Albert Camus: The words that may have cost his life


"Hungary conquered and in chains has done more for freedom and justice than any people for twenty years."

A few days ago we discussed the new theory that French writer and Nobel laureate Albert Camus may have been snuffed by the KGB.

According to the new theory:  “The order was given personally by [Dmitri Trofimovic] Shepilov [the Soviet foreign minister] as a reaction to an article published in Franc-tireur [a French magazine] in March 1957, in which Camus attacked [Shepilov], naming him explicitly in the events in Hungary.” In his piece, Camus had denounced the “Shepilov Massacres” – Moscow’s decision to send troops to crush the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

I got curious, of course, so I tried to look up this article – so far I’ve failed.  But I did find this famous 1957 speech on the first anniversary of the Hungarian revolt, “The Blood of the Hungarians.”  It’s punchy stuff.  If the Franc-tireur article is anything like it, it’s no surprise the KGB was chagrined.

Since this has been a day with more than the usual dispiriting portions of  gutlessness, I include a long excerpt:

I am not one of those who wish to see the people of Hungary take up arms again in a rising certain to be crushed, under the eyes of the nations of the world, who would spare them neither applause nor pious tears, but who would go back at one to their slippers by the fireside like a football crowd on a Sunday evening after a cup final.

There are already too many dead on the field, and we cannot be generous with any but our own blood. The blood of Hungary has re-emerged too precious to Europe and to freedom for us not to be jealous of it to the last drop.

But I am not one of those who think that there can be a compromise, even one made with resignation, even provisional, with a regime of terror which has as much right to call itself socialist as the executioners of the Inquisition had to call themselves Christians.

And on this anniversary of liberty, I hope with all my heart that the silent resistance of the people of Hungary will endure, will grow stronger, and, reinforced by all the voices which we can raise on their behalf, will induce unanimous international opinion to boycott their oppressors.

And if world opinion is too feeble or egoistical to do justice to a martyred people, and if our voices also are too weak, I hope that Hungary’s resistance will endure until the counter-revolutionary State collapses everywhere in the East under the weight of its lies and contradictions.

Hungary conquered and in chains has done more for freedom and justice than any people for twenty years. But for this lesson to get through and convince those in the West who shut their eyes and ears, it was necessary, and it can be no comfort to us, for the people of Hungary to shed so much blood which is already drying in our memories.

In Europe’s isolation today, we have only one way of being true to Hungary, and that is never to betray, among ourselves and everywhere, what the Hungarian heroes died for, never to condone, among ourselves and everywhere, even indirectly, those who killed them.  …

Those Hungarian workers and intellectuals, beside whom we stand today with such impotent sorrow, understood this and have made us the better understand it. That is why, if their distress is ours, their hope is ours also. In spite of their misery, their chains, their exile, they have left us a glorious heritage which we must deserve: freedom, which they did not win, but which in one single day they gave back to us.

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3 Responses to “Albert Camus: The words that may have cost his life”

  1. Bob March Says:

    Sadly, one still finds so many people — not least often at universities like Stanford — who are willing to make excuses for communism and its allies. Thank you for bringing the tragic events of the Hungarian Revolution back to our attention, and for remembering Camus’ refusal to make such excuses.

  2. Pal Pauer Says:

    Camus was more than a moral and just/decent man!
    He was a PROPHET!
    The “Nobel-Prize” had meaning in 57′! [and justly awarded]
    He had the type of “back-bone” that ALL HUNGARIANS should be PROUD of!

  3. Arturo Says:

    So the only evidence of the KGB’s work is that the trotskyst Camus wrote something that could have angered an important member of the soviet government?

    I may laugh at the theory. I can also point, despite what Camus says, that it wasn’t the communist who started the bloodbath in Hungary

    Here is some graphic evidence of what I say, you won’t find in the anticommunist Camus’ speeches…