only six months ago, only yesterday, one asked: “What will he do?” Provisionally torn by contradictions which must be respected, he had chosen silence. But he was one of those rare beings for whom one may well wait, because they choose slowly and remain faithful to their choice. One day he would speak. We would not even have dared to venture a guess as to what he would say. But we thought that he, like the rest of us, was changing as the world was changing: that was enough for his presence to remain alive.
We had quarrelled, he and I. But a quarrel, even if you never see someone again, is nothing, nothing more than a different way of living together, without losing contact, in the narrow little world which is given us. It did not stop me from thinking of him, from being aware of his eye on the page of the book or the newspaper he was reading, and from asking myself: “What does he think of it? What does he think of it at this moment?”
Sometimes, according to events or my moods, I thought his silence too cautious, and sometimes I found it painful. But that silence was part of the quality of each day, like heat or light, only human. One lived with or against his ideas, as they were revealed to us in his books—La Chute, in particular, perhaps the most beautiful of his books and the least understood—but always through his ideas. They were a strange adventure of our culture, a movement whose phases and final outcome one tried to guess.
He was in this century, and against history, the true heir of that long line of moralists whose writings may well be that which is most original in French literature. His stubborn humanism, narrow and pure, austere and sensuous, fought a difficult battle against the overwhelming, confused events of our time. But, inversely, his was also a reaffirmation, at the core of our epoch, and because of the stubbornness of his denials, of the existence of the m oral fact, against the Machiavellians, against the Golden Calf of realism.
He was, so to speak, that unshakeable affirmation. If one read or thought at all, one came up against the human values which he kept in his clenched fist: he questioned the political act. He had to be circumvented or fought: in short, he was indispensable to that tension which constitutes the life of the mind. Even his silence, these last years, had a positive facet: this cartesian of the absurd refused to leave the solid ground of morality and to tread the unsure paths of praxis. We guessed it and we guessed also the conflicts he silenced: for morality, taken by itself, both demands rebellion and condemns it.
We waited because we had to wait and to know. Whatever he might in time have done or decided, Camus would never have ceased to be one of the main forces of our cultural life or to represent in his way the history of France and of this century. But we might perhaps have known and understood his itinerary. He had done a life’s work, and as always, everything remained to be done. He said it himself: “My work is before me.” It’s over now. What is particularly scandalous about his death is the abolition of the human order by the inhuman.
The human order is only a disorder still; it is unjust, precarious, people kill in it, and starve in it: but at least it is made, maintained, and fought for by men. It is in that order that Camus should have remained alive: that man on his way was a challenge to us, was himself a question seeking its answer; he lived in the middle of a long life; for us, for him, for the men who impose order and for those who refuse it, it was important that he should speak, that he should decide, that he should conclude. Others die old, others may die at any moment without thereby altering the meaning of their life, of life itself. But for us, unsure, without compass, it mattered that our best men should reach the end of the tunnel. Rarely has the nature of a writer’s work and the circumstances of an historical moment so clearly demanded that a writer should live.