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The Journal of Camus Studies
Formerly the Journal of the Albert Camus Society, the JCS is published annually and is available in print or as an ebook. For more information on purchasing or contributing visit the Camus Journal page.
Camus, A Romance offers a richly detailed account of two thinkers on a similar path of better understanding humanity.
Elizabeth Hawes's phenomenal biographical romance is nothing short of an enduring pleasure to read and absorb. Hawes's work is one that is not strictly a biography, nor is it entirely a memoir of Hawes and her love of and for all things Camus. Her perspective is one that she interweaves her own personal experiences of discovery-as she researches her undergraduate honors thesis in French literature- in terms of Camus. As her narrative continues, Hawes seemingly intertwines a chronicle that situates her as detective and engineer of Camus's works and philosophies by embedding them into the framework of his life.
As with most scholars of Camus, Hawes's discovery was one of post-mortem and during her early years at university. Nevertheless her discovery was not one of a passing interest that is forgotten with time, but rather was one of intrigue. While researching her undergraduate thesis, Hawes becomes enrapt with Camus the person and Camus the philosopher. Her daunting research leads her to a life-long passion; and like an archaeologist, she will not be satisfied until she learns everything that she possibly could about the man behind the absurdist philosophy.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Hawes's work is how she learns about herself while she is learning about Camus. Her self-discoveries are as exciting for the reader as are the subtle nuances that she unearths about Camus. Through her eloquent and poetic use of prose, Hawes transforms her self-discovery into something universal- and seemingly apropos- that readers can relate to with their own self-discoveries towards their adoration for Camus.
Structurally, Hawes begins the memoir with an endearing introduction about her initial interest in Camus and all things French. Per the biographical element to Camus, she traces his family, upbringing, and life post-Algeria until his death, where she comes full-circle by reflecting on forty years of Camusian devotion.
Unlike other biographies which are either snippets or compendia of the subject, Hawes's account blends three essential elements: the historical aspects coupled with the biographical elements of Camus' life alongside her own sense of self. No other biography of Camus (and come to think of it, no other subject) is such an expressively articulate and moving description of the subject's impact on the other.
While reading Hawes's version of Camus's life, readers will not only gain insight into the life, time and work of Camus, but also will gain the impression of a scholar who has gone beyond the mere facts an interweaves the effects of one person to another. Hawes goes beyond a biography of Camus and interweaves herself into the life of one of France‘s most prominent and most important writers and thinker for a richly detailed account of two thinkers on a similar path of better understanding humanity.
This review first appeared on the US Camus Society website