Every publication is a deliberate act, and that act makes us vulnerable to the passions of a century that forgives nothing. These are dangerous times to create art. Which is also to say, these are the best times to create art. But what makes these times dangerous anyway? After all, Camus gave his speech only a decade after WWII when fascism had almost conquered Europe, and the Soviet Empire was just beginning its rule over half the continent that would last the next half a century. The danger one experiences as an artist in the West pales in comparison to what an artist might experience in a country like Iran or China.

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Shelves: french-belgian , politics-economy , philosophy , essays Albert Camus is the only Existentialist I can bear. You know why? Because he was honest.

He had opinions based on reality as it is and lived according to them instead of preaching despair while cheerfully piling up money and fame like his most honourable colleagues. Rea est mortis! In so doing, the Nobel prize winner makes some very clever remarks regarding the attitude of society toward art and creativeness. To create today is to create dangerously. Any publication is an act, and that act exposes one to the passions of an age that forgives nothing.

The question is how, among the police forces of so many ideologies, the strange liberty of creation is possible. Because the art of nowadays must deal with the masses. It must accept to be either engaged in some kind of historical commitment or corrupt by popularisation, a choice the old masters had always been spared until the middle class prevailed and culture became accessible to the masses.

Artistic isolation is not possible anymore; the maddening crowd is now a reality to be reckoned with: "We know now that they exist, because the masses have become stronger and keep people from forgetting them. What we need today is, according to Camus, a creativity that is aware of its own potential. The society of merchants can be defined as a society in which things disappear in favour of signs.

He forwards an ideal concept of art as an achievement of all mankind throughout history, a common endeavour and a common task of both writers and readers. Only a new political mentality can lead to a new start and a real change, in which there are neither partisans nor collaborators anymore. What determined the fall of European civilisation and the ascent of barbaric dictatorships was the lack of respect for intelligence and intellectuals, who had been conveniently used as a scapegoat - or an enemy - by most governments.

The main responsibility lay with the intelligence. Our peasants had read too much Proust", Camus points out, and not ironically at all: those were widespread opinions, shrewdly exploited by monarchs and statesmen before and during the conflict. No justice can do without intellectual freedom and no freedom can do without social justice, which obviously entails the economic and political.

This speech also shows the most unexpectedly, delightfully optimistic Camus, eventually suggesting a universal brotherhood between the intellectual and the worker as their only chance to fight back whenever their freedom is in danger.



Albert Camus, however, was never comfortable with his own role. Camus, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in and whose birth centenary falls on November 7, spent much of his life and work examining what he considered the only philosophical question worth asking: whether suicide is an appropriate response to an absurd world. Camus in trench coat, collar upturned as a perpetual cigarette droops from the corner of his mouth, has become the emblem of the stylishly engaged writer. But without it, that renascence would be without form and, consequently, would be nothing.


Create Dangerously

As we are not wise, the divinity has not spared us and we are living in an interesting era. In any case, our era forces us to take an interest in it. The writers of today know this. If they speak up, they are criticized and attacked. If they become modest and keep silent, they are vociferously blamed for their silence. In the midst of such din the writer cannot hope to remain aloof in order to pursue the reflections and images that are dear to him.

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