First Advisor

Claudine Fisher

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in French






Albert Camus 1913-1960. Premier homme



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 112 p.)


Albert Camus' posthumously published novel, Le Premier Homme, shows a new facet of this great twentieth-century writer's art. Intensely personal, the novel speaks of the coming of age of a "pied-noir" (French Algerian) boy and his search for roots as an adult. Simultaneously, Camus endeavors to tell the story of his ancestors, the French Algerians. The purpose of this thesis is to examine protagonist Jacques Cormery's search for roots by: 1) discussing the formative elements of his identity uncovered in the nostalgic voyage in time through an anecdotal construction of his childhood and the history of his ancestors, 2) linking recurring themes to selected works which will include: L'Envers et l'endroit, L'Etranger, La Peste, and L'Exil et le Royaume, emphasizing the prevalent intertextual allusions, and 3) drawing parallels between the text and Camus' biography, and his artistic and philosophical vision. First, I demonstrate how themes common to Le Premier Homme and Camus' previous work are interwoven. Throughout the body of his work one finds images of poverty as well as the themes of silence, "strangers/outsiders", the mother/son relationship and communion with nature. I identify and analyze the primary influences in the formation of Camus' "first" (or original) man. These include: the father (as forgotten and enigmatic), the surrogate fathers whom Jacques finds in the uncle and the teacher, and the grandmother. Additonally, I establish the autobiographical underpinnings of Camus' thinly veiled protagonist, Jacques Cormery, by comparing the story in the novel with Camus' biography. A discussion of style deals with influences and the writer's narrative technique. Examples of his use of ambiguity, paradox, and irony are cited in addition to some of the unique imagery. Finally, I demonstrate that this vivid resuscitation of Jacques Cormery's childhood world as autobiography reflects some of the sources of Albert Camus' vision. The novel underscores the lessons of poverty, Camus' admiration for the poor working class "pied-noirs" who live in the present, Sisyphean models, and the notion of ambiguity.


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