“[W]hen many Parisians voiced shock at a frightful massacre in Algeria, Camus derided them with macho contempt as the ‘female left-wing.’
“Intellectuals who along with Camus protested the crimes of Stalin appealed to him in vain to protest the crimes of France in Algeria. He did write to military judges several times asking clemency for condemned Algerians, Todd says, but became enraged when one such letter was made public. He expressed outrage at the Soviet assault on Budapest in 1956, but approved the French-British-Israeli assault on Egypt that year. He declined to speak out when Arab bodies turned up floating in the Seine, and protesters were crushed to death by a police charge in Paris. In fact, he broke a proclaimed withdrawal from political affairs to attend a dinner in support of Algerie Française, sitting at the head table with none other than Maurice Papon, then police prefect of Paris.
“For this and other reasons many people were upset when Camus was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in December, 1957. It was thought that his anti-Soviet stand was a factor (Boris Pasternak was the choice the following year). Be that as it may, the occasion was marked by a single terrible phrase. Challenged in Stockholm to explain why he protested repression in Eastern Europe but not in Algeria, he replied, ‘I believe injustice, but I will defend my mother before justice.’
“It was a reply that could have been made by an Afrikaner, a Bosnian, an Israeli, an Arab, a Hindu, a Moslem, a white supremacist, a hard liner on crime – anyone in the worldwide war against the Other. And it was, of course, pure folly. The danger to Camus’s mother arose from the refusal of the settlers to contemplate equal rights for Arabs. They wreaked havoc and brought down the Fourth republic, and destroyed any chance to live in peace in their beloved country.
“Finally, it just may be worth noting that Camus singled out his mother as more precious than justice. The opening words of The Stranger mention her too: ‘Maman died today.’ Then he disowned her. Maman is a sentimental figure in the Mediterranean macho culture, as is Madonna, but women remain the Other, nonetheless.”