This £1.99 little booklet represents novelist and philosopher Albert Camus at his elegant best. It’s a slight work that publisher Penguin released in 2013 as two essays to mark 100 years since Camus’ birth.
The Sea Close By was first available from 1954. The second essay is Summer in Algier, which was published in 1938.
Together, they’re a contemplation on different stages of life. Let us have a gander, non?
The Sea Close By
The eponymous essay is about life itself, represtened by the entirety of the rolling ocean. It includes this rather fabulous opening few sentences:
"I grew up in the sea and poverty was sumptuous, then I lost the sea and found all luxuries grey and poverty unbearable. Since then, I have been waiting. I wait for the homebound ships, the house of the waters, the limpidity of day. I wait patiently, am polite with all my strength."
It’s a lyrical affair and a concise piece that’ll have the more introspective reader swelling up emotionally. You bloody snowflake, you!
Camus really lays on the poetic qualities, maximising the flow of every sentence – one to the next. Washing along like poignant waves.
But he did like his extended metaphors. The Sea Close By is a microcosm of his philosophical style, but still a masterful display of conveying the passage of time in only a handful of pages.
Summer in Algiers, meanwhile, opens with:
"The loves we share with a city are often secret loves."
If this hints at a joyous lyrical romp about the delights of the hot months, you’re wrong. It’s a melancholic and casually scathing assault on the annoyances they present.
Camus laments how summer makes young people lose their beauty – drenched in sweat as they are – and how it’s so uncomfortable.
And he’s right. In England, summer is thought of as an annual highlight. Why? Baking temperatures that force confused Brits familiar with rain, in a colossally overpopulated country, to strip off, bare it all, and wander about stinking of BO. Lovely.
But that’s the power of Camus’ prose. Not only does he impress with his natural writing ability, even all these years after his death, he also makes you contemplate life.
This tiny little booklet, dainty as it is with two slight essays, is brilliant in that in conjures up such strong emotions.
As it’s spring now and the sun is out – even here in rainy old England – we thought we’d round this off with a look at the ocean.
Summer is on its way and some of you may well be heading to the seaside to enjoy the likes of the surf hitting land.
Jack Kerouac, in his melancholic lament on addiction – Big Sur, included a wonderful poem in that. He sat by the sea and translated what he though the crashing waves on the beach were saying to him.
Summer, then , is a time for unusual creativity. The days are long and hot. The evenings mild and spectacular, with dramatic sunsets and the calm after the days heat.
For creatives out there, use the time wisely. You may be hot and stuffy, but you can channel that into something glorious, non?