Camus was one of the most important authors and thinkers of the 20th cent. While a student at the Univ. of Algiers, he formed a theater group and adapted, directed, and acted in plays. He became active in social reform and was briefly a member of the Communist party. Shortly after his essay Noces [weddings] appeared (1939), he went to Paris as a journalist. In World War II he joined the French resistance and was principal editor of the underground paper Combat. Noted for his vigorous, concise, and lucid style, Camus soon gained recognition as a major literary figure. His belief that man's condition is absurd identified him with the existentialists, but he denied allegiance to that group; his works express rather a courageous humanism. The characters in his novels and plays, although keenly aware of the meaninglessness of the human condition, assert their humanity by rebelling against their circumstances. His essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (1942, tr.The Myth of Sisyphus, 1955) formulates his theory of the absurd and is the philosophical basis of his novel L'Étranger (1942, tr. The Stranger, 1946) and of his plays Le Malentendu (1944, tr.Cross Purpose, 1948) and Caligula (1944, tr. 1948). The essay L'Homme révolté (1951, tr.The Rebel, 1954), dealing with historical, spiritual, and political rebellion, treats themes found in the novels La Peste (1947, tr. The Plague, 1948) and La Chute (1956, tr. The Fall, 1957). Other works include the plays L'État de siège (1948, tr. State of Siege, 1958); and Les Justes (1950, tr. The Just Assassins, 1958); journalistic essays; and stories. Camus was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize in Literature.
See his Notebooks ed. by Philip Thody (2 vol., 1963, 1965); studies by Germaine Brée (4th ed. 1972), Donald Lazere (1973), Lev Braun (1974), Patrick McCarthy (1982), and David Sprintzen (1988).