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The First Man

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  5,741 ratings  ·  391 reviews
The unfinished manuscript of The First Man was discovered in the wreckage of a car accident in which Camus died in 1960. Although it was not published for over thirty years, it was an instant bestseller when it finally appeared in 1994. The 'first man' is Jacques Cormery, whose poverty-stricken childhood in Algiers is made bearable by his love for his silent and illiterate ...more
Paperback, Large Print, 359 pages
Published March 1st 1996 by Thorndike Press (first published April 13th 1994)
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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,741 ratings  ·  391 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: french-authors
Basically an autobiography by Camus. The manuscript was found in the car when Camus died in a car crash in 1960, when he was 57, and just 3 years after he won the Nobel Prize. It’s clearly a draft with a lot of footnotes and other notes that that show a writer at work. (Change names; don’t use the real names; develop; illegible; add this; take out that.) Obviously it could use editing, but it’s a good book as is.

In an editor’s note we’re told the manuscript was not published until 1994 (by his
A Hunger for Discovery

This is Camus’s last work. But for anyone interested in his philosophy, or more importantly the reasons for his philosophy, this should probably be the first to read. The First Man is intensely emotional without being sentimental, self-critical without regrets, and above all human with a humanness which is, I think, the key to everything else he wrote.

The book shows Camus as a person shaped in his intentions as well as his vices by a most remarkable and unlikely multi-cult
Apr 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Le Premier Homme = The First Man, Albert Camus
The First Man is Albert Camus' unfinished final novel. On January 4, 1960, at the age of forty-six, Camus was killed in a car accident. The incomplete manuscript of The First Man, the autobiographical novel Camus was working on at the time of his death, was found in the mud at the accident site. Camus' daughter, Catherine Camus, later transcribed the handwritten manuscript to type press, and published the book in 1994. Camus hoped that it would be hi
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed every single word of this book. This is a MUST read to Camus' fans!
Leo Robertson
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adds an unexpected dimension to Camus' philosophy: that it was written by a regular guy whose daily worries, ponderings, misgivings and regrets found him just as much as ours find us. That's of course a major point of his philosophy, that inherent flaws in the machine make regrets, worries, mistakes and absolute communion between people impossible, but gone in this work is the darkly ironic facade. This time we find reassurance in that Camus is as he was basically trying to convince us he was an ...more
Smiley (aka umberto)
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, …,
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
Jay Green
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Super translation that captures the clarity, vividness and unfussiness of Camus's writing. One of my favourite works, purely because of its evocative powers.
Jul 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Given the number of inaccuracies, author’s footnotes, and the incompleteness of the ending, one has to treat this as an unfinished novel, or a memoir with names fictionalized. Nevertheless, the fact that the manuscript was found in the wrecked vehicle in which Camus perished, and that it was published 35 years after he died, gives it a special place in the Nobel prize-winning author’s canon.

The book covers Camus’ birth in 1913 until his graduation from school at the age of 15 in Algeria. The nar
Paul Martin
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, favorites
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
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french
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
Theresa Leone Davidson
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Jul 31, 2015 added it
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
Apr 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, own
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
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Dave Groff
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
“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
Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: yes
Arguably my favorite book.
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Only the most die-hard Camus fans
I feel like I've been reading this book forever. My biggest gripe with the book is that it is unfinished. This is clearly a draft of a book in progress, and it has not been edited and Camus' own notes appear as footnotes. I knew all of this before I started, but it was still bothersome.
The reason that its unfinished status matters so much is because without some editing and revision, the pieces of the book fail to coalesce into a story. As is, the book reads like a series of vignettes that run
Elisabeth Jaffe
Sep 25, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: recentlyread
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.
Aug 06, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I think I'll be done with all of Camus' fiction after I read this.
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A must read. An existential expression of the strong societal tether Algiers held upon its native son Albert Camus.

And possibly his grinding opposition toward it. The result being a thoroughly modern Nobel laureate.

The First Man is a beautiful read.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
The manuscript of this was among the possessions of the passengers that were pulled from the wreckage of the car accident that killed Camus. This was his last, and unfinished, work, and for some reason it took over 30 years for it to finally appear in print, a delay that may have lessened its impact. In his far-too-short life, he was an internationally revered writer and thinker, a winner of the Nobel Prize at a young age, a man who brought creative writing, philosophy, and political activity to ...more
Kate Savage
Aug 31, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Roger DeBlanck
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites
Over thirty-five years after his untimely death at the age of forty-six, Camus’s final breathtaking novel was published in 1995. In the wreckage of the car accident that ended his life, Camus carried the manuscript of The First Man. He envisioned this autobiographical novel as an epic that would chronicle a life similar to his own, from childhood to manhood. Camus had completed approximately a third of the story at the time of his death. What he captured in that stretch of narrative constitutes ...more
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Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a representative of non-metropolitan French literature. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest in philosophy (only chance prevented him from pursuing a university care ...more
“When the soul suffers too much, it develops a taste for misfortune.” 1195 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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