Is it possible to die a happy death?This is the central question of Camus's astonishing early novel, published posthumously and greeted as a major literary event. It tells the story of a young Algerian, Mersault, who defies society's rules by committing a murder and escaping punishment, then experimenting with different ways of life and finally dying a happy man. In many ways A Happy Death is a fascinating first sketch for The Outsider, but it can also be seen as a candid self-portrait, drawing on Camus's memories of his youth, travels and early relationships. It is infused with lyrical descriptions of the sun-drenched Algiers of his childhood - the place where, eventually, Mersault is able to find peace and die 'without anger, without hatred, without regret'.
Albert Camus was born in Algeria in 1913. His childhood was poor, although not unhappy. He studied philosophy at the University of Algiers, and became a journalist as well as organizing the Theatre de l'equipe, a young avant-garde dramatic group. His early essays were collected in L'Envers et l'endroit (The Wrong Side and the Right Side) and Noces (Nuptials). He went to Paris, where he worked on the newspaper Paris Soir before returning to Algeria. His play, Caligula, appeared in 1939. His first two important books, L'Etranger (The Outsider) and the long essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), were published when he returned to Paris. After the occupation of France by the Germans in 1941, Camus became one of the intellectual leaders of the Resistance movement. He edited and contributed to the underground newspaper Combat, which he had helped to found. After the war he devoted himself to writing and established an international reputation with such books as La Peste (The Plague 1947), Les Justes (The Just 1949) and La Chute (The Fall; 1956). During the late 1950s Camus renewed his active interest in the theatre, writing and directing stage adaptations of William Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun and Dostoyevsky's The Possessed. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. He was killed in a road accident in 1960.