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Menorca may not be known for producing great thinkers, but that overlooks Albert Camus's Balearic blood.


Camus: Balearic blood.

Her name was Catherine Sintes. She was the illiterate child of Catholic peasants from Menorca but grew up near Oran, Algeria, to where many dirt poor Spanish families migrated at the turn of the last century.

It was where she married a farm worker raised in a Protestant orphanage, a kid named Lucien Camus, who would give her the son they would soon name Albert.

Not an astonishing background, and neither Spain nor Africa are universally known for their thinkers. For even had Catherine stayed home, it is doubtful the Baleares would have produced much more than an avid tennis player. But colonial Algeria producing the melting pot and gene pool that sometimes gives rise to the development of very unusual minds. Althusser, Grenier, Derrida and Camus, pied-noir Protestants, Catholics or Jews all, finding their inspiration on its coast and in its shaded groves. And wouldn’t you reflect on existence facing that dreadful heat and those mind-numbing sands while sitting on a tiny sliver of shadows and moist, a stone’s throw away from potential death every moment of every bloody day? A life furthermore curtailed when none of you can really become friends with the shut, indigenous mind, steeped in forbidding tradition for a thousand years or more.

So maybe this is the trick: facing mental prisons produces great liberating minds. For when these pied-noirs got tossed out of Algeria, all that Algerian prominence stopped. And when Spain chafed under its dictatorship it also produced no one of note, except those it forced out and who became the toast of France or Mexico, of stage, of concert hall, of silver screen, of canvass or any other cultural or intellectual emporium.

Albert Camus subsequently fighting Nazism, Stalinism, intellectual barbarism and any artificial existence and none of it produced in Menorca, but miraculously and indirectly…by that island!

He would have been 98 years old, last week.

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Published: Nov 14 2011
Category: Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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