Treasure Island

gershon hepner

(5 3 38 / leipzig)

I don't seduce

“I don’t seduce, ” said Albert Camus,
“I surrender.” Could be why
the writer was near-poly-gamous—
no single dame could satisfy
his sexual appetite, his penchant
for adaptation to the taste
of seductees who, well-intentioned,
when chased by him remained unchaste.

Like Sartre, Koestler, Romain Gary,
he drank, and to excess he’d smoke,
and thought that it was wrong to marry—
he did, but it was like a joke.
His model, Byron’s Don Juan,
would have approved his Sisyphean
attempt, while telling a good yarn,
to seem less bourgeois than plebeian.

Accidentally he died,
some three years after he received
the Nobel Prize. When cars collide
into a tree one is relieved
of life, as providentially
he was. It’s best to die before
you’re old, lest, existentially,
while hanging on one is a bore.

Richard Eder reviews Albert Camus’s “Notebooks: 1951–1958, ” translated by Ryan Bloom (“Uncomfortable in His Skin, Thriving in His Mind, ” NYT, June 25,2008) :
There is an exultant feel of liberation — and some of his most beautiful writing — as he evokes Italy’s cities and landscapes, and recites the place names of Greece as if they were incantations. Of Mycenae at sunset: “The space is immense, the silence so absolute that the foot regrets having caused a stone to roll. A train chuffs in the distance, on the plain a donkey brays, and the sound rises up to us, the herds’ bells rush down the slopes like a whisper of water.” He writes of his mix of happiness and depression after winning the Nobel Prize —“frightened by what happens to me, what I have not asked for” — and the angry attacks it provoked from the Paris left. He writes of his wife’s depression and his lovers (many) . “I don’t seduce, I surrender.” Later he varies this to fit Don Juan, who, not surprisingly, fascinates him: “I don’t seduce, I adapt.” He travels to his birthplace. “Honeysuckle — for me, its scent is tied to Algiers. It floated in the streets that led toward the high gardens where the girls awaited us. Vines, youth.” It was a memory that fought against politics. Camus could not put aside the reality of the French settlers. The vicious war between French forces and the F.L.N. — the Algerian nationalists — was his own civil war. He writes to an Algerian friend, an F.L.N. supporter: “You should not ignore the shooting, nor justify that they shoot at the French-Algerians in general, and thus entangled, shoot at my family, who have always been poor and without hatred... No cause, even if it had remained innocent and just, will ever tear me from my mother, who is the greatest cause that I know in the world.”


Submitted: Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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