Sarkozy’s Bid to Move Camus’ Ashes Stirs Controversy
Posted on Nov 24, 2009
A French writer could do a lot worse than be buried alongside the likes of Émile Zola, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Victor Hugo, but some compatriots of philosopher Albert Camus, as well as his son, Jean, are none too pleased with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to relocate Camus’ ashes to the celebrated Panthéon in Paris. —KA
President Nicolas Sarkozy said last week that he wanted to add Camus to the giants of French history who are buried at the Panthéon — figures like Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Louis Pasteur — as a way of revering an author whose defense of the downtrodden and veneration of the individual over the oppressive forces of society earned him fame and respect around the globe. But the announcement outraged Camus’ son, Jean, who saw a motivation of a different sort — an attempt by Sarkozy to “requisition” the legacy of a ferociously independent thinker who has long been a hero of the intellectual left. [...]
He isn’t the only one against making the writer of The Stranger and The Rebel a quasi saint of the French state. Several leading French intellectuals and Camus experts have denounced what they claim is Sarkozy’s effort to associate himself with a politically engaged writer who would doubtless oppose his leadership were he alive today. “I don’t think Albert Camus has any need of Sarkozy, I think Sarkozy has greater need of some intellectual sparkle,” Camus biographer Olivier Todd told France Inter radio on Saturday. “This is a gimmick — it’s part of his technique of hijacking the intellectual milieu. It flies absolutely in the face of everything that Camus stood for.”
Wikimedia Commons / New York World-Telegram and Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection
Albert’s ashes: French philosopher Albert Camus, pictured in 1957, won’t be reinterred in the Panthéon if his son has a say in the matter.