Albert Camus & His Life in Atomic and Post-Atomic Era

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War has always been a constant in the development of history since ancient times. The first documented war in history was the Sumer War, which occurred in Mesopotamia some 4, 500 years ago and which pitted the cities of Lagash and Umma.

From that conflict, battles have been a crucial part of the development of humanity and all important events are related to wars and violence. Throughout all of humanity we have had innumerable confrontations, of which we could highlight among the most important the World Wars, the First between 1914 and 1918 and the Second between 1939 and 1945, the Cold War, between 1947 and 1991, the Revolution French, between 1789 and 1799, the Vietnam War, 1964 - 1975 or the Hundred Years War, 1337 - 1453, these are the most prominent, but there is a huge number of wars and confrontations documented all over the world during these years.

But the roles of the wars began to change when the development of the atomic age became a reality and an impressive threat to the governments and their respective populations. These times have also affected the world of culture, modernizing and showing true changes, especially in the cinema, where artists like Albert Camus developed certain thoughts and works necessary to analyze and compare with these facts.

The Atomic and Post-Atomic Era

The Atomic Era, also known as the Atomic Age, is the period of history following the detonation of the first nuclear bomb on July 16 in 1945. This bomb was called Trinity and was detonated during the World War II.

Although nuclear chain reactions had been hypothesized in 1933, Trinity tests and the two attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with which ended World War II, represented the first large scale use of nuclear technology and ushered in profound changes in sociopolitical thinking and the course of technology development.

The atomic power, at the beginning, was promoted as the embodiment of progress and modernity, get into the nuclear power era also occasioned awful implications of nuclear warfare, the Cold War, mutually assured destruction…

Power generators were thought by everybody that in the future would be atomic in nature. The atomic bomb would return all conventional explosives out of date and nuclear power plants would do the same for power sources such as oil and coal. There was a general feeling that everything would use a nuclear power source of some sort, in a positive and productive way, from irradiating food to preserve it, to the development of nuclear medicine.

They thought that there would be an age of peace in which atomic energy would provide the power needed to desalinate water for the thirsty, irrigate the deserts for the hungry... But it is not easy to separate the peaceful uses of nuclear technology from the military or terrorist uses, such as the manufacture of dirty bombs from radioactive waste which complicated the development of a global nuclear power export industry right from the outset. In 1973, concerning to prosper nuclear power industry, the United States Atomic Energy Commission predicted that, by the turn of the 21st century, one thousand reactors would be producing electricity for homes and businesses across the U. S. However, the '' nuclear dream ‘' fell far short of what was promised because nuclear technology produced a range of social problems, from the nuclear arms race to nuclear meltdowns, and the unresolved difficulties of bomb plant cleanup and civilian plant waste disposal and decommissioning. Many orders and partially completed plants were canceled.

In the 21st century, the label of the Atomic Age suggest either a sense of nostalgia, and is considered by many to have ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, though the term continue to be used by many historians to describe the era following the conclusion of the Second World War. Atomic energy and continue to have a strong effect on world politics in the 21st century. The nuclear power industry has improved the safety and performance of reactors and has proposed new safer (but generally untested) reactor designs but there is no guarantee that the reactors will be designed, built and operated correctly.


Albert Camus

Albert Camus’s life, one of the most outstanding philosophical artists of his time, ran parallel with military confrontations. He was born on November 7th, 1913 in Mondavi, French Algeria. His family had little money so he had to get ahead as he could. Camus’s father died in combat during World War I, after that, Camus lived with his mother, who was partially deaf. They lived in a low- income section of Algiers.

Camus did well in school and was admitted in the University of Algiers, where he studied philosophy. He suffered from tuberculosis in 1930, thereafter focusing on academic study instead of focusing on his hobby that was soccer. By 1936, he had obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in philosophy.

He became political during his student years, joining first the Communist Party and then the Algerian People's Party. As a champion of individual rights, he opposed French colonization and argued for the empowerment of Algerians in politics and labor. Camus would later be associated with the French anarchist movement.

At the beginning of World War II, Camus joined the French Resistance in order to help liberate Paris from the Nazi occupation; he met Jean-Paul Sartre during his period of military service. Like Sartre, Camus wrote and published political commentary on the conflict throughout its duration. In 1945, he was one of the few Allied journalists to condemn the American use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. He was also an outspoken critic of communist theory, eventually leading to a rift with Sartre.

Absurdism is the dominant philosophical contribution of Camus. Although existentialism is present also in his writings, he rejected the label, expressing surprise that he would be viewed as a philosophical ally of Sartre. ‘Myth of Sisyphus’ elucidates his theory of the absurd most directly. But is with ‘The Stranger’ the most important work of Camus, and which we had worked at class, where the protagonists confront the absurdity of social and cultural orthodoxies, with dire results. In 1957, he won a Nobel Prize for Literature and three years later he died in Burgundy, France.

Article of Camus

Two days after the bombardment in Hiroshima, Camus wrote an article in 'Combat' where he was deeply sorry that the scientific conquests were to the service of 'the most formidable fury destroyer that the man has given tests from centuries'.

Unfortunately, one day after the publication they returned to throw an atomic bomb in the city of Nagasaki and he returned to write another article in which his words are still in force nowadays, we can find it in his article ‘’Combat’’ in ‘Polithics and Moral, 1978.’

“Any city of medium importance can be devastated by a bomb of the size of a ball of football. The mechanical civilization has just reached his last degree of savagery. It was already breathed by difficulty in a tortured world. And is here that offers us a new distress… We refuse to extracting of so serious news, another conclusion that is not the decision to plead more energetically even in favor of a real international society, in which big powers do not have superior rights to those that are small and medium nations, in which the war does not depend any more of the appetites or of the doctrines of such and which state' Albert Camus shares his pain with all those persons that suffered the bombardments, both in Nagasaki and in Hiroshima, and also in Tokyo where days before the big power bombarded the city with incendiary bombs. It is considered to be the major terrorist attack of the history.

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Clearly, he thinks that this scientific progress is not the most suitable since it was used for disastrous purposes and for an own benefit by the big powers wanting to demonstrate their potential in the scientific advances and in this way to impress all the other powers. And is not fair that always the big powers are the ones that have to believe themselves as the most powerful and for that reason they have right to act in whatever way which is against the small and medium nations. Besides thinking themselves that they had done it for a common good and a friendly purpose to help considering that the war was finished. As Albert Camus said: 'The mechanical civilization has just reached his last degree of savagery'.

Children in Hiroshima

Takako Ishikawa (Nobuko Otowa) is a teacher on an island in the inland sea off the coast of Hiroshima after World War II. During her summer holiday, she goes back to Hiroshima to visit the graves of her parents and younger sister, who were killed in the bomb attack. She sees a beggar and realizes he is a man called Iwakichi (Osamu Takizawa) who used to work for her parents, now burned on the face and partially blind. She visits him at his home and asks about his family. His grandson, Tarō, is now in an institution. She visits the institution and finds the children barely have enough to eat. Takako offers to take Iwakichi and his grandson back to the island, but he refuses, running away.

Takako then goes on to visit Natsue Morikawa, who was another teacher at a kindergarten where she used to teach and is now a midwife. Natsue has been rendered sterile by the atomic bomb blast and she is discussing adopting a child. Natsue and Takako visit the site of the kindergarten, which is now destroyed, and Takako decides to visit the students of the kindergarten.

The father of the first student she visits, Sanpei, has suddenly been taken ill from a radiation- related illness and dies just before she arrives. Another one of the students is terminally ill and dying in a church where many people with bomb-related injuries are gathered.

After staying the night in Natsu's house, she goes to visit another student, Heita. His sister (Miwa Satō), who has an injured leg, is just about to get married, and Takako dines with her. She talks to Heita's older brother Kōji (Jūkichi Uno) about the people who died or were injured in the war.

She returns to Iwaki chi’s house and asks him again to let her take Tarō back to the island. At first, he refuses, then his wife persuades him to let Takako take Tarō. However, Tarō refuses to leave his grandfather. The grandfather sets Tarō down for a meal, buys him new shoes, and sends him to Takako with a letter. Then he sets his house on fire. He survives the fire but is badly burned and eventually dies. Tarō and Takako go back to the island, carrying Iwaki chi’s ashes.

Rhapsody in August

Rhapsody in August is a story of three generations in a post-war Japanese family and their responses to the atomic bombing of Japan. Kane is an elderly woman, now suffering the consequences older age and diminishing memory, whose husband was killed in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Kane has two children who are both married and both of whom grew up in postwar Japan. She also has a brother now living in Hawaii whose son Clark (played by Richard Gere) has grown up in America. Finally, there are Kane's four grandchildren, who were born after the Japanese economic miracle who have come to visit her at the family country home near Nagasaki in Kyushu.

Kane's grandchildren are visiting her at her rural home on Kyūshū one summer while their parents visit Kane's brother in Hawaii. The grandchildren have been charged with the task by their parents of convincing their grandmother to visit her brother in Hawaii. The grandchildren take a day off to visit the urban environment of Nagasaki. While in Nagasaki the children visit the spot where their grandfather was killed in 1945 and become aware, at a personal level, of some of the emotional consequences of the atomic bombing for the first time in their lives. They slowly come to have more respect for their grandmother and also grow to question the morality of the United States for deciding to use atomic weapons against Japan.

In the meantime, they receive a telegram from their American cousins, who turn out to be rich and offer their parents a job managing their pineapple fields in Hawaii. Matters are complicated when Kane writes to Hawaii telling her American relatives about the death of her husband at Nagasaki. Her own two children, who have now returned from Hawaii to visit her, feel that this action will be viewed by their now Americanized relatives in Hawaii as hostile and a source of friction. Clark, who is Kane's nephew, then travels to Japan to be with Kane for the memorial service of her husband's death at Nagasaki. Kane reconciles with Clark over the bombing.

Clark is much moved by the events he sees in the Nagasaki community at the time of the memorial events surrounding the deaths which are annually remembered following the bombing of Nagasaki. Especially significant to Clark is the viewing of a Buddhist ceremony where the local community of Nagasaki meets to remember those who had died when the bomb was dropped. Suddenly, Clark receives a telegram telling him that his father, Kane's brother, has died in Hawaii and he is forced to return there for his father's funeral.

Kane's mental health and memory begin to falter. As the storm later intensifies again, Kane becomes more disoriented and mistakenly confuses the storm for the atmospheric disturbance caused by the bombing of Nagasaki which she witnessed visually from a safe distance when her husband was killed many years ago. In her disoriented state, Kane decides that she must save her husband, still alive in her memory, from the impending atomic blast. With all her remaining strength, she takes her small umbrella to battle the storm on foot on the way to warn her husband in Nagasaki of the mortal threat still fresh in her mind of the atomic blast which she cannot forget.


The main characteristic that differs from the two movies is the chronology of the facts and the year in which they were done. In “Children of Hiroshima” is seen clearly the recent event since is based 5 years after the terrible bombing by the United States and we can see how everything is destroyed, the population couldn’t progress and also, they couldn’t improve in their lives because many of them have remained without family, without a place where to live, they cannot know how to find something to eat… They keep on living with the horror and the consequences that the atomic bomb supposed. Many of the population has been affected by the radiation and this has caused them amputations, disorders, the death, and many other things.

In contrast, in “Rhapsody in August” we see how they live the event through three different generations. The most recent generation, who are the grandchildren do not speak of what happened, they have never been to the city to see the places where the bomb was dropped, they only know that his grandfather died there. They are not aware of all the harm that resulted in the bombing, not only in the moment, but also years later still lived the consequences. The parents of the children did not live through the disaster therefore cannot speak or tell anything about it because they were not present. And the older generation, which is the grandmother did not talk a lot about the issue because she doesn’t want to remember that she lost her husband and her family. We can see how they live the events in different generations. At the beginning the grandchildren have no interest in what happened and it seems they everybody has forgotten it over the years, but as soon as they go to the city and they see all the monuments and they begin to see the reality, the disaster that was… They pity his grandmother.

On the other hand, the progress in the second film is immense. It seems as if nothing had happened, people do not speak of it, the city is completely rebuilt and the streets where there was the event are full of people who stroll through there without being aware of what has happened in the past. In 40 years it has become to rebuild a city that was destroyed completely and the people has been progressing and forgetting little by little what happened. In contrast, in the film “Children of Hiroshima”, the event is much more recent and we see that in 5 years things have not changed too much, people continued to suffer the consequences, they are afraid, they do not know how to progress because they do not have the resources, they continue to live in the day that occurred the big tragedy and they continue to live the consequences brought upon them.

What is Progress?

Progress is defined as a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage or as a developmental activity in science, technology, etc. , especially withreference to the commercialopportunities created thereby or to thepromotion of the material wellbeing of the public through the goods, techniques, or facilities created. Or as an advancement in general and a growth or development; continuous improvement.

We can see that there are a lot of definitions for the word progress but more or less they said the same. For me progress is the way of change, but a good change and a way of developing a society or a country or whatever.

For Camus, the idea of progress is contemporary with the age of enlightenment and with the bourgeois revolution. Of course, certain sources of its inspiration can be found in the seventeenth century; the quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns already introduced into European ideology the perfectly absurd conception of an artistic form of progress. In a more serious fashion, the idea of a science that steadily increases its conquests can also be derived from Cartesian philosophy. But Turgot, in 1750, is the first person to give a clear definition of the new faith. His treatise on the progress of the human mind basically recapitulates Bossuet's universal history.

The idea of progress alone is substituted for the divine will. 'The total mass of the human race, by alternating stages of calm and agitation, of good and evil, always marches, though with dragging footsteps, toward greater and greater perfection. ' This optimistic statement will furnish the basic ingredient of the rhetorical observations of Condorcet, the official theorist of progress, which he linked with the progress of the State and of which he was also the official victim in that the enlightened State forced him to poison himself. Sorel was perfectly correct in saying that the philosophy of progress was exactly the philosophy to suit a society eager to enjoy the material prosperity derived from technical progress. When we are assured that tomorrow, in the natural order of events, will be better than today, we can enjoy ourselves in peace.

Progress, paradoxically, can be used to justify conservatism. A draft drawn on confidence in the future, it allows the master to have a clear conscience. The slave and those whose present life is miserable and who can find no consolation in the heavens are assured that at least the future belongs to them. The future is the only kind of property that the masters willingly concede to the slaves. ” (Albert Camus, The Rebel: An essay on Man in Revolt)

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