A Text and its Contexts
On 8 February 1937 the 23-year-old Albert Camus gave an inaugural lecture for a new Maison de la culture, or community arts centre, in Algiers. Entitled ‘La nouvelle culture méditerranéenne’ (‘The New Mediterranean Culture’), Camus’s lecture has been interpreted in radically different ways: while some critics have dismissed it as an incoherent piece of juvenilia, others see it as key to understanding his future development as a thinker, whether as the first expression of his so-called ‘Mediterranean humanism’ or as an early indication of what is seen as his essentially colonial mentality.
These various interpretations are based on reading the text of ‘The New Mediterranean Culture’ in a single context, whether that of Camus’s life and work as a whole, of French discourses on the Mediterranean or of colonial Algeria (and French discourses on that country). By contrast, this study argues that Camus’s lecture – and in principle any historical text – needs to be seen in a multiplicity of contexts, discursive and otherwise, if readers are to understand properly what its author was doing in writing it. Using Camus’s lecture as a case study, the book provides a detailed theoretical and practical justification of this ‘multi-contextualist’ approach.
Chapter 5 Gabriel Audisio’s Mid-1930s Writings on the Mediterranean 111
chapter 5 Gabriel Audisio’s Mid-1930s Writings on the Mediterranean In this chapter, I shall examine a selection of texts by the writer Gabriel Audisio which were published in the two years before Camus’s lecture on ‘The New Mediterranean Culture’. Camus explicitly acknowledges Audisio’s influence in a passage where he suggests, referring particularly to North Africa, that what is most essential in the Mediterranean genius springs from the encounter between East and West, adding in brackets: ‘In this connection one can only refer to Audisio’ (I, 569). As Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi has suggested,1 Audisio’s influence was also apparent in the name of the bulletin of the Algiers Maison de la culture in which Camus’s lecture first appeared, Jeune Méditerranée (‘Young Mediterranean’). In 1935, Audisio had published a collection of essays under the title Jeunesse de la Méditerranée (‘Youth of the Mediterranean’), which he followed with a series of related articles that formed the basis of a second volume with the same title, published in 1936 and subtitled Sel de la mer (‘Salt of the Sea’).2 These articles, which contain material not included in Sel de la mer, have not been discussed by previous critics.3 Their interest here lies in the 1 Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi, Albert Camus, ou la naissance d’un romancier, 1930–1942, ed. Agnès Spiquel (Paris: Gallimard, 2006), p. 345. 2 Jeunesse de la Méditerranée (Paris: Gallimard, 1935); Jeunesse de la Méditerranée II: Sel de la mer (Paris: Gallimard,...
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