„Camus was a great cleanser of my intellect, ridding me of countless sluggish ideas, and through some of the most unsettling pessimism I had ever encountered causing me to be aroused anew by life’s enigmatic promise.“

—  William Styron, Context: When I was a young writer there had been a stage where Camus, almost more than any other contemporary literary figure, radically set the tone for my own view of life and history. I read his novel The Stranger somewhat later than I should have — I was in my early thirties — but after finishing it I received the stab of recognition that proceeds from reading the work of a writer who has wedded moral passion to a style of great beauty and whose unblinking vision is capable of frightening the soul to its marrow. The cosmic loneliness of Meursault, the hero of that novel, so haunted me that when I set out to write The Confessions of Nat Turner I was impelled to use Camus’s device of having the story flow from the point of view of a narrator isolated in his jail cell during the hours before his execution. For me there was a spiritual connection between Meursault’s frigid solitude and the plight of Nat Turner — his rebel predecessor in history by a hundred years — likewise condemned and abandoned by man and God. Camus’s essay “Reflections on the Guillotine” is a virtually unique document, freighted with terrible and fiery logic; it is difficult to conceive of the most vengeful supporter of the death penalty retaining the same attitude after exposure to scathing truths expressed with such ardor and precision. I know my thinking was forever altered by that work, not only turning me around completely, convincing me of the essential barbarism of capital punishment, but establishing substantial claims on my conscience in regard to matters of responsibility at large. Camus was a great cleanser of my intellect, ridding me of countless sluggish ideas, and through some of the most unsettling pessimism I had ever encountered causing me to be aroused anew by life’s enigmatic promise. II
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William Styron1
1925 - 2006
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