The unfinished manuscript of The First Man was discovered in the wreckage of car accident in which Camus died in 1960. Although it was not published for over thirty years, it was an instant bestseller when it finally appeared in 1994.
The ‘first man’ is Jacques Cormery, whose poverty-stricken childhood in Algiers is made bearable by his love for his silent and illiterate mother, and by the teacher who transforms his view of the world. The most autobiographical of Camus's novels, it gives profound insights into his life and the powerful themes underlying his work.
Camus summons up the sights, sounds, and textures of a childhood circumscribed by poverty and a father's death yet redeemed by the austere beauty of Algeria and the boy’s attachment to his nearly deaf-mute mother. The result is a moving journey through the lost landscape of youth that also discloses the wellspring of Camus’ aesthetic powers and moral vision.
“The First Man is perhaps the most honest book Camus ever wrote, and the most sensual...Camus is...writing at the depth of his powers...It is a work of genius.” - The New Yorker
“Fascinating...The First Man helps put all of Camus’s work into a clearer perspective and brings into relief what separates him from the more militant literary personalities of his day...Camus’s voice has never been more personal.” - New York Times Book Review