Turning in his grave

Sarkozy accused of political bodysnatching with plan to move Albert Camus

Fifty years after his death at 47 on Jan. 4, 1960, Albert Camus—writer, resistance hero, philanderer and goalkeeper—remains one of the most popular non-populist writers in the world, and one of the hardest to define. Leftist or libertarian? Novelist or existentialist philosopher? Courageous humanist or heartless womanizer? Like the protagonist of one of his best-known books (L’étranger), Albert Camus remains an outsider, and any attempt to interpret or categorize him can still cause trouble. President Nicolas Sarkozy, an avid Camus reader since his youth, has blundered into this difficult territory. He wants to claim Albert Camus for the nation, by moving his body to the Panthéon in Paris, the last resting place of great Frenchmen. The suggestion has raised a wonderfully French intellectual storm. How dare a right-wing President try to snatch the body of a left-wing hero? (Camus, unlike his sometime friend Jean-Paul Sartre, was never truly a hero of the French left, but no matter). How dare the anti-intellectual President become an intellectual grave-digger and place the Great Outsider inside the secular temple of the Officially Great and Good?

The Independent

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