I was reading Matthew Sharpe’s wonderful article on the film ‘Far from Men’ based on Albert Camus’s short story, L’Hote (https://theconversation.com/loin-des-hommes-we-are-all-first-men-camus-algerians-and-oelhoffens-camus-47005 ) and my mind turned to the powerful sense of connection we can often feel with writers who have lived in completely different times, places and circumstances. (The Italian writer Elena Ferrante is also one who brings this sense to me with her powerful narratives of women, friendships and motherhood).
Although writers who grapple with their existence have always resonated with me, it is only now at this stage in my life, lets call it “middle age” that I seek to look around me with increasing urgency to consider in depth and with interest, what existed before. I seem to have an unceasing yearning to understand the world and the thoughts which have sustained the greatest minds, as well as finding companionship in the thoughts of those others who too have experienced the existential discomforts of our existence.
Navel gazing it might be, but what could be of greater meaning than to understand who we are and where we sit in this lifetime of ours and others. It might be regarded as a mapping of the human mind, for which borders, time and geography do not exist. In such a world, what exists is simply those who have felt and shared and in doing so have participated in the universal experience of living. I have also a particular hope that we can find some answers in the problems of the world and humanity that we still face on a daily basis.
What struck me from this thoughtful consideration of Camus work was how we might be able to use it to think about the tragic situation of those trying to escape brutality and extreme violence in their lives, only to find that the rest of the world is holding fast to a concept which is fast becoming outdated, that of of a country’s physical and economic borders.
As Sharpe eloquently puts it:
“We live in a world wherein, amongst other things, the numbers of real refugees flooding the first world (including many Moslems from Africa) grows every hour. Increasingly like Camus’ Daru and Oelhoffen’s Mohamed – and whether we like it or not – we too are every day being cut loose from the moorings of our older, more impermeable cultures.
Our territorial and cultural boundaries in the period of ‘globalisation’ have been rendered increasingly porous not only to flows of moneys and capital. There are also the floods of exiled peoples, as welcome to most of us as is the rope-borne Arab, at first, to Camus’ or Oelhoffen’s Daru.
If we in these circumstance are to become not “men on the wane as they shout in the newspapers, but men of a different and undefined dawn,” as Camus could still write of his warring countrymen in 1959, it is to the extent that we become able to see in figures like Far From Men’s Daru and Mohamed not strangers to be taken hostage, traded on or turned away, but uncanny images of ourselves.”
With so much of our humanity resting on our ability to connect with others despite our differences, the wisdom of this thought rests heavily upon us.