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Le paradis perdu et retrouvé: Étude de l'innocence et de la culpabilité dans l'oeuvre d'Albert Camus
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of French, Italian and Classical Languages.
2003 (French)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this dissertation is to investigate a recurrent idea that dominates the works of Albert Camus, namely the search for man’s innocence. A study of this notion, however, will to the same extent require an examination of guilt, since the signification of the first depends on the second and since both exist in Camus.

The notion of innocence in Albert Camus’ works L’Étranger, Caligula, Le Malentendu, La Peste, La Chute, L’Exil et le Royaume, Les Justes and the posthumous novel Le Premier Homme appears in three different dimensions: ethical, theological and as a state of virginity. The first dimension refers to the state of the accused man who is not guilty of a given crime, the second represents the state of the first man before sin, according to Christian principles, and the third dimension is to be found particularly in the purity of a child and all acts beyond good and evil.

Through an analysis of the novels, the plays and the short stories of Camus, it is possible to establish that all the main characters are struggling to find either their own innocence or mankind’s in general. However, their search collides with two different types of guilt, whose significance can be identified thanks to the definitions given by Paul Ricœur, namely ethical-legal (éthico-juridique) and psycho-theological (psycho-théologique) guilt. The first sense of this concept regards the connection between penalty and responsibility, while the second concerns the Christian consciousness of original sin. Moreover, it may be seen that the question of innocence in Camus strongly implicates the question of happiness which is clearly revealed in the plays Caligula and Le Malentendu. This investigation indicates that innocence and happiness belong together, i.e. to be happy “l’homme camusien” has to first feel his innocence.

There is another crucial point observed in this thesis: the impact that the unfinished novel Le Premier Homme has on understanding Camus’ thought and all his previous production. For it is in this last, autobiographic novel that one can discover the source of all the needs that have been haunting his writing throughout his life. It is in Le Premier Homme in particular that the thirst for innocence investigated in this dissertation is finally extinguished. And this takes place via a return to the simplicity of the world of Camus’ childhood and the relationship to nature, beyond any philosophical or religious language.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Institutionen för franska, italienska och klassiska språk , 2003. , 204 p.
Forskningsrapporter / Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för franska och italienska: cahiers de la recherche, ISSN 1654-1294 ; 23
Keyword [en]
Camus, innocence, guilt, Ricoeur, Nietzsche, happiness, redemption, question of evil, consciousness, absolute and relative, justice and injustice, godless salvation, child, "Le Premier Homme"
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-51ISBN: 91-85059-04-8OAI: diva2:194828
Public defence
2004-03-12, hörsal 3, hus B, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2004-02-19 Created: 2004-02-19 Last updated: 2009-07-03Bibliographically approved

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von Wachenfeldt, Paula
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