Interdisciplinary Contributions to Contemporary Cultural Debates
Edited By Gail K. Hart and Anke S. Biendarra
European Visions in Albert Camus’s Abolitionism
France shares with England and Spain the honor of being one of the last countries on this side of the iron curtain to keep capital punishment in its arsenal of repression.…
How can European society of the mid-century survive unless it decides to defend individuals by every means against the State’s oppression?
Albert Camus, “Reflections on The Guillotine” (1957)
Recent scholarship has shed light on the previously underestimated depth and breadth of Albert Camus’s fight against the death penalty (Baciu, Vanney, Salas, Morisi). His commitment to the abolitionist cause manifested itself in his public speeches, in his journalistic, fictional, and essayistic publications, and in his letters of support for condemned men irrespective of their national, socio-political, or cultural identities. Camus’s abolitionism was largely shaped by the modern and contemporary thought and imaginaries of the Old World. My paper will examine this European dimension of Camus’s protean writings on the death penalty, particularly with regard to their philosophical and historical roots, their practical applications, and the literary corpus that informed Camus’s convictions and the way in which he conveyed them.
I. Thinking The Death Penalty: A European Dialogue
Before I begin with the philosophical foundations of Camus’s abolitionism, I should note that abstract or pragmatic principles were not his initial motivation. The writer’s fiction, essays, correspondence, and notebooks indicate that his rejection of shooting squads, the noose, and the scaffold was, at its root, triggered...
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