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José Antonio Millán

Sartre/Camus controversy URL:

The confrontation featured by Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus following the publication of L'Homme révolté was not mainly a confrontation of literary character, not even if we provide this term with the widest possible meaning; although it contains without doubts elements referring to him (Camus' implicit answer to certain observations about the nature and role of literature in Sartre's work What Is Literature?), its proposal goes way beyond this specific realm. It was, without doubt, due to being something that happened through written texts, and in the sense that it affected countless publications, magazines, newspapers, etc., as well as radio and television programs that echoed or participated in the confrontation by actively taking sides in favor of one position or other; to this we need to add the countless number of pages that on this respect have been written, and continue to be written in the present, a clear proof that the terms in which the confrontation developed still continue to be appealing in a very real way within the current sensibility.

Neither the traditional passion of the French people for these type of confrontations (its impact widely trespassed the French frontiers), nor the relevance at the time of the names involved, were enough to explain the importance and radiation it had, to the point that it divided into two sides the world intellectual Left, as well as a good part of the cult Right, who also felt addressed. Just by slightly stirring the proposals of this discussion that dominated a good part of the second half of the 20th century, we will find ourselves again in the middle of a controversy that can cast doubt over a good part of our own public life.

Based on its own approach, this confrontation had three dimensions that we need to address to fully understand it: one personal, another one ideological-cultural, and the last one political. The three dimensions are interrelated and their analysis will be the main component of this conference. If we put aside the work of Sartre -who continued making frequent references along the following years, and for whom Camus was "the last friend he had"-, the work of Camus -for whom this would be a terrible blow from which he never fully recovered-, and also the work of Simonne de Beauvoir -Camus is easily recognizable in a character of her novel The Mandarins-, as well as some writings of Merleau-Ponty, A. Breton, R. Aron, R. Char. A. Memmy, or Cohen-Solal -just to cite a few French authors also directly implicated in the confrontation-, the people who may be interested, can also find bibliography in the monographic works of E. Werner, L. Pollman, G. Brée, P. Royle, R. Aronson, and  R.C. Salomón. There is also information on the two big biographies devoted to Camus published until now: the one of Lotmand and the one of Olivier Todd. Finally, the great Diccionario Camus is currently very advanced in preparation with over 1.500 written pages.

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