Camus Quote


"It's better to be wrong by killing no one than to be right with mass graves."

That memorable Albert Camus line is quoted in a nice essay by Paul Barker that appears in the British Spectator. It remains surprising to me that post 9/11, Camus' stock hasn't risen more than it has. He is not simply one of the most accessible, engaging, and interesting writers of the 20th century. He's also famous for writing memorably about the often violent interaction between Westerners and Islamic Arabs (his most famous novel, The Stranger, is about the gratuitous murder of an Arab). Granted, Camus wrote mostly about North Africa, but his stories and thoughts are more widely applicable.

Barker suggests the main reason why Camus is strangely absent from contemporary discussions. And he also suggests why our conversation is diminished as a result:

Camus stands or falls by L'?tranger, La Peste and La Chute. But was he as wrong about Algeria as he seemed at the time? In his influential book, Orientalism (1978), the late Edward Said fingered Camus as "no friend of revolution" (very true); then, in 1993, in Culture and Imperialism, he went on to deride Camus's "incapacitated colonial sensibility." Things aren't that simple. We've now seen the outcome of the FLN regime's dogmatic, militaristic, even Stalinist rule. Twelve years ago, elections, which an Islamist party was about to win, were cancelled. Result: one of the cruellest of civil wars, even by African standards. South Africa, with its truth and reconciliation commission, shows that a third way may be possible.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: Keiko Killed by Good Intentions

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  1. Camus can do, but Sartre is smartre.

  2. Well, Scooby-Doo can doo-doo, but Jimmy Carter is smarter.

  3. Doesn’t inspiring a Cure song count for anything?

  4. Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.

  5. i thought that line was “tried by twelve” from the 12″ series of the same name (on chocolate industries)

    of course, i’m sure it comes from something else, so forgive my ignorance. i now have the funkstorung remix stuck in my head.

  6. “incapacitated colonial sensibility”
    I’m assuming this means that Camus’s status as a “privileged” white imperialist inured him to seeing things the way a “native” would ?
    And why isn’t Jean Bart here already ?

  7. Jean Bart has been busy. 🙂

    Though a general admirer of Said’s early work, specifically Orientalism, I always thought Said was flat wrong when it came to Camus.

    What’s interesting about Algeria is that despite its “independence,” it is now more than ever dependent on France. BTW, violence in Algeria in the post-colonial era is not exclusive to the past twelve years; since independence there has been a slow civil war going on there.

    I’ve been to Chad on several occassions, and one of the constant refrains is to blame the “metropole” for everything. Now I am extremely sympathetic to the plight of West Africa, and feel that France has not always been an honest broker in that region of the world, but my question always in response is, why don’t you ever look to the people who run your country?

  8. May I suggest “Naked Lunch” by Burroughs. The Islam Incorporated chapter.

    Available on line:

  9. dhex, do you have any idea who is in east flatbush project?
    i remember reading once that it was somewhat of a who’s who in new york underground mcs.
    either way, it spawned some inredible remixes.

  10. M. Simon,

    I’ve actually met Burroughs; interesting person in person.

  11. i have no idea who is in east flatbush project.

    when’d you meet wsb, jb?

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