Short and fragmented, these are the notebooks of two journeys made by Camus to the United States and Canada in 1946, and to South America in 1949. Forty years later, those dates seem more or less consecutive – but in the context of Camus’s career and increasingly desperate disillusion, the three years seem more like ten. You come to the book gleefully, armed with the hindsight of knowing the author to be enshrined in literary history expecting him to rip into the spiritual cote of the new world with much of traditional prejudice of the old; and you are stopped cold by a writer much younger than history remembers him, locked in struggle for his own soul.
This makes Camus’s initial collision with New York imaginatively awesome. Leaving France, his last image ‘is destroyed buildings at the very edge of wounded earth’. A few days later ‘crossing Broadway in a taxi, tired and feverish. I am literally stupefied by the circus lights. I am just coming out