After winning the Nobel Prize, philosopher Albert Camus thought to thank his mother first and an elementary school teacher second. Camus wrote this letter of gratitude (below) to his teacher Louis Germain who, according to Letters of Note, “fostered the potential he saw and steered young Camus on a path that would eventually see him write some hugely respected, award-winning novels and essays.”
Camus’ father was killed during World War I when Camus was still an infant, and his mother was “partially deaf and illiterate.”
While Camus is labeled by many to be an existentialist philosopher and writer, he detested the term. He once said in an interview , “No, I am not an existentialist. Sartre and I are always surprised to see our names linked. We have even thought of publishing a short statement in which the undersigned declare that they have nothing in common with each other…”
Read the letter below.
19 November 1957
Dear Monsieur Germain,
I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honour, one I neither sought nor solicited.
But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened.
I don’t make too much of this sort of honour. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.