Camus as primarily a settler colonist: Gina Marie Breen, ‘Neither Algerian, nor French: Albert Camus’s Pied-Noir Identity’, Mediterranean Studies, 27, 2, 2019, pp. 210-233

08Dec19

Abstract: Albert Camus was born in Mondovi, Algeria, in 1913 to white European settlers of French and Spanish origin. Hence, Camus and his parents belonged to the pied-noircommunity, a term commonly used to refer to Europeans who settled in Algeria during the French colonial occupation. While Camus chose Algeria as the setting for four of his literary texts, this article focuses on Camus’s first novel, L’Étranger, written during World War II and published in 1942, and his unfinished, posthumous, semiautobiographical novel Le Premier Homme, written during Algeria’s War of Independence and published in 1994, because they both discuss the French Algerian pied-noir community. I argue that this distinction allows them to best convey the evolution of Camus’s pied-noir identity. Through an analysis of these novels, I examine the ambivalence of Camus’s representations of French Algeria. Though his writing has left an ambivalent legacy, I contend that Camus mythologizes the past and present primarily through his piednoir origins. His poverty and loss are consolidated in his negative prognosis for Algeria’s future, a prognosis that is often mistrustful of Algerian independence. Often his pied-noir upbringing and experiences with poverty and marginality put in question the very possibility of an all-inclusive nation, rendering him incapable of imagining a hybrid community of French and Algerians living together. These works convey the complexity of Camus’s identities, and foreground his attempt and ultimate failure to navigate his past and access memories. In the end, these novels offer us a nuanced exploration of pied-noir marginality.



%d bloggers like this: