TRUTH IS FICTION: SMOKING WITH CAMUS
"As soon as I laid eyes on Catherine, tiny, in a black and white patterned skirt, big beige bubble coat, large black knit cap set haphazardly on her head, sad eyes a bit magnified by glasses, I felt like rushing up to her and giving her a big bear hug. But in Paris, people don't hug friends, nevermind complete strangers with a weird gleam in their eye and big bags from staying up half the night reading L'Etranger and trying to listen for the silence of the world behind drunken singing voices, garbage trucks and the howling wind. Yeah, uh oh, here comes a Camus fan."
Danielle Egan interviews Catherine Camus, daughter of the Nobel Prize winning author
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3AM: How do you think your father would feel about all these scholars and students, all these people sitting around in a dark room all day discussing and debating his philosophies?
CC: I speak in French, yes? I will speak slowly. I do not particularly like symposiums. A symposium on Camus is a lie. In my opinion, Camus' position concerning the lie, has rarely been dealt with. However, it is denounced and exposed in all his work. I do not judge people who are participating here. They are doing their work in a place in which they feel comfortable. Personally, a symposium is not my place. I think that university students who study Camus should come at the content from the outside, not from the point of university research. That can be a bit disembodied. There is a sense that something is lacking, life and vitality. All to dissect one single thought. Just one! Open a book. A book is a harmonious unit. But, in a symposium , one does a partial reading on whatever theme, it automatically loses life and vitality,because life is a totality, a whole entity. It is a process. So, that's the problem with a symposium. It is very rare that a small part of a book can be discussed without loosing the soul of the whole.
3AM: One of the speakers on the podium yesterday even lost consciousness. He nodded off during another presentation.
CC: Yes? [Laughs.]
3AM: All the speakers at this conference are European. Do you speak with many Arab scholars or Arab students? Particularly Algerians?
CC: No, I don't know anything about Algeria. I went when I was a little girl, but a lot of talk. I don't want to go. Everybody is dead for me. For my family.
3AM: Did you know your grandmother?
CC: Yes. I knew her. She didn't speak very much and she was deaf. We spoke with our hands.
3AM: How old were you when your father died?
3AM: Had you read any of his books before he died?
CC: One. Caligula. When I was 12. He was very surprised. I told him it's fun, it's funny. He told me, funny ? Yes funny.
3AM: Did you read it later and think it was less funny?
CC: Yes and no. I feel always funny. I saw other things that weren't funny.
3AM: Editing The First Man must have been difficult personally. How long did the process take?
CC: It took so long, 5 or 6 months, to be published because I took over the management of my father's work in 1980 and it took me time to learn the trade. It was a huge job involving lots of correspondence. I had to decipher three notebooks. I worked like a dog, I didn't lift my head. I was exhausted. [Catherine notices an ash-can.] We can smoke!
3AM: You are his state executor. Is your brother still alive? [They are twins.]
CC: [Catherine rips the filter of her cigarette and puts it in a black cig holder.] Yes and no. My brother never talk about himself. There are many things I knew. I knew everything of what The First Man speaks. But I never speak of my brother. He don't want.
3AM: Your mother wanted to publish The First Man in the 60s but the climate wasn't right. Other philosophers turned away from his because of his anti-communist beliefs and his desire for peaceful ways to settle the disputes among French and Algerians. But I think they might have been attacking him for personal reasons. That they felt scorned by him.
CC: Scorn is for them, not for Camus. He wasn't scornful. Neither am I.
3AM: Yes, that's what I meant, I think. Have you ever wanted to be a writer?
CC: No. I would like to write songs. It's a dream.
3AM: Do you keep a journal?
CC: No. No time.
3AM: What are you working on now?
CC: I don't know. I have many works to do but I am very tired. I don't know how many years without holidays. I have a family, a private life and every woman understands that: work and then house.
3AM: Do you have any assistants in your work as Camus' executor?
CC: No. I am alone. And my friend since one year. We are planning on doing films of L'Etranger and perhaps La Peste. Perhaps.
3AM: Have you already chosen scripts? Will you be approving the scripts?
CC: No scripts chosen but I read the scripts and I can say no, because it's too far from my ideas. I don't like theatre, I like film. We get many scripts for theatre adaptations but not for film scripts. Have you written a script?
3AM: No. Yes. In my head! Your situation must be amazing but it also must be a burden.
CC: Les deux. Both.
3AM: What do you like to do?
CC: I was a lawyer. Administrative lawyer because you have to defend people against state. But I had no time for doing. My mother died very young.
3AM: Do you think that you would have worked with your mother on your father's works and his legacy.
CC: Yes. But I think it was more difficult for her. She was a wife and I am the daughter. I think if made a mistake, everybody makes mistakes, so for me, it's my father, he did not everything right with me, okay, I made a mistake. For her it was much more difficult.
3AM: What do you mean mistake?
CC: You can fail. Everybody fails.
3AM: This is probably an impossible question but, have you learned more from him from his books or from your experiences with him?
CC: I am first and foremost his daughter. That is super intellectual. When you lose a person you love, this person stays with you. I like his books, nothing more. Nothing more. I just take life as it comes. I don't have a mission.
3AM: What is truth to you?
CC: Liberty. Freedom. And love
3AM: This is an especially good time to be examining the subject of truth and lies around the political situation with the Middle East.
CC: Right now, I don't see more truth. It's very sad. I don't know. It seems the only truth is money and I think money is a lie. It's very sad.
3AM: You have children?
CC: Yes, they are old. My son is in perfume - the nose - my son makes perfume. My daughter is a lawyer.
3AM: Have they ever wanted to be writers?
CC: No, happily. But kids are not our property. They are free. Let them free and…it doesn't matter. You should do what passes in your mind. Freedom is a responsibility and I think it's important to teach that to your kids.
3AM: Who are you reading right now?
CC: Tony Hellerman [she laughs]. Ethnological thrillers. He's an American writer. It's easy to read just now.
3AM: My favourite book of Camus' is L'Etranger. I've read it many times. Again yesterday.
CC: I read it just once.
3AM: Which is your favourite book of your father's?
CC: The Fall. I don't know why. I don't know.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is a writer and journalist living in Paris. She eats a lot of cheese, collects rejection letters from fiction agents and publishers for her first novel and is now also working on a coffee table book called Love Letters from Agents and Publishers