Thursday, 7 November 2013

I embrace you with all my heart

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100 years ago in French Algeria, on November 7th of 1913, author Albert Camus was born. The second son of Lucien and Catherine Camus, he was just 11-months-old when his father was killed in action during The Battle of the Marne; his mother, partially deaf and illiterate, then raised her boys in extreme poverty with the help of his heavy-handed grandmother. It was in school that Camus shone, due in no small part to the encouragement offered by his beloved teacher, Louis Germain, a man who fostered the potential he saw and steered young Camus on a path that would eventually see him write some hugely respected, award-winning novels and essays.

In 1957, Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times." Shortly after the occasion, he wrote to his former teacher.

(Source: The First Man; Image: Albert Camus, via.)

19 November 1957

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honour, one I neither sought nor solicited.

But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened.

I don't make too much of this sort of honour. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus