It was then to be expected that the Nouvelle Revue Française would ask Faulkner to contribute to the March 1960 issue, which was dedicated to Camus. Faulkner sent his tribute to editor Marcel Arland in late January. In a note at the top of the present copy, he has written in ink, possibly to someone in the Harold Ober office in New York, "Copy for your records. Requested of me by M. Marcel Arland for March number of Nouvelle Revue Francaise [sic] to be 'consecrated' to Camus. I sent him original yesterday." Faulkner's process in formulating his ideas about Camus can best be seen in the sentence in which he sets out his most positive assertion about his French colleague. Before deletions and corrections in Faulkner's hand, the sentence reads, "The track he followed led into life in being that one devoted to making with our frail absurd powers something which had not existed in life until he made it." In the author's corrections to the present copy, he has changed "life" to "the sunlight," scored through the word "absurd" and inserted the words "and our absurd materials" after "powers" and before "something." Most interestingly, "he" is changed to "we" at the end of the sentence. Faulkner also repeats the greeting he wired to Camus after the younger man had been awarded the Nobel Prize: "On salut l'âme qui constamment se cherche et se demande."
The closing of this tribute is probably the most moving thing Faulkner ever wrote about another writer. Knowing that William Faulkner was in frail health and had only two years to live himself, the words become poignant. "People will say He was too young; he did not have time to finish. But it is not How long, it is not How much; it is, simply What. When the door shut for him, he had already written on this side of it that which every artist who also carries through life with him that one same foreknowledge and hatred of death, is hoping to do: I was here. He was doing that, and perhaps in that bright second he even knew he had succeded. What more could he want?"
After appearing in French in the Camus number of the Nouvelle Revue Française, the piece was published in the original English in the Spring 1961 number of the Transatlantic Review.
A moving memento mori, commemorating a great literary friendship and marking a golden age of mutual admiration and understanding in Franco-American literary life.
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