Albert Camus and the KGB

Car crash in which French literary giant was killed in 1960 was no accident, claims new theory

Albert Camus

Albert Camus died instantly when the car he was travelling in spun off the road in icy conditions and hit a tree. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

When the French philosopher, author and inveterate womaniser Albert Camus died in a car accident in 1960 just two years after winning the Nobel prize for literature, France’s intellectual beau monde mourned what seemed an almost freakish tragedy.

In Camus’s pocket was an unused return train ticket from his home in Provence to Paris. The 46-year-old writer had intended to travel back after the Christmas holidays by train with his wife Francine and their teenage twins Catherine and Jean. Instead, his friend and publisher Michel Gallimard offered to drive him.

Camus was killed instantly when Gallimard’s powerful Facel Vega car left the icy road and ploughed into a tree. Gallimard died a few days later. As well as the train ticket, police found 144 pages of handwritten manuscript in the wreckage entitled The First Man, an unfinished novel based on Camus’s childhood in Algeria and which he had predicted would be his finest work. The tragedy shocked and saddened France. But no one imagined that the crash had been anything other than an accident.

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