The tribute to Samuel Paty, this history and geography professor beheaded on October 16 near his college following a course on freedom of expression, was a moment of rare emotional intensity. The arrival of the coffin on “One” from the U2 group, the speech of the President of the Republic (“We will continue, professor…”). And just before, reading the famous letter from Albert Camus to his former teacher in Algiers, Louis Germain. As a universal tribute to the “most beautiful profession in the world”. We take a look back at a link between the student who became a Nobel Prize for Literature and the teacher he has never forgotten.
Albert Camus is seated in a restaurant in the Latin Quarter with his American mistress, Patricia Blake, when a messenger from Gallimard editions brings him the news between two courses: the Nobel committee has just awarded him the literature prize. Dedicated at just 44 years old. “Strange feeling of overwhelm and melancholy,” he notes in his notebook. This October 16, 1957, the writer is at the top, but the man is at the bottom of the hole. His failing health, the war in Algeria, his native land, whose torments haunt him, his wife Francine who twice tried to end her life …
It is dark, yes, like his third novel, “the Fall”, published a few months earlier. Does he feel like a usurper? William Faulkner and especially André Malraux deserved it much more than him, he repeats over and over to his relatives. His work is still far from being completed, and his enemies, ready to tear him to pieces, so many to wait around the corner.
He is so upset, so ill at ease that he trembles when he calls his mother, in Algiers, where it all began. Illiterate, she has never read her books, but more than any other, she measures the path accomplished by her boy. There is another over there who knows: Louis Germain, a 72 year old man who was once his teacher at the rue Aumérat school. It is to him that the new Nobel laureate writes on November 19.
“Without that loving hand you extended …”
“Dear Mr. Germain, I let the noise that has surrounded me these days die out a little before coming to speak to you with all my heart”, begins Camus, who again becomes, in these simple and moving lines, the little boy distraught with recognition for his teacher of the year 1923-1924. After the thunderclap from Sweden, “my first thought, after my mother, was for you,” he continues. Without you, without this loving hand that you extended to the poor little child that I was, without your teaching, and your example, none of this would have happened. […] I embrace you with all my strength, ”he concludes.
Thirty-four years earlier, Louis Germain had been his unforgettable CM2 teacher at the rue Aumérat school. Albert, 10, is impressed by this handsome, slender, severe but fair man, a born teacher who sometimes wields the ruler on the buttocks, but tenderly loves his students. Especially Albert with whom he is infatuated. “Your pleasure of being in class was bursting out everywhere. Your face showed optimism, ”he wrote to her much later, in one of the many letters that the teacher and the pupil would exchange until the end.
Albert never really knew his father, who disappeared on the front lines in October 1914 before his first birthday. Louis Germain, he got out of the Great War. To this orphan who succeeds brilliantly in French, he would like to give a chance. As a ward of the Nation, he is entitled to a scholarship, but his grandmother, who acts as head of the family, is reluctant. They are so poor …
Mr. Germain himself decides to come and plead the boy’s cause, at 93, rue de Lyon where the family is crowded. Lucien, his older brother, is already a courier for 20 francs a week. The grandmother would prefer the younger boy to help boil the pot too, but Louis manages to change her mind, promising to help her for free – Albert and three other deserving comrades – the evening after class to prepare. the transition to high school (in 6th). He passes the exam, and his fate changes …
Stockholm, December 10, 1957. In a black tuxedo embellished with a white bow tie, his hair slicked back, Camus receives his prize for “the ensemble of a work that highlights the problems facing the world today. conscience of men ”. The poor child of Algiers will dedicate his speech to this teacher who opened the doors to the wide world for him. “My dear little one,” his old master will reply. I do not know how to express to you the joy that you made me by your gracious gesture nor the way of thanking you. If it was possible, I would hug the big boy you have become and who will always be for me my little Camus “.
“I live with this debt, happy to know that it is inexhaustible”
In the last letter he sent to his eternal teacher, on October 20, 1959, Albert Camus informed him of the “package of books” he had sent him. “I don’t want you to pay them. You know very well that I will never be able to recognize what I owe you. I live with this debt, happy to know that it is inexhaustible, and even happier when I can give you a little pleasure. The writer’s twins are now in third grade. “But they did not have Mr. Germain to teach them spelling, and they discourage their father on this point,” he reports, promising to come and see him “this winter” in Algiers.
He won’t have time. On January 4, 1960, the car driven by its publisher rolled up against a plane tree on a road in the Yonne. In the carcass of the Vega, next to the writer’s lifeless body, one will find the unfinished manuscript of the “First Man”, in which there is a lengthy question of a certain “Mr. Bernard” who had “weighed heavily. weight of man, at a given moment, to modify the fate of this child for whom he was responsible ”.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr