Donnerstag, 12. April 2018

Illicit Love Letters: Albert Camus and Maria Casares / Stephanie LaCava In: The Paris Review April 11, 2018

For the past few weeks, I’ve fixated on a collection of primary source material that reads like a tidy work of epistolary fiction. It’s a big book, nearly 1,300 pages, transcribed from original letters, postcards, and telegrams sent between the French philosopher and writer Albert Camus and the Spanish French actress Maria Casares between 1944 and 1959. It’s too heavy a book to bring on the subway, so I downloaded the electronic version on my phone. My camera roll is now nearly a hundred screenshots of exchanges in French between the two lovers. The book was published in France by Gallimard and has not yet been translated into English.
The romance of Camus and Casares is richer, if not sadder, when considered alongside the narratives of each of their work. There is an eerie doubling of life and art. Absurdity is the only certainty, and this is confirmed over and over again by coincidence and chance.
The two first met on June 6, 1944, the storied day the Allied forces landed in Normandy. Both were involved in the production of Camus’s play The Misunderstanding (Le Malentendu), which was being staged in Paris at the Théâtre de Mathurins. Preproduction, Camus brought Casares to an evening hosted by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. (The latter remarked on the young actress’s beauty and confidence.) It is said that that evening, the two began their love affair—Casares twenty-one, Camus nine years her senior. Their fling ended abruptly when Camus’s wife, the mathematician and pianist Francine Faure, returned to Paris from Algeria after the Occupation. 
Afterward, Camus took over as editor in chief of Combat, the underground newspaper of the Resistance, and his wife gave birth to twins, Catherine and Jean. Meanwhile, the in-demand Casares was cast in two of her most memorable roles, as a long suffering wife in Les enfants du paradis and as a jilted lover in Les Dames du bois de Boulogne. Four years to the day after their first meeting, on June 6, 1948, Casares ran into Camus by chance on boulevard Saint-Germain. Their correspondence then continued uninterrupted for the next twelve years.
In nearly nine hundred exchanges, the two relay details of their day-to-day with lighthearted playfulness. I wanted to cut out the lines from the early letters to see how they matched up with those a decade later in the affair. From the start, Camus assures Casares that little has changed, either in his feelings or in the city where they crossed paths a second time. He relays time-honored Parisian annoyances. Casares, always on the move for roles, pokes fun at the toxic smell of French fries throughout Belgium. Still, she finds time to detail her quotidian, which includes dozens of cigarettes and caring for her father and her kitten, Quat’sous. Sometimes the notes are short, a quick hello before she goes to sleep, dashed off “between spaghetti and grapefruit.” Other times, they are quite long, filled with questions and updates. Casares often asks after Camus’s children. There is no denial of the situation. ... [mehr]

Maria Casares and Albert Camus.

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