Orwell and Camus: The Meeting That Never Was
Some of George Orwell’s meetings with the remarkable men of his time have reached almost mythic status. Think of the alleged rushing in and out of the Hotel Scribe in Paris at the end of the war, with its borrowing of a service revolver from Ernest Hemingway for an unspecified purpose; or think of the dinner party in the blitz that Orwell and his wife, Eileen, threw for H G Wells. It ended in bitterness and recrimination, and though two of the other attendees each wrote their own account of the evening, we still have no definitive way of knowing what happened.
Now, though, Matthew Lamb has written an account of a meeting that should have happened but didn’t: ‘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. 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’ (Los Angeles Review of Books, April 13th 2015).
You can read the full article online here:
It ends: ‘it is likely that they would have spoken about Spain. Orwell’s 1938 book “Homage to Catalonia”, about his experience of the Spanish Civil War, was soon to be published in a French translation. Camus had an abiding affiliation with Spain. His mother was Spanish. He was also currently having a love affair with María Casares — a Spanish actress, the daughter of Santiago Casares y Quiroga, the prime minister of Spain during the military uprising in 1936, which started the civil war. Camus would have been interested to hear about Orwell’s time in Spain, and especially about his being shot through the throat. Orwell would have been interested to hear, via Camus’s close contacts, current news of Spain…
‘Coffee over, cigarettes snubbed out, they would have shaken hands and then gone their separate ways, but ever in the same direction.’