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The Paris Evaluation – Camus’s New York Diary, 1946

The Paris Evaluation – Camus’s New York Diary, 1946

2023-04-13 15:56:02

Camel cigarettes billboard in Instances Sq., 1943. {Photograph} by John Vachon. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Pictures Division, Farm Safety Administration/Workplace of Warfare Info Black-­and-­White Negatives.

March 1946. Albert Camus has simply spent two weeks at sea on the SS Oregon, a cargo ship transporting passengers from Le Havre to New York Metropolis. He’s made a number of pals throughout this transatlantic passage. 

Sunday. They announce we’ll arrive within the night. The week handed in a whirlwind. Tuesday night, the twenty-first, our desk decides to rejoice the arrival of spring. Alcohol till 4 within the morning. The subsequent day, too. Forty-­eight hours of nice euphoria, throughout which all {our relationships} rapidly deepen. Mme D. is rebelling in opposition to her class. L. confesses to me the wedding she’s headed for is considered one of comfort. On Saturday, we exit the Gulf Stream, and the temperature turns awfully chilly. Nonetheless, the time passes in a short time, and in the end, I’m not in such a rush to reach. I’ve completed making ready my discuss. Within the remaining time, I gaze out on the sea and chat, largely with R., who’s actually fairly good—and with Mme D. and L., in fact. At twelve within the afternoon, we catch sight of land. Seagulls have been flying alongside the boat since morning, hanging above the decks as if suspended and immobile. Coney Is­land, which appears just like the Porte d’Orléans, is the very first thing we see. “It’s Saint-­Denis or Gennevilliers,” L. says. It’s completely true. Within the chilly, with the grey wind and flat sky, it’s all fairly gloomy. We’ll anchor within the mouth of the Hudson however received’t dis­embark till tomorrow morning. Within the distance, Manhattan’s skyscrapers stand in opposition to a backdrop of mist. My coronary heart remains to be and chilly, as it’s when confronted with sights that don’t transfer me.


Monday. Went to mattress very late final night time. Obtained up very early. We sail by means of New York Harbor. An incredible sight regardless of, or due to, the fog. Order, energy, financial power, they’re all right here. The guts trembles earlier than a lot exceptional inhumanity.

I don’t disembark till eleven o’clock, after an extended collection of formalities the place, out of all of the passengers, I’m the one handled as suspect. The immigration officer finally ends up apologizing for having saved me. “I used to be required to take action, however I can’t let you know why.” A thriller—however after 5 years of occupation …

Welcomed by C., E., and an envoy from the consulate. C. hasn’t modified. E. both. With the entire circus over at immigration, the goodbyes with L., Mme D., and R. are fast and chilly.

Drained. My flu is coming again. I catch my first glimpse of New York on shaky legs. At first sight, a hideous, inhuman metropolis. However I do know folks can change their thoughts. Listed below are the main points that strike me: the rubbish collectors put on gloves, the visitors is orderly, with out the necessity for officers on the intersections, et cetera, nobody ever has any change on this nation, and everybody appears as in the event that they’ve simply stepped off a low­-budget movie set. Within the night, crossing Broadway in a taxi, drained and feverish, I’m actually staggered by the circus of brilliant lights. I’ve come from 5 years of night time, and this intense and violent illumination is the very first thing that offers me the impression of being on a brand new continent (an enormous fifteen-meter billboard promoting Camels: a GI, his mouth huge open, lets out large puffs of actual smoke. All of it yellow and pink). I am going to mattress as sick at coronary heart as in physique however figuring out completely effectively that I’ll have modified my thoughts in two days.


Tuesday. Stand up with a fever. Unable to depart the room earlier than midday. When E. arrives, I’m slightly higher, and I am going with him and D., an adman initially from Hungary, for lunch at a French restaurant. I discover that I haven’t observed the skyscrapers, that they’ve appeared solely pure. It’s a query of total scale. And in any case, you may’t at all times stroll round along with your head turned up. An individual can maintain solely so many flooring in sight directly. Magnificent meals retailers. Sufficient to make all of Europe burst. I love the ladies within the streets, the hues of their clothes, and the colour of the taxis, which appear to be bugs dressed of their Sunday finest, pink and yellow and inexperienced. As for the tie retailers, you need to see them to imagine them. A lot unhealthy style hardly appears conceivable. D. assures me Individuals don’t like concepts. That’s what they are saying. I don’t actually belief “they.”

At three o’clock, I am going see Régine Junier. Admirable spinster who sends me every little thing she will be able to afford as a result of her father died of tuberculosis when he was twenty-seven, and so … She lives in two rooms, amid a mountain of do-it-yourself hats which are exceptionally ugly. However nothing may overshadow the beneficiant and attentive coronary heart that shines by means of in every little thing she says. I go away her, devoured by fever and unable to do something however return to mattress. Too unhealthy for the scheduled conferences. New York’s scent—a fragrance of iron and cement—the iron dominates.

Within the night, dinner at Rubens [sic] with L. M. He tells me the very “American tragedy” story of his secretary. Married to a person with whom she’s had two youngsters, she and her mom come to search out out the husband’s a gay. Separation. The mom, a puritanical Protestant, works on the daughter for months, instilling the concept in her that her youngsters are going to turn into degenerates. The fool finally ends up suffocating one and strangling the opposite. Declared not responsible by purpose of madness, she’s let out. L. M. tells me his private principle about Ameri­cans. It’s the fifteenth one I’ve heard.

On the nook of East First Road, a small bistro the place a screaming mechanical phonograph drowns out all dialog. To get 5 minutes of silence, you need to put in 5 cents.


Wednesday. A little bit higher this morning. Liebling, from The New Yorker, visits. Charming man. Chiaramonte then Rubé. These final two and I’ve lunch at a French restaurant. Ch. speaks of America as nobody else does, in my view. I level out a funeral dwelling to him. He tells me the way it works. One of many methods to grasp a rustic is to understand how folks die there. Right here, every little thing is deliberate. “You die and we do the remainder,” the professional­motional flyers say. Cemeteries are personal property: “Hurry up and safe your spot.” It’s all purchased and offered, the transport, the ceremony, et cetera. A lifeless man is a person who has lived a full life. At Gilson’s place, radio. Then at my place with Vercors, Thimerais, and O’Brien. We talk about tomorrow’s discuss. At six o’clock, a drink with Gral on the Saint­ Regis. I stroll again to the resort alongside Broadway, misplaced within the crowd and the big illuminated indicators. Sure, there’s an American tragedy. It’s what’s oppressed me since I arrived right here, although I don’t know what it’s product of but.

On Bowery Road, a avenue the place the bridal retailers stretch for greater than 5 hundred meters. I eat alone within the restaurant from this afternoon. And I come again to put in writing.

The Negro query. We despatched a person from Martinique on task right here. We put him up in Harlem. Vis­-à-­vis his French colleagues, he noticed, for the primary time, he wasn’t of the identical race. An remark on the contrary: a median American sit­ting in entrance of me on the bus stood to present his seat to an older Negro woman.

Impression of overflowing wealth. Inflation is on the best way, an American tells me.


Thursday. Spent the day dictating my discuss. Just a few jitters within the night, however I head straight out, and the viewers is “glued.” However then, whereas I’m talking, somebody filches the cashbox, the proceeds of which have been to go to French youngsters. On the finish of the discuss, O’Brien broadcasts what’s occurred, and somebody within the viewers stands as much as recommend everybody give the identical quantity on the best way out that they gave on the best way in. On the best way out, everybody offers rather more and the proceeds are appreciable. Typical of American generosity. Their hospitality and cordiality are additionally like this, rapid and with out affectation. That is what’s finest about them.


Their fondness for animals. A multistory pet store: canaries on the second flooring, nice apes on the high. A few years in the past, a person was arrested on Fifth Avenue for driving a giraffe round in his truck. He defined that his giraffe didn’t get sufficient air out within the suburbs the place he saved it and that he’d discovered this to be a great way to get it some air. In Central Park, a girl introduced a gazelle to graze. To the courtroom, she defined that the gazelle was an individual. “But it doesn’t converse,” the decide mentioned. “Oh, sure, it speaks the language of lovingkindness.” 5­-dollar high-quality. There’s additionally the three-­kilometer tunnel underneath the Hudson and the spectacular bridge to New Jersey.

After the discuss, a drink with Schiffrin and Dolorès Vanetti— who speaks the purest slang I’ve ever heard—and with others, too. Madame Schiffrin asks if I used to be ever an actor.


Friday. Knopf. Eleven o’clock. Cream of the crop. Broadcasting. Gilson’s a pleasant man. We’ll go see the Bowery collectively. I’ve lunch with Rubé and J. de Lannux [sic], who drives us round New York afterward. Stunning blue sky that jogs my memory we’re on the similar latitude as Lisbon, which is tough to think about. In tune with the circulate of visitors, the gold­-lit skyscrapers flip and spin within the blue above our heads. A second of delight.

We go to [Fort] Tryon Park above Harlem, the place we tower over the Bronx on one aspect and the Hudson on the opposite. Magazine­nolias blooming just about in every single place. I strive a brand new kind of those ice cream that I take pleasure in a lot. One other second of delight.

At 4 o’clock Bromley is ready for me on the resort. We’re off to New Jersey. Immense panorama of factories, bridges, and railroads. Then, swiftly, East Orange, probably the most postcard-­good countryside there may very well be, with 1000’s of cottages, neat and tidy, set down like toys amid the tall poplars and magnolias. They take me to see the small public library, brilliant and cheery and utilized by the entire neighborhood—with its large youngsters’s studying room. (Lastly a rustic that basically takes care of its youngsters.) I lookup philosophy within the card catalogue: W. James and that’s it.

At Bromley’s, American hospitality (although his father is from Germany). We work on the interpretation of Caligula, which he’s completed. He explains to me that I don’t know the way to deal with my very own publicity, that I’ve a “standing” I ought to be benefiting from and that Caligula’s success right here will enable me—my youngsters and me—to be free from need. In response to his calculations, I’ll earn $1.5 million. I snigger, and he shakes his head. “Oh, you haven’t any sense.” He’s the perfect of fellows, and he needs us to go to Mexico collectively. (Nota: he’s an American who doesn’t drink!)


Saturday. Régine. I take over the presents I introduced for her, and she or he sheds tears of happiness.

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A drink at Dolorès’s, then Régine takes me to see some American department shops. I consider France. Within the night, dinner with L. M. From the highest of the Plaza, I love the is­land, lined in its stone monsters. At night time, with its tens of millions of illuminated home windows and tall black constructing faces blinking and flashing midway as much as heaven, it makes me consider a huge blaze burning itself out, leaving 1000’s of immense, black carcasses alongside the horizon, studded with smoldering embers. The charming countess.


Sunday. A stroll to Staten Island with Chiaramonte and Abel. On the best way again, in Decrease Manhattan, immense geological ex­cavations between tightly packed skyscrapers. As we stroll previous, the sensation of one thing prehistoric overtakes us. We have now din­ner in China City [sic]. For the primary time, I’m in a position to breathe simple, discovering actual life there, teeming and regular, simply as I prefer it.


Monday morning. Stroll with Georgette Pope, who got here all the best way to my resort, God is aware of why. She’s from New Caledo­nia. “What’s your husband’s job?”


From the highest of the Empire State Constructing, in a glacial wind, we admire New York, its historical waters and flood of stone.

At lunch, Saint-­Ex’s spouse—an exuberant particular person—tells us that again in San Salvador her father had had, alongside seventeen official youngsters, forty bastards, every of whom obtained a hectare of land.

Night, interview on the École Libre des Hautes Études. Drained, I am going to Broadway with J. S.

Rolley skating [sic] on West Fifty-Second Road. An enormous velodrome cov­ered in pink velvet and mud. In an oblong field perched shut beneath the ceiling, an outdated lady performs a most eclectic mixture of tunes on a pipe organ. A whole lot of sailors, of women dressed for the event in jumpsuits, cross from arm to arm in an infernal racket of steel wheels and pipe organ. This description may very well be pushed additional.

Then Eddy et Léon [Leon & Eddie’s], a charmless membership. To make up for it, J. S. and I’ve ourselves photographed as Adam and Eve, like a type of images you discover at festivals, the place there are two fully bare cardboard cutouts with openings on the head the place you may put your face by means of.



These diaries are tailored from Travels within the Americas: Notes and Impressions of a New World by Albert Camus, edited by Alice Kaplan and translated by Ryan Bloom and with annotations by Alice Kaplan and Ryan Bloom, to be printed by the College of Chicago Press in April. First printed within the French as Journaux de voyage by Éditions Gallimard.

Albert Camus (1913–1960) was a French thinker, author, and journalist. His books embody the novels The Stranger, The Plague, and The Fall, and the philosophical works The Fantasy of Sisyphus and The Insurgent.

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