Home > Reflection > ‘Lucid Love’ (Helen’s Exile, Albert Camus, 1948)

‘Lucid Love’ (Helen’s Exile, Albert Camus, 1948)

I happened to read some of Camus’s essays (Helen’s Exile, Return to Tipasa, The Artist and His Time; two others are included in the edition of The Myth of Sisyphus I have) today. They were an extremely interesting counterpoint to the later portions of Sophie’s Choice.

In Sophie’s Choice, the feeling of despair and the sense of bleakness just break in after the horror leaves you vulnerable. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had reached a part in the book that was really difficult; I was probably anticipating the last part. After I finished it some time last week, I really didn’t want to ever go back to it. The fact that the characters are fictional doesn’t matter a helluvalot, not just because the events did happen (‘history’ doesn’t seem distant after reading it). That despair just haunts you. And the way the author writes as though it is an autobiographical account just adds to that.

The events in Sophie’s Choice take place during and after the war years. The few of Camus’s essays I was reading were written during the late 40s – early 50s, so the time period does overlap somewhat. The hopeless bleakness of the time was something that both Styron and Camus communicated, but the effects they had on this reader were grossly dissimilar.

I quote Helen’s Exile: ‘Yet what a temptation, at certain moments, to turn one’s back on this bleak, fleshless world! But this time is ours, and we cannot live hating ourselves.’ (I’m suddenly reminded of Gandalf.) In The Myth of Sisyphus and throughout the other essays I (can barely claim to) have read, that lucid awareness of a perhaps bleak reality doesn’t elicit horror or despair, or anything I might call ‘life-denying’. The final pages of Sophie’s Choice do hint at some new dawn of hope, but it just seems desperate after the rest of the book. (Also, Return to Tipasa just does that ‘new dawn’ thing a whole ! lot better.)

Edit: And What A Game! Even if the result was a crushing disappointment. What A Game!

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