Sarkozy hopes to honour Camus by transferring ashes to Paris Panthéon

Sat, Nov 21, 2009, 00:00

PRESIDENT NICOLAS Sarkozy has signalled his hope that the remains of the writer Albert Camus should be transferred to the Panthéon, the Parisian burial place of great Frenchmen.

With the 50-year anniversary of Camus’s death falling next year, Mr Sarkozy said it would make for “an extraordinary symbol” to award the posthumous honour to the Nobel laureate.

Interment in the Panthéon, where France has buried its great men (and just one great woman) since the 1789 revolution, is highly restricted and can be granted only by parliamentary act.

“The decision has not yet been taken,” Mr Sarkozy said, but “it would be an extraordinary symbol” to transfer Camus’s ashes to the crypt.

The writer, journalist and philosopher of the absurd died in a car crash in 1960 – less than three years after he became one of the youngest recipients of the Nobel prize for literature.

Mr Sarkozy said he had already made contact with members of the Camus family, whose agreement to the transfer would be required.

The author of the novels La Peste(The Plague, 1947) and L’Étranger(The Outsider, 1942) was born in Algeria to a settler family and moved to metropolitan France at the age of 25.

He joined the resistance during the second World War and wrote for the newspaper Combatboth during and after the conflict.

A contemporary of Jean-Paul Sartre in postwar Paris, the pair famously fell out in 1951 over Sartre’s support for communism. A pacifist, Camus became a prominent advocate for human rights and against capital punishment.

Some of Mr Sarkozy’s political adversaries greeted his suggestion coolly yesterday.

The leader of the centrist Mouvement Démocrate, François Bayrou, said he didn’t share the president’s fondness for “panthéonisation” and reproached the government for its “excessive manipulation of symbols”.

“National recognition doesn’t require any pomp, and I’m sure Camus wouldn’t have liked this sort of pomp,” he added.

The Communist Party claimed Sarkozy’s choice of an author who stood for revolt and liberty was ironic in view of his government’s right-wing policies.

The leader of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, said the idea of transferring the remains of “a pied-noir writer” to the Panthéon was aimed at pleasing sympathisers of the far-right party.

Mr Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, granted the honour of posthumous burial in the Panthéon to the writers André Malraux and Alexandre Dumas.