Camus Exhibit Sparks Controversy

Albert Camus

The planning of an exhibit about Albert Camus has brought on an intellectual controversy that combines politics, history, and literature. While Marseille prepares to become the European Capital of Culture for 2013, Aix-en-Provence has dedicated an exhibit to the famous French writer and philosopher, Albert Camus. Michel Onfray, a philosopher who is well known in the media, has been entrusted with organizing the exhibit. He replaces Benjamin Stora as the head of the project. Stora is a historian specializing in Camus’ home country of Algeria.

Michel Onfray has recently published a biography of the author Camus, entitled The Libertarian Order: The Philosophical life of Albert Camus. However, since 2009, it was Benjamin Stora who had been working on the exhibit that will finally open on November 7, 2013 on the 100th anniversary of Camus’ birth.

The exhibit was originally called Albert Camus, The Stranger Who Looks Like Us, and Stora announced that he wanted to shed light on “a full life and an abundant oeuvre” that was in connection with its time. But the projected was abandoned in May 2012 because, according to Catherine Camus, daughter of the writer, he had not given her all of the documents that were necessary at the time. Using this as an excuse, Michel Onfray, taking advantage of the success of his new book, picked up the exhibit and titled it Camus, The Rebel. A new summary was also presented, emphasizing his life and the Nobel Prize in Literature that he received in 1957, analyzing this information in a less historical context.

Benjamin Stora does not hold a grudge and points to the Mayor of Aix-en-Provence. Maryse Joissains, right-leaning UMP mayor of a city where the memory the French who were repatriated to Algeria after the war and the extreme right are both still very present, was reluctant to appoint the historian, known for his work on the war in Algeria. “Everyone told me that they were furious. Aix is also the city that has the boulevard Bastien-Thiry-from the name of the Petit Clamart assassination attempt against President De Gaulle in 1962” he laments.

The historian also explains his dismissal from the project because Catherine Camus wanted to find a person more accustomed to TV shows and to maintain the uproar about the “Camus-Sartre war.”

In an attempt to defuse any controversy and bad publicity from the Right, Michel Onfray, known for his left-leaning tendencies, said he read the work of his predecessor, calling it “impeccable. You do not replace Benjamin Stora, you follow him.”

Onfray regrets that the announcement of his appointment was made public before Stora was notified, saying that he accepted the project following promises of the city of Aix-en-Provence that they would open a museum dedicated to the philosopher. Onfray defends himself by saying that he wants to be “judged on the truth of my work, I have never made decisions based on the risk of exploitation. My only goal is that one day there is a Camus museum in Aix.”

The Ministry of Culture has chosen its side, Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti announced in the newspaper Libération. The exhibit will not reason any funding and cannot use the logo of the Ministry. “The real Camus exhibit would have been from the perspective of Benjamin Stora, who is both an admirer of Camus and the best specialist on the Algerian War. Moreover, he shares the same landscapes as Camus, the same mental landscape, in any case. That would really have been remarkable,” she said.

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