By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
Albert Camus cut his journalistic teeth on the Alger Républicain, before switching to the Soir républicain, a two-page daily sheet he set up with his friend Pascal Pia. It first hit the streets in September 1939. He was twenty-six at the time.
As editor-in-chief, Camus wrote almost the whole paper and, according to his biographer Olivier Todd, signed himself variously “Vincent Capable”, “Demos”, “Irène”, “Nero” and “Cesare Borgia”. Todd describes the sheet as “iconoclastic”. It soon fell victim to the state censor, a certain Col Florit. Todd writes: "Camus and his newspaper accepted censorship about military matters, but 'we do not accept mental censorship'".
Macha Séry, a journalist on Le Monde, recently uncovered a box in the Archives nationales d’outre-mer in Aix-en-Provence, containing Camus’s unpublished articles from the Soir républicain. She wrote about her discovery in Le Monde of March 17. Séry's cache includes an eloquent manifesto in defence of press freedom, dated November 25, 1939, which never saw the light of day. It opens “It’s difficult to talk about press freedom today without being accused of being a Mata-Hari, . . . of being Stalin’s nephew”. Camus goes on “We don’t see Hitler . . . using Socratic irony. It remains the case that irony is a weapon without precedent against those with too much power”.
Later “No one wants, in twenty-five years time, to repeat the experience of 1914 and 1939”.
On January 10, 1940 Camus was summoned by M Bourrette of the Algiers Special Police and told that publication of the paper would be suspended, after 117 issues. Pascal Pia returned to Paris. Within months Camus would find himself in Paris too.