"The Guest" by Albert Camus (1955, 9 pages)
"The Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus (3 pages, 1954)
Two Nobel Prize Winning French Existentialists
One Refuses the Prize, One Only French Technically
The Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded 107 times. France, at 15, has had more winners than any other country, the UK and the USA are tied for second at 11 each. Today, in observation of July in Paris , a reading and cultural event, I will post on two short stories by French writers. So far I have posted on two works for this event, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo and Ubo Roi by Alfred Jarry. Today I want to take a quick look at short stories by two super influential Nobel Prize winner, Jean Paul Sarte and Albert Camus. In a nothing is every as simple as it appears in Paris note, Jean Paul Sarte refused the award and Albert Camus was only technically French.
Sartre and Camus are both post WWII cultural giants, capturing and helping create the sensibility of a world in which old values have been destroyed. It is no coincidence that Kenzaburo Oe, whose main theme maybe " finding the courage to live in an ethical way a in world in which the old values are all gone", wrote his dissertation on the work of Sartre and made a visit to Sartre his top priority when he made his first trip to Paris. Albert Camus's The Stranger and The Plague have long been among the most read post WWII non-Japanese literary works on Japanese college campuses.
Both of these writers are classified as Existentialists (if you wish some background information there is a good article here.)
I found it very interesting that both of the two short stories here are about a prisoner awaiting execution and his purely capricious escape. Both of them are in the hands of jailers who basically have no real idea why the men should be executed but are just "following the rules".
Jean Paul Sartre (1905 to 1980-France) was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964. He refused the award because he said by accepting an award from a western institution he was siding with the west against Asian interests. He also did not want to be reified by the Award into a "Nobel Prize Winning Author". It has been a very long time since I read anything by Sartre. Decades ago I read his magnum opus Being and Nothingness and his perhaps most famous literary work, his play No Exit (Hell is other people). "The Wall" really does do a good job of bringing to life a lot of his basic themes. As the story opens we are at a small prison. The jailers are tasked with interrogating the prisoners about a topic that does not interest them (if they even understand it) and the prisoners know it is already stated in their paperwork that they are to be shot.
"The Myth of Sisyphus" is a retelling of the classic myth as the fate of modern man.