was his first? In this world of the passed away French-Algiers, the present and past are blurred, as a man recalls his childhood, and the voice of the third-person narrator is so close, it might as well be first-person. This harrowing account of a fatherless boy living in poverty is so pure that it's perfect in its stimulation. How can an author who grew so popular for his structural peculiarity in The Stranger, bring us such a completel ...more
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
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
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
Paul Martin
Catherine Camus explains in the introduction that had her father lived to see the novel he was working on published, it would not be nearly as personal and revealing as this unfinished manuscript. I am of course not in any way glad that Camus died in the tragic way he did, but I honestly can't help but feel that it would have been a tremendous loss had this not been published.

I have read most of his novels, and while I like them all very much, I also suspect that if Camus lived until he was 100
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, …,
'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
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
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.
I thought I had read all of Albert Camus's novels--turns out I was right and I was wrong. The First Man is an unfinished manuscript Camus was working on at the time of his death. It's fairly long for a book by Camus, but based on his notes, it would have been much longer in the final version.

Here we have a bildungsroman that is told from Jacques's perspective as a boy and, intermittently, as a 40-year-old man. The novel is written in great detail, all the peculiarities of being French in Algeria
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
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
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.
César Salazar
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
“Because,' Cormery went on, 'when I was very young, very foolish, and very much alone ... you paid attention to me and, without seeming to, you opened for me the door to everything I love in the world.”
― Albert Camus, The First Man
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.
Theresa Leone Davidson
OK, the hubby has never heard me say, "One of the best I've ever read," but he heard it when I finished this. Camus' other books that I recently read, The Stranger and The Fall, were both good, worthy of the five star rating I gave them, but in comparison, this deserves ten stars. It is about a man (it is autobiographical, so it's about Camus himself) who returns to the Algerian neighborhood in which he grew up to see his mom, visit the grave of the father he never knew, and try to learn more ab ...more
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
Aaron Gallardo
Cuando Camus extraña, horror al vacío. En Bodas, el paisaje definía a la cultura argelina; aquí, el ambiente caluroso, árido y por momentos bello define a (y es parte de) Camus: no se le podría entender sin el desierto ni la pobreza ni la inocencia. Es allí donde El primer hombre encaja y cobra significado. Pero eso pudo haberse logrado mejor prescindiendo de un centenar de páginas y descripciones. Como se trata de libro aún no acabado, es lógico pensar que Camus había de depurarlo. Echémosle la ...more
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
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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
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“When the soul suffers too much, it develops a taste for misfortune.” 926 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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