I remember as a teenager loving to read the writings of Albert Camus. There are two books which I visualise reading – ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ and ‘The Outsider’ - sometimes translated as ‘The Stranger’. I didn’t study philosophy at school but I was asking questions about the ‘meaning’ of life.
I also loved Metamorphosis’ by Franz Kafta. I have that beetle image in my head. I wasn’t so keen on Sartre and Simone Beauvoir. All I remember about reading their books and reading about Sartre and Simone was that they didn’t seem to wash a lot, were smelly and drank a lot of coffee on the South Bank.
It was Albert Camus who attracted me most. It had something to do with the honesty of his life. He loved to present the reader with dualisms – happiness and sadness, darkness and light, life and death. Maybe that came from his poor childhood. His father was killed in the First World War in 1914. He lived with his mother in impoverished conditions and to go through University had to take on a number of part-time jobs. He joined the Communist Party because,
“We might see Communism as a springboard and asceticism that prepares the ground for more spiritual activities.” That seems rather paradoxical but it was a sign of not accepting anything at a surface level of understanding.
He was expelled from the Communist Party, became associated with the French Anarchist Party before becoming a Pacifist during World War II. So he was a man not of only of thought but of commitment to social action and community - prepared to grow and change his mind if it brought him closer to truth.
What’s the link with ‘The Secret Wound’? When I started to think about ‘The Secret Wound’, I had the idea of trying to write about a myth which had never been written before – a journey which had never been taken. Of course that seemed impossible. Then I thought about most myths and they are like Camus’s ‘Sisyphus’ about an individual’s struggle in life – whether it has meaning – whether they overcome the challenges which they face along the way. That triggered a thought that perhaps there could be a story which was about going ‘beyond Good and Evil’ but which did not mean a breakdown in morality but rather an experience of a love which did not judge Good and Evil.
The Existentialists explored the meaningless nature of life. The Existential Nihilists thought also that life was without objective meaning, purpose or intrinsic value. That was not Camus’s point of view. He said,
“If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something which still has meaning.”