The First Man by Albert Camus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In The First Man Albert Camus allowed the main character Jacques Cormery to reflect back on his life of humble beginnings. A forty year old Jacques Cormery sets out on a journey seeking details about his deceased father. Henri Cormery died before Jacques was a year old. Very little was shared with Jacques about his father while growing up. There was no time for Jacques to yearn for his father because he and his family were trying to survive a life of poverty.
Jacques referred to his neighborhood as an island of poverty and himself as being born into an ignorant and handicapped family. These truths were ever present but never overwhelmed him. The adults that live at home with Jacques are all illiterate. His mother is partially deaf and always distant. His grandmother is a tyrant. All his family knows is hard work. They have no time for religion or patriotism. Jacques life begins to change when a teacher recognizes his academic potential.
Jacques mother has to be the most complicated yet the most simple character of the entire work. Her personality and her status as a parent is constantly overshadowed and taken over by her tyrannical mother. She never shares any insight with Jacques about his father. When Jacques specifically asks her about his father she is dismissive. This could be seen as selfish but we learn that due to her disability and illiteracy she has a hard time expressing herself. Regardless, Jacques always had a steadfast love for his mother.
The First Man was found handwritten and unedited among the wreckage in which Albert Camus lost his life. In this raw state, it still reads like a fully developed novel. This story is melancholy yet delightful.
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