Author In Depth: Albert Camus

I started this blog in January 2022, and decided then that I wanted to take on some reading challenges to keep things interesting. I came up with two challenges at that time. The first was “Read a Series,'' and I’m currently on Book 8 of 9 of The Expanse series, a sci-fi space opera by James S.A. Corey. It’s amazing, but two years in and I’m not quite done. I tell myself I’m savouring the experience, but I actually think I just have too many good books to read, and so I’m lagging a bit. Also, it’s so good that I kind of don’t want it to be over.

The second reading challenge I’ve chosen is Author In Depth. I read all of American writer Colson Whitehead’s novels in order and just finished his most recent book, Crook Manifesto. It took me two years to read his nine novels. It was fascinating to see the evolution of his writing, discovering the books that I loved, and ones that were more challenging for me. I liked that Author in Depth project so much and I’ve decided I want to continue with another author.

The candidates are numerous; there are so many amazing writers out there to explore. I’ve also decided that I don’t need to read an author’s entire oeuvre, but to read adequately to understand them and get a real sense of their body of work. I’ll approach each author differently.

For the last couple of months, the idea of exploring the works and philosophy of Albert Camus has been living inside my brain, gradually taking shape. Why? Some of it has to do with the fact that I read L’Etranger in French in Grade 12. It was the pinnacle of my French language proficiency, and a book that left a lasting impact, even if I can’t remember its details very well now. It was 33 years ago. At the same time, we studied some of Camus’ existential Absurdist philosophy and remember that it made sense to my teenage brain. I’ve seen some folks on my Bookstagram community reading Camus too, and perhaps that sparked the flame of an old literary love.

You’d think it’d be easy, right? I’ll just read all of Camus. Hold up! A quick Wikipedia search reveals that he wrote a massive amount. Only five novels, but there are numerous non-fiction works, plays and essays. There are his notebooks. His work is actually divided up into three “cycles,” and each has its own fiction and nonfiction works belonging to each cycle. Not all is strictly chronological, and not all works are deemed necessary to delve into his writing and philosophy in a complete way.

I’ve done some more research, and mapped a reasonable approach to this Author In Depth project. These are a few of the resources I used to make my plan, including: 

How To Read: Camus (Dionysy)

The Plan:
  • I’ll try to keep to the cycles of his work for a reading order of the novels.
  • Since Camus’ writing is informed by his philosophy, I’m going to start with Introducing Camus: A Graphic Guide David Zane Mairowitz and Alain Korkos. Yes, this series is the same as the “For Beginners” series which presents different topics as a graphic novel. You’ve got to start somewhere, and I know little about Camus’ life and philosophy, so this should do the trick.
  • Maybe: watch introductory videos about Camus
  • Read the novels: The Stranger, The Plague, The Fall
  • Maybe read novel The First Man
  • Maybe read Exile and the Kingdom (short stories)
  • Read The Myth of Sisyphus (non-fiction)
  • Include the possibility of reading some literary criticism and analysis as I go along to better understand the books.
You'll notice that there are a lot of maybes in this plan. That's a design feature, because I want to have a malleable framework. I’ll give fair warning that my plan may be altered at any point if I find interesting Camus diversions as I go along, or my library holds come in the wrong order from what I’ve set out. I may even add in one of the plays that he wrote.

Feel free to join me on this journey. I’ll be posting about this Author In Depth Project as I go along here, but proactively as I prepare to start a new piece of his work on my Instagram page @trishtalksbooks. I’m excited to start! First up for February: Introducing Camus. I feel smarter already.