So what if Camus had made it to the cafe where Orwell was waiting?
March 13, 2015 10:52 AM   Subscribe

One day in February 1945, in Paris, George Orwell waited at the café Deux Magots, where he was to meet Albert Camus for the first time.
"The Meeting That Never Was", an essay by Matthew Lamb in the LA Review of Books.
But Camus, suffering from tuberculosis and exhaustion — because of which he was currently on leave from his editorship of the resistance newspaper Combat — didn’t show up. They would never again have the chance to meet each other. Five years later, Orwell died, in England — from an illness related to his own tuberculosis.

This may very well be one of the great missed opportunities in 20th-century European letters.
posted by Celsius1414 (16 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
This may very well be one of the great missed opportunities in 20th-century European letters.

Hard to see how, really. I mean, it's not as if they were unaware of each other's work otherwise. I mean--a "missed opportunity" for them to get to know each other, sure--but it's hard to see why we should assume that the mere fact of them getting to talk to each other would have had any effect whatsoever on 20th-century European letters.

And, oddly, that seems to be the author's ultimate conclusion. They'd have met, smoked, shook hands and parted. The end.
posted by yoink at 10:59 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


And, oddly, that seems to be the author's ultimate conclusion. They'd have met, smoked, shook hands and parted. The end.

I don't think that's an odd conclusion -- the essayist's point, returned to several times, is that these men weren't the towering literary figures people set them up to be. They were two men of letters, but the walls of the literary world weren't going to tumble over a simple cup of coffee and a smoke. The "What if?" is tantalizing, however.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:11 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


They'd have met, smoked, shook hands and parted.

Yea, but have you met Albert Camus on weed.
posted by echocollate at 11:12 AM on March 13, 2015


I was supposed to meet Orwell today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure.
posted by maxsparber at 11:26 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


> "Hard to see how, really."

Obviously, it's because we've lost out on all the literary treasures the babies they'd have had together would have written.
posted by kyrademon at 11:28 AM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


This may very well be one of the great missed opportunities in 20th-century European letters.

What about the time Proust met Joyce? They actually did meet but it seems that it was still something of a missed opportunity.
posted by kenko at 11:32 AM on March 13, 2015


But Camus, suffering from tuberculosis and exhaustion — because of which he was currently on leave from his editorship of the resistance newspaper Combat — didn’t show up. They would never again have the chance to meet each other. To Orwell, he would remain a stranger.

Fixed.
posted by Gelatin at 11:38 AM on March 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Camus: See the football?

Orwell: A game in which everyone gets hurt and every nation has its own style of play which seems unfair to foreigners.

Camus: Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe to football.

Orwell: Football has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.

Camus: We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives...inside ourselves.
posted by Segundus at 11:41 AM on March 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


So what if Camus had made it to the cafe where Orwell was waiting?

A beheading at Camus' hand and one fewer Immortal in the Game. Duh.
posted by The World Famous at 12:26 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Death, not mere illness, is in fact how Camus missed out on something we will all experience, eventually and inevitably.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine coffee and cigarettes with George Orwell - forever.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:02 PM on March 13, 2015


So what if Camus had made it to the cafe where Orwell was waiting?

A beheading at Camus' hand and one fewer Immortal in the Game. Duh.


I dunno. Orwell was a policeman and took a bullet in the throat in the Spanish Civil War. I think he could have taken Camus.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:57 PM on March 13, 2015


Yea, but have you met Albert Camus on weed.

Yes, very often in undergrad.

the essayist's point, returned to several times, is that these men weren't the towering literary figures people set them up to be.

But it's a very banal point, isn't it? No author is a being of pure Literature, they're all just human in the end.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:58 PM on March 13, 2015


Listen, I had to hop in the time machine and stop that shit. The Orwell-Camus strain of tuberculosis almost wiped us all out by 1980.
posted by benzenedream at 2:14 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I dunno. Orwell was a policeman and took a bullet in the throat in the Spanish Civil War. I think he could have taken Camus.

Someone really needs to do exhaustive Vegas odds for death matches between great literary figures.
posted by The World Famous at 3:03 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


"January 1913, a man whose passport bore the name Stavros Papadopoulos disembarked from the Krakow train at Vienna's North Terminal station."
posted by clavdivs at 7:14 AM on March 14, 2015


I kept expecting Orwell to express his experience to Samuel Beckett, and inspiring "Waiting for Godot" in the process.
posted by 1367 at 12:02 PM on March 14, 2015


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