Camus in Algiers

Reading Geoff Dyer’s essay about Camus (filled with so much wisdom and beauty) and came across this passage. Dyer is in Algiers on a sort of tribute tour of the places that helped form Camus’ world. Walking one day he passes a group of boys playing football and writes:

‘As I continue walking the sun bursts out again, making the bank of cloud smoulder green-black, luminous over the sea. Perched between the road and the sea, between sun and cloud, some boys are playing football in a prairie blaze of light. The pitch glows the colour of rust. The ball is kicked high and all the potential of these young lives is concentrated on it. As the ball hangs there, moon-white against the wall of cloud, everything in the world seems briefly up for grabs and I am seized by two contradictory feelings:

there is so much beauty in the world it is incredible that we are ever miserable for a moment; there is so much shit in the world that it is incredible we are ever happy for a moment.

Dyer, Geoff. Anglo-English Attitudes (p. 177). Canongate Books. Kindle Edition.

Just that. Just that.

Camus in Algiers

Allelujah 2019

Reading Alan Bennett’s diary for 2018 in the latest LRB.

Part of the year is devoted to the rehearsal and performance of his play Allelujah. He writes:

In Allelujah!, though, the last speech is given to Dr Valentine, an Asian doctor who came here as a young man to study medicine but who outstayed his visa. So, though he is now a good and qualified doctor and is English in all but name, he is an illegal. In the course of the play his deception is discovered and he is deported. In this final speech he addresses the audience directly and if my unmediated voice is in the play, this is it:

Me, I have no place.

‘Come unto these yellow sands and there take hands.’ Only not my hand, and so, unwelcome on these grudging shores, I must leave the burden of being English to others and become what I have always felt, a displaced person.

Why, I ask myself, should I still want to join?

What is there for me here, where education is a privilege and nationality a boast? Starving the poor and neglecting the old, what makes you so special still? There is nobody to touch you, but who wants to any more? Open your arms, England before it’s too late.

Allelujah 2019