Saxon's Reviews > The First Man

The First Man by Albert Camus
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's review
May 22, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

Camus unfinished, final novel is rough in more ways that one. Throughout the book, notes from the editors mark up the page explaining where a word was omitted, sentences crossed-out and/or simply illegible. The First Man is also rough because it's the most frank and candid you will find Camus. In the preface, his daughter wrote that she felt that had he finished the novel, he undoubtedly would have masked the story to not be so frank and open. On the other hand, the fact that it was never able to reach that stage, reveals a different Camus that is just as intriguing as the the novelist/philosopher Camus.

It's equally fascinating because it reveals the complexities of the Algerian situation between the Arabs and the French. The entire novel revolves around Camus' own childhood experience growing up in Algiers and his working-class, uneducated family. What is revealed is a portrait that showcases a situation that went well beyond the typical colonialist and colonized dichotomy. Really, Camus' family were strangers in both Algeria and France but surely Algeria was their home. It's easy from an armchair to write off the situation as the French being colonial scumbags. And sure, in many cases, they were. However, Camus family portrait of being raised in Algeria reveals that for those who settled there, the situation was much more complex, unique and difficult to unpack.

Despite being unfinished, the novel still succeeds as is and could, conceivably, still resonate with many in similar situations.

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