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The Mail


To the Editors of the Crimson:

Mr. Jago, it seems is absolutely incorrigible. He most certainly is incapable of reading, as otherwise he would have seen that my letter did not obscure any issue. It only rendered his reply pointless and rather vacuous. For now he is merely reduced to a strident babbling and deliberate misrepresentation. I wonder which sentence I wrote could have sustained Mr. Jago's view that "he has seen the truth and the light." J's reasoning is truly astonishing. We are now to understand that the veracity of Mr. Gordon's views on China derives from the bitter experience of his having spent two years under house arrest as a prisoner of the Chinese. But the insistent question which J has hopelessly muffled is whether this unhappy episode is apt to make Mr. Gordon a dispassionate critic of China.

In any case, on Mr. Jago's intellectual level, a discourse is clearly impossible and purposeless, and I write only to point to and, hopefully, correct a squalid distortion in his letter. He writes: "In the early 1950's, Camus broke with Sartre because Sartre did not want to print the truth about the Russian concentration camps in Temps Modernes because of the cold war." This is a lucid demonstration of what one had written earlier about Mr. Jago's rigid Cold War stance and the level of his intellectual pretension. He obviously does not know what the issue is all about, but preceeds nevertheless to adopt a decidedly Cold War position without looking at the evidence.

It is wrong to assert that the celebrated breach between Sartre and Camus arose from Sartre's presumed refusal to publish a report on Stalin's concentration camps. If Mr. Jago had bothered to consult the sources, he would have discovered that Sartre had in fact published in Les Temps Modernes in 1947--long before his break with Camus--a report revealing the existence and nature of forced labor camps in the Soviet Union. Thereafter, in editorials, articles and notes--also in Les Temps Modernes--he never ceased to take a stand against the camps. He was "horrified," "enraged," even "obsessed" by those camps, whose existence he found "inadmissible." This is all a matter of public record which anyone could easily verify by going directly to the sources.

I think I recognize the source of Jago's wrongheadedness of this matter. It originates from a very poor reading--if he has actually read it, and is not merely regurgitating received ideas--of the novel Les Mandarins. In this novel, there is a dispute between two characters: Henri and Dubreuilh. It is in this novel, and within it alone, that the dispute between the characters centered on the question whether or not to publish a report on Stalin's labor camps. In viewing this novel as a roman a clef, there has been a temptation in certain quarters to identify Henri with Camus and Dubreuilh with Sartre. But as Simone de Beauvoir, the author of the novel, has clearly stated in her autobiography La Force des Choses: "Henri, whatever people may have said about him is not Camus: not at all... The identification of Sartre with Dubreuilh is not less distorted... The plot which I devised also deliberately departs from the facts." This is indeed so, for as we have shown, Sartre had already published in his journal Les Temps Modernes such a report as was discussed in Les Mandarins on Soviet concentration camps, and Camus did not deny Sartre's probity on this matter.

In fact the break between Sartre and Camus came in 1952 when Sartre's Les Temps Modernes published a savage, withering review by Francis Jeanson of Camus's L'Homme Revolte.

Sartre did not countenance tyranny from the Soviets or from anywhere else. He condemned oppression in the Soviet Union as also in the French Empire. But he insisted that for a Frenchman the order of priorities should not only be: Les Malgache avant le Kirghize, but also--more importantly--that the suffering inflicted upon the Kirghizes in the Soviet Union should not be used to justify those inflicted on the Malgaches in the French Empire. Herein lies the thrust of his "unsparing" and Olympian demolition of Camus who adopted a partisan Cold War attitude on these problems: In support of the absolute right to liberation of the Hungarians whilst denying such a right to the Algerians. Camus, in any event, has no need for illiterate defenders who, lacking his considerable abilities, still crudely soldier on in the cause of the Cold War.

But is it really too much to hope that Mr. Jago should make the effort to be well-informed on subjects about which he pontificates? Azinna Nwaior   Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies.

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