Friday, 1 March 2013


Action Camus by R. Sikoryak.
Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian author, journalist, philosopher, one time goalkeeper and soccer fan. Camus is often linked with Sartre and existentialism, an association he himself disputed. He is also erroneously claimed to have played in goal for France. Camus was forced to give up football at age 17 due to lung problems although he did play in goal for his university team. He is quoted as saying "After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport and learned it in the RUA." The RUA being his old university soccer team. It would be interesting to know what he would make of the modern game of soccer. There's not much morality in the simulation, the diving and cheating and lately we have the scandal of match fixing which is sure to damage the game even further. Incidentally, Philosophy Football, an online shirt printing company, has printed Camus' quote on their shirts. The shirts have consistently proved to be bestsellers.

I came across an item on the internet once upon a time which claimed that the Irish writer Brendan Behan and Camus would go together to see Arsenal play at Highbury in London back in the 50s. I can't find a reference for it, perhaps it was a lyric made up by Irish songwriter Shane McGowan of The Pogues. I'd love it to be true. How great would would it be to bump into Albert Camus and Brendan Behan in a Finsbury pub after the match?
Back to the artworks. The spoof covers are based on Camus' best known novel L'Etranger. The novel explores Camus concept of absurdism. The central character, Meursault believes he inhabits an indifferent universe and behaves accordingly. Summing the book up, Camus suggests that society kills Mersault because he refuses to cry at his mother's funeral.
Mersault, in a fit of metaphysical confusion, kills a man. At his trial, the prosecution makes much of the fact that Mersault did not show any emotion at his mother's funeral. He is portrayed as a man without remorse or pity. To Mersault it is absurd. He refuses to 'play the game' and is condemned. Its heady stuff but one of the great books of the 20th century as Camus is one of the great authors and thinkers of the 20th century.
In 1979 English band The Cure released their first single 'Killing an Arab.' An unfortunate title as the song was meant to be a tribute to Camus' novel. Since the song's release it has been misunderstood, taken out of context and hijacked by racists, bigots and xenophobes. So much so that Robin Smith has requested that it be pulled from radio airplay completely. You cannot understand the song without reading the book. Simple.

Finally, The Pogues with Ireland's  poet laureate, Shane McGowan, does reference Behan, Ireland's bar room philosopher, in the song 'Streams of Whiskey.'

Oh the words that he spoke
seemed the wisest of philosophies,
There's nothing ever gained
By a wet thing called a tear
When the world is too dark
And I need the light inside me
I'll walk into a bar
And drink fifteen pints of beer

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