First Man

Camus, Albert. The First Man. Translated by David Hapgood. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1995.

First Man opens with Henri Cormery, the new manager of the Saint-Apotre property seeking help for his wife, in labor with their second child. But, the meat of the transcript isĀ  the son, Jacques Cormery, looking to understand he father he never met. With a deaf-mute mother and a contradictory tyrannical grandmother, Jacques’s quest for knowledge is slow-going. Henri Cormery died in combat when Jacques was just an infant and the women in his family are reluctant to remember anything. Most of the story centers on Jacques in the formative years, his education, his religion, his poverty and of course, his mother and grandmother. While most of the story centers on the bleakness of poverty and the restrictions placed upon Jacques because of that poverty, I liked the sly sense of humor Camus inserted throughout the story. Take this dialogue, for example: “How is it going?” “I don’t know, I especially don’t go in where the women are.” “Good rule…Particularly when when are crying…” (p 15). It just goes to show you that emotional women still drive men nuts. What I didn’t appreciate in First Man was how confusing an unfinished transcript could be. On page 8 Jacques’s mother’s name is Lucie, but by page 90 she is Catherine. Then there were the hundreds and hundreds of reference notes. It made reading slow and plodding at times.

As an aside, I have to laugh. Because I have been thinking of this as Camus’s last book I have been calling it The Last Man. Go figure!

Quotes I like, “She said yes, maybe it was no; she had to reach back in time through a clouded memory, nothing was certain” (p 80).

Reason read: June 19th is the anniversary of Revolution Day in Algeria.

Author fact: Camus’s daughter is instrumental in getting this work published. Even his wife wouldn’t release it to the public.

Book trivia: This is Camus’s last work. The handwritten manuscript was found with him after his fatal car accident in 1960. I think it is fitting that First Man is the last book written by Camus that I will read for the Challenge.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Algeria” (p 159).


Camus, a Romance

Hawes, Elizabeth. Camus, a Romance. New york: Grove Press, 2009.

I think what makes this biography so likeable is that Hawes includes her own memoir at the same time. The reader not only gets a portrait of one of the most influential writers of all time but Hawes displays her own life as well. Or at least she displays her obsession with Camus.
Small complaint. The photography Hawes chose to include of Albert Camus are tiny and interspersed in the text unlike other biographies where the photos are grouped together in large, glossy pages. I don’t know if Hawes didn’t receive permission to enlarge the photographs or what. The small photographs seem stingy for some reason; especially since Hawes admits that in reading Camus’s journal she finds him faceless and unknown. It is in photographs that she is able to tease out the intimacies of his spirit. The reader is not privy to most of the images she describes.
As an aside, a friend brought me three other Camus biographies just so I could see the photos. They were wonderful! It was especially nice to see the ones Hawes described in detail.

Line I heard throughout the book, “I was like an author who had fallen in love with one of his characters” (p 98).

Reason read: Albert Camus was born in October. I would have liked more Camus biographies on my list but this is the only one.

Author fact: I should call this “author rumor” because it’s not fact. In my opinion Hawes is obsessed with Camus. It’s as if, in this book, she is stalking his ghost.

Book trivia: No index.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Algeria” (p 159).


November ’12 is…

November is Thanksgiving. My mom’s birthday. A wedding somewhere out there. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. Soon it will be time to crank up the woodstove. November is also a football game (Go Pats!) and maybe some music. It promises to be a good month for books, too. I have a couple of really short ones to buzz through:

  • Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Vol 2. by Giorgio Vasari ~ continuing the series started in October in honor of art month. As with Vol.1 I won’t read any bio that has a mistake in it.
  • I’m excited about this volume because Da Vinci is in it.

  • The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan ~ a continuation of the series started in October to honor the Amsterdam marathon. This should be a really quick read.
  • Camus: a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes ~ in honor of Albert Camus’s birth month
  • Edward Lear in Albania: journals of a landscape painter by Edward Lear ~ in honor of November being a good time to visit Albania.
  • I guess so.

  • Before the Knife: Memories of an African Childhood by Carolyn Slaughter ~in honor of November being a good time to take a safari in Africa. Truth be told, this won’t inspire me to travel anywhere near the dark continent.
  • I can tell already.

For audio – I’m plan to listen to Martin Gilbert’s biography of Winston Churchill, Winston Churchill, a Life and Dorothy Sayer’s The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.

For the Early Review program on LibraryThing I will finish Clay by Melissa Harrison. I have to admit I’m not wild about the story. I love the way Harrison describes the landscape around her but not a fan of her character development.

What else about November? Can I say I will be thrilled, thrilled to not have to listen to Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren bash each other over the head anymore? As a woman I have never felt more “targeted” than in this particular election. That would go for Obama and Romney as well. Grrrr.