‘The Artist at Work’ by Albert Camus

In ‘The Artist at Work’, Jonas, a painter, achieves fame, and then physical and mentally retreats from society. He moves his studio behind a curtain, into the bedroom, the bathroom, and finally onto a tiny platform in his hallway where he hides for weeks. Here, he claims to be working on a painting, a blank canvas with a word that can be made out” but without any certainty it should be read as solitary or solidary.” 
 
‘The Artist at Work’ is an existential story about reconciling two unbridgeable contradictions: our need for communion and belonging, with our sense of personal freedom. Just before Camus’s untimely death he drafted a note for his final novel, intertwining this duo of seemingly opposing parts of each human existence, “I’m resolved on autonomy, I demand independence in interdependence.”

First published as ‘Jonas, ou l’artiste au travail’, 1957. Collected in Exile and the Kingdom, 1957. Available in a new translation by Carol Cosman, Penguin, 2006

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