THE END OF A FRIENDSHIP: CAMUS AND SARTRE – By Oran Ryan

 

Tonight at Saor Ollscoil I listened and participated in a wonderful seminar about the life and the work and the eventual schism between the two philosopher writers Sartre and Camus. Alas my participation was very small indeed so enthralling and brilliant was the main lecturer Sean Oliver, a veritable walking encyclopaedia on the two  writers and thinkers. I have always felt a close association with Camus, much more so than with Sartre. I wrote this small playlet as a kind of summary in dramatic form of the schism between the two. after they broke up they never spoke to each other again. A wonderful evening and a wonderful seminar.

   THE END OF A FRIENDSHIP: CAMUS AND SARTRE
BY ORAN RYAN

Camus is sitting at a cafe table. Sartre approaches.
CAMUS
(ASIDE) Here he is. The great amphibian faced philosopher.
Sartre sits down an nods to Camus.
SARTRE
Camus.
CAMUS
I am glad you came.
SARTRE
I think it for the best I do.
CAMUS
You have had your friends do your dirty work for you. You make Jeanson write the review of the Rebel saying it proposes a fake solution to the issue of revolt. It does not. 
SARTRE
You are pursuing and illusion, Camus. There was no conspiracy.
CAMUS
That was a hatchet job, a blistering vicious review.
SARTRE
If it were I, it would have been less polite.
CAMUS
Polite! I thought we were friends.
SARTRE
We are friends, Camus. You were always sentimental.  Your ‘friends’ protect you from the absurd, from the horrors of the world. You are being mollycoddled.
CAMUS
From what I understand you were the one playing duets with momma and being mollycoddled for near ten years.
SARTRE
Sartre stares enraged at Camus.
CAMUS
I know you decided on Jeanson to do the review of The Rebel. It was a betrayal.
SARTRE
You propose that history is a cesspool. That history will inevitably sweep man into one atrocity after another. That is a refusal of the truth of reality. The only way the essence of man can be realized is through history. You ask yourself the question ‘Does history have a meaning? Is it true? This is more of your illusions. You are like a little girl coming tot he seaside with her daddy asking the question ‘oh, is it cold?  Will I dip my toe in or not?’ This is the great refusal. The refusal of life and morality for the sake of some illusory purity.
CAMUS
History is not some nightmare I am trying to escape.
SARTRE
Now you paraphrase James Joyce, how pathetic is that?
CAMUS
Must you dominate every discussion? Does no one ever have an opportunity to state their position without you resorting to pointless derision? I am a little girl, now I am pathetic? These are cheap party tricks, something that is beneath you. My position in the Rebel is no failure of courage on my part, rather it is a recognition of the truth of history. What you are doing, you and your coterie of followers, is supporting one of the great forces of oppression in history.
SARTRE
And your solution to rebellion? Your solution to rebellion is to not rebel, to say no privately…
CAMUS

Stalinism is sweeping across Europe and  you are supporting it. Your refusal to denounce murder squads, totalitarianism and labour camps is a tacit endorsement of the horror of it.
SARTRE
You want to focus the energies of rebellion into a petty bourgeois art of meaning.
CAMUS
You supposedly fight for freedom and support oppression, and yet your revolt will only make more horror, more rivers of blood and a cesspool of horror. This is precisely what we fought against during the last war. We have only just left Hitler’s monstrosities behind us. Do you think, Sartre, do you really think this is any different?  
SARTRE
I know about the labour camps and you know that I do. Do not terrify the working classes with talk of them. What you are doing Camus is much worse than anything Stalin is doing. You are collaborating with the very bourgeoise who collaborated with the Nazis and who have oppressed the workers in one form or another since the very dawn of time.
CAMUS
That’s not what I am saying.
SARTRE
History, apart from the one who is making it, is a figment of the mind an abstraction…
CAMUS
And resistance to violence in groups only serves to perpetuate bloodbaths…
SARTRE
You say that government has no conscience.
CAMUS
Absolutely. It has a policy. No matter what government you are talking about, it has no conscience whatever.
SARTRE
The communists do.
CAMUS
Sartre you are delusional!
SARTRE
Do not condescend to me! The party are keenly aware and sensitized to the costs of their policies.
CAMUS
Now who is being naive? EH?
SARTRE
It is you, Camus, Not I.
CAMUS

You will be remembered as a friend of one of the worst monsters of history! And you are no friend of mine!
SARTRE
And you will be remembered as and apologist of narrow bourgeois angst, someone who refused to rebel, who refused to act when the world was being consumed with fire.
They are fighting the forces of imperialist hegemony. They are trying to overthrow the domination of capitalism. They are trying to increase our freedoms. This can be a difficult business. Sometimes the price for this is paid in blood. But one thing is certain. What you are advocating is the very opposite of freedom. You are advocating the kind of despicable inaction that will destroy our freedom. You have betrayed your self.
CAMUS
The aim of art, the aim of a life can only be to increase the sum of freedom and responsibility to be found in every man and in the world. It cannot, under any circumstances, be to reduce or suppress that freedom, even temporarily. Governments and groups of people killing each other indiscriminately can never and will never do that. Your ideological blindness will do all the terrible damage you blame on me. The communists are not the only game in town. I also agree with a lot of what they are saying. I loathe the way they are putting their theories into action. Police States, torture, death everywhere. They are as bad as the fascists. The bourgeoise sided with the fascists during the war. Now the left intellectuals are siding with something as bad. If you are tired of fighting, then rest, but…
SARTRE
Rebellion is the only ethical response to the nightmare of history.
CAMUS
But not your rebellion. That can only lead to something much worse.
SARTRE
Coward!
CAMUS
Delusional egomaniac!
SARTRE
Bourgeois apologist!
CAMUS
Damn you!
Sartre storms off.
CAMUS (CONT’D)
Fish face!

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