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.