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The first man of France

A definitive account of Albert Camus and tries to disentangle his fiction from his life

By Douglas Johnson   June 1996

It has all been said before. Camus wrote the same novel under different titles. He was fascinated by himself, but there wasn’t much to be fascinated by. He was a philosopher whose philosophy hadn’t proceeded beyond the school leaving grade; a communist with the prejudices of the lower middle class; a liberal who backed French colonisation in Algeria; a moralist who was relentlessly selfish in his many affairs with women.

Periodically, a biographer or a critic would say that Camus had fallen into neglect. Whether or not this was true, the result was a new book on the author. Scholars…

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