Camus and New York

Albert Camus once wrote a short essay titled, The Rains of New York, that was published in 1947. Those who know Camus and his work are aware of his ties to Algeria and his affinity to bare nature (and powerful, blinding suns). This affinity to nature was challenged in the demanding city of New York. He feels the skyscrapers as constricting walls and fears the never ending cement pathways. It takes the cry of a tugboat to remind him “that this desert of iron and cement was also an island.”

He feels completely out of his element in New York but feels somehow drawn to it. “New York affects me […] like a foreign body in the eye, delicious and unbearable, evoking tears of emotion and all consuming fury. Perhaps this is what people call passion.”

New York is nothing without its sky. The buildings are impenetrable walls and the streets are an impenetrable floor – it is the sky that gives New York its beauty. Camus takes delight in the early mornings and early evenings when the colors of the sky strike the “gigantic tombstones,” the “square prisons” – the skyscrapers. He does, however, fear New York rain. “New York rain is a rain of exile” because it removes the sky from New York. The searching rain drops drive the pedestrian back into their gigantic tombstone.

“I loved New York, with that powerful love that sometimes leaves you full of uncertainties and hatred: sometimes one needs exile.”

Growing up in a small town in the coastal mountains of California I can relate to Camus’ reaction. I’ve never been to New York but after I left my forest encrusted town and moved to the land of suburbia I found myself asking, “how does one get dirty here?” And here in Heidelberg I miss the ocean – I can only look at the river with disdain and disappointment. Sometimes one needs exile.

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5 Responses to Camus and New York

  1. frodo441 says:

    …much like rediscovering Nietzsche and the premise of beginning’s of skepticism like the early seventies that (according to the Grateful Dead) the “working man’s dead”…I found myself functioning on an Elysian field of dreams (the blessing’s of the dead…literally)…after having had been cured from cancer and no longer being able to fill my scripts for copious amounts of oxycontin and percecet…an electrical current shocked me from my telephone to wake up to three voices in my head…one from the top, the right and the left, they were women’s voices and they said, “we are the avenging angels”…I guess I was supposed to play Joan of Arc…shocked and in a psychotic haze…I took the first bus out of town and headed for NYC all the while stealing souls along the way…On the backs of all those semi’s passing down the highway I saw pictures of Adolph Hitler, and there was another image of a young man that I came to know as Brandon…when I got off the bus There was a picture of this character named on the Elysian field of blessings from the dead plastered to the wall…the people said, “that’s our Jesus” and a young black girl approached me and said, “kiss me”…I kissed her and bought her a round of drinks…The inner voices of all those people in the city sounded through the air…and into my mind…I sat near the cathedral until evening when those ghostly bells chimed and everybody scattered, then I made my way to broadway for dinner in a little restaurant and had countryfried chicken…the waiter was amazed at the expertise I exhibited as I cut my meet…after dinner and leaving what tip I could leave I made my way through the early evening to Greenwich Village…I found a coffee shop and sat down…the place was empty…save for one man I noticed who in a hurried air walked by and then stopped and said hello…I pretended to be an Englishman, (In NYC, if your English they’ll take you home) but all he could offer was his phone number…apparently he wanted me on reserve in case his night didn’t pan out…I took it and said later on…so long…I walked the streets in search of a venue closer to 42nd street and found a little piano bar where I drank vodka gimlets and reminisced Judy Garland…alone…I left alittle tip…and moved on…made my way into the neighborhoods and found a little jazz venue…they played good…strange thing…the music choreographed my movements to the musicians…again alone with no one in sight for the evening…I moved on…the city became as lonely for me…and as stark as being in the middle of Texas in the evening…then having reckoned my trail of concrete and steel and barbed wire…I left after seeing the vision of those convoy of trucks making their way through the country side at night with the pictures of Hitler and Brandon…I made it through my psychotic fit without hurting anyone…had a little poetry for extemporaneous datum of love affairs in history. When I returned to the west, I went to school and back to work, then my lover died…anymore I wonder if the elegy can be expatiated.

  2. Enya says:

    I like your words and I want to email to you.

  3. furonglei says:

    Entfernung Sie diesen Blog zu schreiben für eine lange Zeit ist vergangen,aber zeitlos~

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