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Albert Camus and the Critique of Violence

 

Professor David Ohana teaches European history at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. He was a visiting fellow at The Sorbonne, Harvard, and Berkeley as well as the first academic director of the Forum for Mediterranean Cultures at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. His many books include: The Origins of Israeli Mythology (Cambridge, 2014), Israel and Its Mediterranean Identity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), Modernism and Zionism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Political Theologies in the Holy Land: Israeli Messianism and its Critics (Routledge, 2009), and most recently, The Nihilist Order: The Intellectual Roots of Totalitarianism (SAP 2016).


The temptation to resort to violence runs like a thread through Albert Camus' works, and can be viewed as an additional key to understanding his literary productions and philosophical writings. His short life and intellectual attitudes were almost all connected with brutality and cruel circumstance. At the age of one he lost his father, who was killed as a soldier of the French army at the outbreak of the First World War. He passed his childhood and youth in colonial Algeria, no doubt experiencing degrees of inhumanity of that difficult period; and in his first years in conquered France he was editor of an underground newspaper that opposed the Nazi occupation. In the years following the Liberation, he denounced the Bolshevist tyranny and was witness to the "dirty war" between the land of his birth and his country of living, France.

Camus' preoccupation with violence was expressed in all facets of his work – as a philosopher, as a political thinker, as an author, as a man of the theatre, as a journalist, as an intellectual, and especially as a man doomed to live in an absurd world of hangmen and victims, binders and bound, sacrificers and sacrificed, crucifiers and crucified.

Three main metaphors of western culture can assist in understanding Camus’ thinking about violence: the bound Prometheus, a hero of Greek mythology; the sacrifice of Isaac, one of the chief dramas of Jewish monotheism; and the crucifixion of Jesus, the founding event of Christianity. The bound, the sacrificed and the crucified represent three perspectives through which David Ohana examines the place of ideological violence and its limits in the works of Albert Camus.


Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-822-0
Paperback Price: £19.95 / $29.95
Release Date: December 2016
   
Page Extent / Format: 200 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No
   

 



Introduction

The Bound
The Sacrificed
The Crucified
Son of the Mediterranean

Bibliography


French writer and philosopher Camus (1913–60) spent his whole short life in the midst of violence, says Ohana, from the death of his father, a French soldier, during World War I, through his childhood in colonial Algeria, his political activism in Nazi occupied France, and the dirty war between France and Algeria. Three metaphors of Western culture can assist in understanding Camus’ thinking about violence, he says. They are the bound Prometheus, a hero of Greek mythology; the sacrifice of Isaac, one of the chief dramas of Jewish monotheism; and the crucifixion of Jesus, the founding event of Christianity.
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