Camus at "Combat": Writing 1944-1947

Overview

Paris is firing all its ammunition into the August night. Against a vast backdrop of water and stone, on both sides of a river awash with history, freedom's barricades are once again being erected. Once again justice must be redeemed with men's blood.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) wrote these words in August 1944, as Paris was being liberated from German occupation. Although best known for his novels including The Stranger and The Plague, it was his vivid descriptions of the horrors ...

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Overview

Paris is firing all its ammunition into the August night. Against a vast backdrop of water and stone, on both sides of a river awash with history, freedom's barricades are once again being erected. Once again justice must be redeemed with men's blood.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) wrote these words in August 1944, as Paris was being liberated from German occupation. Although best known for his novels including The Stranger and The Plague, it was his vivid descriptions of the horrors of the occupation and his passionate defense of freedom that in fact launched his public fame.

Now, for the first time in English, Camus at 'Combat' presents all of Camus' World War II resistance and early postwar writings published in Combat, the resistance newspaper where he served as editor-in-chief and editorial writer between 1944 and 1947. These 165 articles and editorials show how Camus' thinking evolved from support of a revolutionary transformation of postwar society to a wariness of the radical left alongside his longstanding strident opposition to the reactionary right. These are poignant depictions of issues ranging from the liberation, deportation, justice for collaborators, the return of POWs, and food and housing shortages, to the postwar role of international institutions, colonial injustices, and the situation of a free press in democracies. The ideas that shaped the vision of this Nobel-prize winning novelist and essayist are on abundant display.

More than fifty years after the publication of these writings, they have lost none of their force. They still speak to us about freedom, justice, truth, and democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker - Adam Gopnik
As Camus at 'Combat', a new collection of his editorials . . . makes plain, the experience, first, of the Nazi occupation of France, and then of the struggle of Algerian independence against France led him to conclude that the 'primitive' impulse to kill and torture shared a taproot with the habit of abstraction, of thinking of other people as a class of entities.
The Age - Fiona Capp
Albert Camus called the 20th century 'the century of fear', but he may as well have been writing about the 21st. Although written more than 50 years ago, his editorials for the Resistance newspaper Combat in the postwar period are uncannily resonant today.
Denver Post - John Freeman
A stirring, if occasionally arcane, book that puts Camus back into his historical context. Here is Camus frothing at the mouth about collaborators and beating the drum loudly for his countrymen to get involved in creating a new democracy.
National Post - Robert Fulford
[E]xpertly edited by Jacqueline Levi-Valensi. In her hands his work becomes an affecting account of France in the years of crisis, and at the same time the portrait of a brilliant and principled man dealing with slippery, intractable reality.
Foreign Affairs - Stanley Hoffman
These beautifully translated articles . . . are as worth reading in 2006 as they were in 1946. Camus never wavered on a demand that many other philosophers and writers of his time deemed naïve: for morality in politics, born out of a conviction that political choices are ethical in essence.
The New Republic - Joseph Frank
It is astonishing to see how many of the issues on which Camus comments, and which were broached by the situation in which he was writing, anticipate and prefigure problems that continue to afflict us today. In his commentaries, Camus never stays on the surface of the events that provide his starting point; he is always searching for the deeper causes—moral, social, psychological, or ultimately religious (though he was not a believer of any kind)—that motivate human behavior. For this reason, many of these occasional writings still live.
American Interest - Michael McDonald
Anyone interested in Camus' development as a writer should also be eager to read [these articles. ]. . . [O]f the myriad volumes on contemporary politics that appear in bookstores festooned with 'must-read' blurbs, none is more important than this collection of sixty-year-old editorials. . . . [T]here is a coherence as well as an expansiveness to his writing that transcends the normal limitations of the editorial form.
From the Publisher

Finalist for the 2007 - 20th Translation Prize, French American Foundation & the Florence Gould Foundation

"As Camus at 'Combat', a new collection of his editorials . . . makes plain, the experience, first, of the Nazi occupation of France, and then of the struggle of Algerian independence against France led him to conclude that the 'primitive' impulse to kill and torture shared a taproot with the habit of abstraction, of thinking of other people as a class of entities."--Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

"France's preeminent Camus scholar before passing away in 2004, here presents 165 of the articles Camus wrote . . . for the clandestine French Resistance newspaper Combat. The later articles are less enthusiastic than the earlier ones, reflecting Camus's gradual belief that there were three failures of French democracy after the war: France's inability to deal with war crimes and criminals; its failure to bring democracy to its colonial possessions, Indochina and Algeria; and the incapacity of the French press to remain free of outside influences."--Bob Ivey, Library Journal

"The value of this comprehensive (and exhaustively footnoted) volume is to exhibit the quotidian political thought of a great humanist as he turned his attention from the triumph of the Resistance to the much messier task of building a new France out of the war's detritus."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Albert Camus called the 20th century 'the century of fear', but he may as well have been writing about the 21st. Although written more than 50 years ago, his editorials for the Resistance newspaper Combat in the postwar period are uncannily resonant today."--Fiona Capp, The Age

"A stirring, if occasionally arcane, book that puts Camus back into his historical context. Here is Camus frothing at the mouth about collaborators and beating the drum loudly for his countrymen to get involved in creating a new democracy."--John Freeman, Denver Post

"[E]xpertly edited by Jacqueline Levi-Valensi. In her hands his work becomes an affecting account of France in the years of crisis, and at the same time the portrait of a brilliant and principled man dealing with slippery, intractable reality."--Robert Fulford, National Post

"This remarkable book presents for the first time in English all of Camus's Combat writings. . . . This is political journalism at its best. As editorialist and editor in chief of Combat, Camus urged his readers to purge themselves of dogmatism, pursue justice rather than vengeance, denounce ideologies, and insist on freedom of the press. Responding to daily events 60 years ago, these pieces still resonate powerfully today in an era of global conflict."--Choice

"The first complete English-language translation of Camus's wartime journalism, this important book offers both a moving portrayal of life under the Occupation and a fascinating glimpse at the evolution of the author's thinking."--France

"These beautifully translated articles . . . are as worth reading in 2006 as they were in 1946. Camus never wavered on a demand that many other philosophers and writers of his time deemed nave: for morality in politics, born out of a conviction that political choices are ethical in essence."--Stanley Hoffman, Foreign Affairs
"It is astonishing to see how many of the issues on which Camus comments, and which were broached by the situation in which he was writing, anticipate and prefigure problems that continue to afflict us today. In his commentaries, Camus never stays on the surface of the events that provide his starting point; he is always searching for the deeper causes--moral, social, psychological, or ultimately religious (though he was not a believer of any kind)--that motivate human behavior. For this reason, many of these occasional writings still live."--Joseph Frank, The New Republic

"Anyone interested in Camus' development as a writer should also be eager to read [these articles. ]. . . [O]f the myriad volumes on contemporary politics that appear in bookstores festooned with 'must-read' blurbs, none is more important than this collection of sixty-year-old editorials. . . . [T]here is a coherence as well as an expansiveness to his writing that transcends the normal limitations of the editorial form."--Michael McDonald, American Interest

San Francisco Chronicle
The value of this comprehensive (and exhaustively footnoted) volume is to exhibit the quotidian political thought of a great humanist as he turned his attention from the triumph of the Resistance to the much messier task of building a new France out of the war's detritus.
Denver Post
A stirring, if occasionally arcane, book that puts Camus back into his historical context. Here is Camus frothing at the mouth about collaborators and beating the drum loudly for his countrymen to get involved in creating a new democracy.
— John Freeman
National Post
[E]xpertly edited by Jacqueline Levi-Valensi. In her hands his work becomes an affecting account of France in the years of crisis, and at the same time the portrait of a brilliant and principled man dealing with slippery, intractable reality.
— Robert Fulford
Choice
This remarkable book presents for the first time in English all of Camus's Combat writings. . . . This is political journalism at its best. As editorialist and editor in chief of Combat, Camus urged his readers to purge themselves of dogmatism, pursue justice rather than vengeance, denounce ideologies, and insist on freedom of the press. Responding to daily events 60 years ago, these pieces still resonate powerfully today in an era of global conflict.
France
The first complete English-language translation of Camus's wartime journalism, this important book offers both a moving portrayal of life under the Occupation and a fascinating glimpse at the evolution of the author's thinking.
Foreign Affairs
These beautifully translated articles . . . are as worth reading in 2006 as they were in 1946. Camus never wavered on a demand that many other philosophers and writers of his time deemed naïve: for morality in politics, born out of a conviction that political choices are ethical in essence.
— Stanley Hoffman
American Interest
Anyone interested in Camus' development as a writer should also be eager to read [these articles. ]. . . [O]f the myriad volumes on contemporary politics that appear in bookstores festooned with 'must-read' blurbs, none is more important than this collection of sixty-year-old editorials. . . . [T]here is a coherence as well as an expansiveness to his writing that transcends the normal limitations of the editorial form.
— Michael McDonald
The New Yorker
As Camus at 'Combat', a new collection of his editorials . . . makes plain, the experience, first, of the Nazi occupation of France, and then of the struggle of Algerian independence against France led him to conclude that the 'primitive' impulse to kill and torture shared a taproot with the habit of abstraction, of thinking of other people as a class of entities.
— Adam Gopnik
The Age
Albert Camus called the 20th century 'the century of fear', but he may as well have been writing about the 21st. Although written more than 50 years ago, his editorials for the Resistance newspaper Combat in the postwar period are uncannily resonant today.
— Fiona Capp
The New Republic
It is astonishing to see how many of the issues on which Camus comments, and which were broached by the situation in which he was writing, anticipate and prefigure problems that continue to afflict us today. In his commentaries, Camus never stays on the surface of the events that provide his starting point; he is always searching for the deeper causes—moral, social, psychological, or ultimately religious (though he was not a believer of any kind)—that motivate human behavior. For this reason, many of these occasional writings still live.
— Joseph Frank
Choice
This remarkable book presents for the first time in English all of Camus's Combat writings. . . . This is political journalism at its best. As editorialist and editor in chief of Combat, Camus urged his readers to purge themselves of dogmatism, pursue justice rather than vengeance, denounce ideologies, and insist on freedom of the press. Responding to daily events 60 years ago, these pieces still resonate powerfully today in an era of global conflict.
The New Yorker
As Camus at 'Combat', a new collection of his editorials . . . makes plain, the experience, first, of the Nazi occupation of France, and then of the struggle of Algerian independence against France led him to conclude that the 'primitive' impulse to kill and torture shared a taproot with the habit of abstraction, of thinking of other people as a class of entities.
— Adam Gopnik
Foreign Affairs
These beautifully translated articles . . . are as worth reading in 2006 as they were in 1946. Camus never wavered on a demand that many other philosophers and writers of his time deemed naïve: for morality in politics, born out of a conviction that political choices are ethical in essence.
— Stanley Hoffman
Foreign Affairs
These beautifully translated articles by Camus were originally published in the French Resistance newspaper Combat. In an introduction, David Carroll briefly analyzes the main themes: Camus' call for a new era of freedom (especially from terror) and social justice and his argument for the importance of the punishment of those guilty of atrocities, the imperative of justice in France's colonies (one of Camus' oldest concerns), and the need for a free and responsible press. Sixty years after they were first written, these texts remain fascinating for three reasons: they convey in admirable prose the evolution of France's postliberation mood, from high hopes and noble demands to disillusionment and new fears; they deal with the same themes that inform Camus' essays, novels, and plays, works of imagination that are nourished by his reflections and passions as a committed citizen of humankind; and they include little that is obsolete. Indeed, it is shocking to find how current Camus' fears, exhortations, and aspirations still are. His lucid pleas for at least saving "the bodies in order to keep open the possibility of a future," for "a modest political philosophy ... free of all messianic elements and devoid of any nostalgia for an earthly paradise," for an international democracy by mutual agreement — all are as worth reading in 2006 as they were in 1946. Camus never wavered on a demand that many other philosophers and writers of his time deemed naive: for morality in politics, born out of a conviction that political choices are ethical in essence.
Library Journal
Nobel prize-winning novelist and essayist Albert Camus (1913-60) was in a unique position to observe political and military developments in France after the defeat of Nazism and the emergence of democratic government in France. Levi-Valensi (formerly dean of literature, Univ. de Picardie, Amiens), who was France's preeminent Camus scholar before passing away in 2004, here presents 165 of the articles Camus wrote (though none can be definitively attributed) between 1944 and 1947 for the clandestine French Resistance newspaper Combat. The later articles are less enthusiastic than the earlier ones, reflecting Camus's gradual belief that there were three failures of French democracy after the war: France's inability to deal with war crime and criminals; its failure to bring democracy to its colonial possessions, Indochina and Algeria; and the incapacity of the French press to remain free of outside influences. Levi-Valensi offers a thematic classification of the articles, e.g., "The Liberation of Paris," the "Continuation of the War," and her helpful footnotes identify persons and events. A new introduction by David Carroll (French, Univ. of California, Irvine; French Literary Fascism) opens this work, translated for the first time into English. Recommended to those interested in French military and political events in post-World War II France.-Bob Ivey, Univ. of Memphis Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691133768
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/13/2007
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,029,942
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Levi-Valensi (1932-2004) was Emeritus Professor and Dean of Literature at University de Picardie, in Amiens, and France's leading scholar on Camus. David Carroll is Professor of French at the University of California, Irvine. His books include "French Literary Fascism" (Princeton). Arthur Goldhammer has translated more than ninety books from the French. In 1996 he was named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture.

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Read an Excerpt

Camus at Combat

Writing 1944-1947
By Albert Camus

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2006 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-691-12004-8


Chapter One

COMBAT UNDERGROUND: MARCH-JULY 1944

Articles that appeared in clandestine issues of Combat can at best be classified as "probably" by Camus, and it is not out of the question that he wrote others. For obvious reasons, he kept no record of what he wrote, and no firm conclusions can be drawn from either the themes or the style of what was published, since everything that appeared in the paper constituted an act of resistance and reflected goals shared by everyone who wrote for it.

Combat, Underground No. 55, March 1944

Against Total War, Total Resistance

Lying is never without purpose. Even the most impudent lie, if repeated often enough and long enough, always leaves a trace. German propaganda subscribes to this principle, and today we have another example of its application. Inspired by Goebbels's minions, cheered on by the lackey press, and staged by the Milice, a formidable campaign has just been launched-a campaign which seeks, in the guise of an attack on the patriots of the underground and the Resistance, to divide the French once again. This is what they are saying to Frenchmen: "We are killing and destroying banditswho would kill you if we weren't there. You have nothing in common with them."

Although this lie, reprinted a million times, retains a certain power, stating the truth is enough to repel the falsehood. And here is the truth: it is that the French have everything in common with those whom they are today being taught to fear and despise. There is one France, not two: not one that is fighting and another that stands above the battle in judgment. For even if there are those who would prefer to remain in the comfortable position of judges, that is not possible. You cannot say, "This doesn't concern me." Because it does concern you. The truth is that Germany has today not only unleashed an offensive against the best and proudest of our compatriots, but it is also continuing its total war against all of France, which is exposed in its totality to Germany's blows.

Don't say, "This doesn't concern me. I live in the country, and the end of the war will find me just as I was at the beginning of the tragedy, living in peace." Because it does concern you. Take note. On January 29, in Malleval in the Isere, a whole village was burned by the Germans on the mere suspicion that compulsory labor service holdouts might have taken refuge there. Twelve houses were completely destroyed, eleven bodies discovered, fifteen men arrested. On December 18 at Chaveroche in Correze, five kilometers from Ussel, where a German officer was wounded in murky circumstances, five hostages were shot and two farms put to the torch. On February 4 in Grole, in the Ain, Germans, after failing to find the holdouts they were searching for, shot the mayor and two leading citizens.

These dead Frenchmen were people who might have said, "This doesn't concern me." But the Germans decided that it did concern them, and on that day they demonstrated that it concerned all of us. Don't say, "This doesn't concern me. I'm at home with my family, I listen to the radio every night, and I read my newspaper." Because they'll come after you on the pretext that somebody at the other end of France refused to go. They'll take your son, who also said it was no concern of his, and they'll mobilize your wife, who until now thought the whole business was for men only. In reality, it does concern you, and it concerns all of us. Because all the French are today bound together so tightly by the enemy that one person's act inspires all the others and one person's inattention or indifference can cost ten others their lives.

Don't say, "I sympathize, that's quite enough, and the rest is no concern of mine." Because you will be killed, deported, or tortured as a sympathizer just as easily as if you were a militant. Act: your risk will be no greater, and you will at least share in the peace at heart that the best of us take with them into the prisons.

That way France won't be divided. The enemy's effort is in fact intended to encourage Frenchmen to hesitate to do their national duty to resist the S.T.O. and support the underground. It would succeed but for the fact that the truth stands in its way. And the truth is that the combined efforts of the assassins of the Milice and the killers of the Gestapo have yielded risible results. Hundreds of thousands of holdouts are still holding out, fighting, and hoping. A few arrests won't change that. And that is what the 125,000 young men whom the enemy plans to deport every month must understand. For all of them are in the enemy's sights, and the '44 and '45 drafts to which the enemy refers with admirable candor as "a labor reserve" stand for France itself, which in Germany's hate-filled eyes stands united.

Total war has been unleashed, and it calls for total resistance. You must resist because it does concern you, and there is only one France, not two. And the incidents of sabotage, the strikes, the demonstrations that have been organized throughout France are the only ways of responding to this war. That is what we expect from you. Action in the cities to respond to the attacks in the countryside. Action in the factories. Action on the enemy's lines of communication. Action against the Milice: every militiaman is a possible murderer.

There is only one fight, and if you don't join it, your enemy will nevertheless supply you with daily proof that that fight is yours. Take your place in it, because if the fate of everyone you like and respect concerns you, then once again, rest assured, this fight does concern you. Just tell yourself that together we will bring to it the great strength of the oppressed, namely, solidarity in suffering. That is the force that will ultimately kill the lie, and our common hope is that when that day comes, it will retain enough momentum to inspire a new truth and a new France.

COMBAT

Combat, Underground No. 56, April 1944

Outlaws

What is the Milice? To go by the Paris press, it's our greatest hope, our last chance, and this last chance had better not be missed. This helps us to understand. Because the Milice is defending something, and that something has nothing to do with the order it claims to be upholding. It is defending the lives and the interests, the shame and the calculations, of a small proportion of Frenchmen who have turned against France and who face annihilation when victory comes. It enlists crime on behalf of cowardice.

But it also enlists crime on behalf of treason. For the past four years, the enemy has not let a single day go by without trying to turn some Frenchmen against others. Everything was grist to its mill. Yet it is fair to say that it took the enemy no fewer than four years to persuade a small number of disgraced Frenchmen to bear arms against France herself and the best of her men. For during those shameful four years of madness, there were indeed among us heads of state, ministers of government, and a police force that, consciously or not, out of cowardice or out of weakness, in treason or inertia, played the German game. There were also Frenchmen willing to fight on distant battlefields and to defend the cause of the very people who were subjecting their own country to torture. But it took four whole years to recruit a troop of murderous mercenaries resolved to lend France's enemy a hand against France herself. It took four years of German propaganda to dig up a "hero of two wars" prepared to sully his decorations in the most cowardly and degrading police work.

But such men were found, and their very existence poses a problem of justice. For as is always the case, Sganarella wants to outdo Don Juan, the lackey seeks to go the master one better. On this point, convinced [sic] that the servants are well trained. These self-appointed guardians of order courageously kidnap an elderly couple, strip them naked in a field, and slaughter them with the most refined methods of torture. Recently in Nice these exemplary French heroes had the Germans hand over six Frenchmen arrested by the Gestapo (mostly for frivolous reasons) so that they could torture them, disfigure them, and put them to death. They portray themselves as defenders of the law, yet they bring patriots to trial before a court of bandits and send them to the firing squad a few seconds after being found guilty in a parody of judgment. The "hero of two wars" claims to be carrying on an admirable French tradition. Apparently it consists in taking hostages, killing intellectuals and workers, and relying on a servile press to heap lies and insults on the victims of torture and humiliation. In truth, however, we know this tradition well. It was born on the other side of the Rhine in the heart of another war hero. For M. Darnand, what's involved is not tradition but treason.

But all this explains why the problem of justice is easily resolved. For while it is desirable in the case of other traitors that the forms of justice be respected, the Milice has placed itself outside the law. It must be made quite clear that each militiaman, in signing his enlistment papers, is ratifying his own death sentence. By turning against France, these people exclude themselves from France. Rotten branches cannot be left attached to the tree. They have to be lopped off, reduced to sawdust, and scattered on the ground. That is the fate awaiting each of Darnand's murderers. Courts-martial would be pointless, moreover. The Milice is its own tribunal. It has judged itself and sentenced itself to death. Those sentences will be carried out.

Combat, Underground No. 57, May 1944

For Three Hours They Shot Frenchmen

The truth must be told: we are vaccinated against horror. All those faces disfigured by bullets and heels, all those crushed bodies, those murdered innocents, at first filled us with the revulsion and disgust we needed in order to know what we were fighting for. Now the daily struggle has colored everything, and although we never forget the reasons for it, we may at times lose sight of them. But the enemy is there, and as if to make sure that no one avert his eyes, he is increasing his efforts, outdoing himself, each time descending a little deeper into infamy and a little further into crisis. Today, in any event, he went beyond what anyone could have imagined, and the tragedy of Ascq reminds all Frenchmen that they are engaged in a general and unremitting struggle against a disgraced enemy.

What are the facts?

On April 1, 1944, during the night, two explosions severed a railway line and led to the derailment of two cars of a German troop train. The line was blocked. No one on the train was killed.

At around 11 that night, M. Carre, the station chief at Ascq, having been awakened at his home by night shift personnel, was on the telephone dealing with the situation when a German transportation officer entered his office screaming, followed by a number of soldiers who used their rifle butts to beat M. Carre along with M. Peloquin, a senior clerk, and M. Derache, a telegrapher, who also happened to be on the premises at the time. The soldiers then withdrew to the office doorway and from there fired on the three prostrate employees with submachine guns. Carre and Peloquin were gravely wounded in the stomach and thighs. Then the officer led a large contingent of troops into the town, broke down the doors of the houses, searched them, and rounded up some sixty men, who were marched to a pasture opposite the station. There they were shot. Twenty-six other men were also shot in their homes or thereabouts. Among the eighty-six people shot, some lay wounded.

The telegrapher, Derache, managed to alert district headquarters in Lille, which notified the Prefecture of the Nord. The prefecture called the Oberfeldkommandantur.

The executions did not stop until officers of the general staff arrived on the scene. The killing went on for more than three hours.

Whether it is possible to conjure up vividly enough an image of a scene described in such blunt language I do not know. But is it possible to read this report without being overcome by feelings of revulsion and disgust at the mere sight of the numbers: eighty-six men, three hours?

Eighty-six men just like you, the readers of this newspaper, passed before the German guns. Eighty-six men: enough to fill three or four rooms the size of the room you're sitting in. Eighty-six faces, drawn or defiant, eighty-six faces overwhelmed by horror or by hatred.

The slaughter continued for three hours, a little more than two minutes for each victim. Three hours, the amount of time that some of you will have spent that day at dinner or talking quietly with friends, while elsewhere people watched a film and laughed at made-up adventures. For three hours, minute after minute, without letup, without a pause, in a single French village, shots were fired one after another and bodies fell writhing to the ground.

This is the image that must be kept in mind so that nothing is forgotten, the image that must be shown to any Frenchman who remains on the sidelines. For among those eighty-six innocents were many who thought that, having done nothing to oppose the German forces, nothing would be done to them. But France is one, there is but a single wrath, but a single martyr. And when M. de Brinon writes to the German authorities not to complain about the massacre of so many Frenchmen but to whine that his work with the vice squad is being hampered, he is responsible for that martyrdom and guilty before that wrath. For the question is not whether these crimes will be forgiven; it is whether anyone will pay for them. And if we were inclined to doubt it, the image of this village soaked in blood and from this day forth populated solely by widows and orphans should suffice to assure us that someone will pay for this crime, because the decision is now in the hands of all the French, and in the face of this new massacre we are discovering the solidarity of martyrdom and the power that grows out of vengeance.

Combat, Clandestine No. 58, July 1944

The Murderers' Great Fear

On the walls and urinals of Paris, Darnand displays his prose. He addresses his own men, demands absolute obedience, and promises exemplary punishment for those who fail to comply. So there are disobedient militiamen! Will anyone be surprised by the news?

When the Germans burned villages and captured patriots, the militiamen carefully delayed their arrival until it was time to take charge of the prisoners. They stared at the silent captives and grew angry. Nothing is more irritating than the sight of a man to those who have deliberately ceased to be men. And then their work began. Their job was to prove that human dignity is a lie and that the idea of a self-conscious individual, master of his own fate, is but a democratic myth. They heaped insults on their victims to whet their own appetites, to debase their prisoners with words and to debase themselves a bit further. Then they plucked out a few fingernails, stomped a few chests. The goal was to extract a cry of suffering from the gasping victim, a confession, a renunciation. If they succeeded, they breathed a little easier. They thought, We're all alike, those people won't be thumbing their noses at us anymore. They were happy to have transformed their silent judges into accomplices of their own degradation. Malraux says somewhere that it is impossible to aim a flamethrower at a man who is looking you in the eye. So imagine, then, what a militiaman must be like to take pleasure in torturing a man whose eyes are open. These torturers have a very specific mission: it is to wipe out anything that isn't vile, anything that isn't cowardly, and to demonstrate by their own example and by making an example of others that man is made to live in chains and terror. If they were to succeed, there would be no more witnesses, and their own personal ignominy would be identified with the flaws of human nature.

Today, though, some would assign these people a new role. The Germans, occupied elsewhere, are no longer there to defend them. A resistance army has arisen out of the earth. The torturers are being asked to fight like men, rifle against rifle. And that is profoundly unjust. Where would anyone expect them to find the courage? They would need precisely those qualities that they were previously asked to destroy in themselves and others: confidence in man, confidence in the individual. Darnand knows this. That is why he is making threats. But it is too late. There is no threat terrible enough to make a man out of a member of the Milice.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Camus at Combat by Albert Camus Copyright © 2006 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by David Carroll vii
Preface xxvii
Acknowledgments xxix
Introduction by Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi xxxi
Thematic Classification xxxiii
CHAPTER 1: Combat Underground: March-July 1944 1
CHAPTER 2: August 21, 1944-November 15, 1945 11
CHAPTER 3: November 19-30, 1946 255
CHAPTER 4: March 17-June 3, 1947 277
CHAPTER 5: 1948-1949 295
Chronology of Principal Events, 1944-1948 311
Partial Bibliography 333
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