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The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century. TJudt (2007, p. 124)

July 9, 2013

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Camus’s real target was not of course the Left, but political extremism itself. In La Peste the enduring image is of men of moderation and moral measure revolting not for an ideal but against intolerance and intransigence. In his writings during the Cold War he strove to warn of the moral and political costs of ideological rhetoric—“Starting with a wise healthy mistrust of bourgeois society’s abuse of freedom, we have ended by becoming suspicious of freedom itself.” Finally, despairing at the intellectual and political polarization over Algeria, Camus concluded thus: “The Right has given the Left exclusive rights to morality and received in return a monopoly of patriotism. France has lost twice over. It could have used some moralists less cheerfully resigned to their country’s troubles.”

Central to Camus’s politics, and to his pleas for measure in all things, was his growing awareness of the sheer complexity of the world, or rather the worlds in which humans must live. His arguments in L’Homme révolté drew on an intuition already present in his first major novel, and spelt out in Sisyphe: there is not one truth but many, and not all of them are accessible to us. Like Meurseault in L’Etranger, we are living and narrating a story that we can never fully understand. It was as much this as Camus’s postwar calls for justice and retribution that led Mauriac to see in him a fundamentally religious (Christian?) sensibility. But for Mauriac, perfect understanding existed in principle; it was simply not vouchsafed to mere men. Camus, adrift in a world without God, believed no such thing. There were, as we might now say, no “metanarratives.” We must decide what is right as we proceed.”

[op. cit., p. 124]

Manuel J. Matos‘s insight:

A man able to accept the costs of being right before the time.

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