Literary daybook, Jan. 4

Real and imaginary events of interest to readers.

Published January 4, 2002 10:23PM (EST)

Today in fiction

John Gordon MacArthur allegedly sends his wife's lover to his death.
-- "And Then There Were None" (1939)
by Agatha Christie

From "The Book of Fictional Days"
Know when something that did not really happen
occurred? Send it to

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Today in Literary History

On this day in 1960, Albert Camus was killed in a car crash outside Paris, at the age of 47. On the basis of his novel "The Outsider" (1942), his "philosophical prose-poem" "The Myth of Sisyphus" (1942), his Nobel Prize (1957), his political activism and his Humphrey Bogart good looks, Camus had near-cult status in the middle decades of the century. Camus eventually came to resent this popularity, even to feel that it had ruined him. His Nobel speech expresses a plea to be seen as "a man almost young, rich only in his doubts and with his work still in progress." He regarded the prize as one would "the decree that transports him all of a sudden, alone and reduced to himself, to the centre of a glaring light." In his last few years he turned away from politics, alienating those on both left and right who wanted him to champion their causes. Although he did not abandon his "solitaire et solidaire" principles -- "I'm [still] for the left," he said in an interview, "despite myself, and despite it" -- he felt himself to have been made "an outlaw, drawn and quartered" by the activists, and by former friends like Sartre. He returned to writing, and at the time of his death was at work on "The First Man," the autobiographical novel that he hoped would not only be his masterpiece, but help him "reconstruct a truth after having lived a sort of lie all my life." The manuscript was found in the mud at the accident site, and published in its incomplete form by his daughter in 1995.

-- Steve King

To find out more about "Today in Literary History," e-mail Steve King.

By the Salon Books Editors

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