Camus and solitude

Writer Albert Camus lived in the thick of politics and ideology in World War II and post-war France and Algeria. Camus’ political point of view was thoughtful and comprehensive but beholden to no party or persuasion. He suffered for his non-conformity — friendless, surrounded by hostile colleagues, mistrusted by those whom he hoped to reconcile. His attempts to develop a unique point of view steering past ideology and refusing inevitability was rooted in his upbringing between the colonial experience, the European colonizer, and a world unreconciled to peace.

From this experience Camus evolved a point of view not so much based on but perhaps hovering around solitude.

Camus’ solitude was certainly not eremitic but social — if that is possible. Like the stranger of his novel by that title, Camus’ solitude is that of one who does not fit the class, culture, or ideas of his peers, nor of those with whom he has much in common — the European intellectuals, the pieds noir of Algeria, the militant and anti-colonial Arabs. Camus is forever alienated by his intelligence, his refusal to compromise, and his sense of history and justice.

Today, when all parties are betrayed, where politics has debased everything, the only thing left for a man is the consciousness of his solitude and his faith in human and individual values.

This sense of solitude is built in part on Nietzsche’s concept of the perspicacious observer of modern times who no longer fits into the categories of society, philosophy, and religion. This observer no longer can play along with the hypocrisy of false values. Yet where to go with this point of view other than unwittingly or unnecessarily alienating others around him or her?

Embraced voluntarily, solitude on this large scale neither shrinks from confronting the world nor does it renounce it altogether. This solitude is militant and engaged. It is a model of solitude uniquely modern, living for the issues of the present, in part because it cannot accept the moral values of the past, represented by spirituality. This is not for everyone. It is a great risk, like all modern or post-modern scenarios. Yet in the case of Camus’ politics and social views it has a firm grounding in ethical values, and has a great potential for those who are without faith but who still “believe.”