Friday, February 22, 2013

Camus and crime

"There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined. But the Penal Code makes the convenient distinction of premeditation. We are living in the era of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals are no longer helpless children who could plead love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults and they have a perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose— even for transforming murderers into judges.

"Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, would kill everybody on earth in order to possess Cathy, but it would never occur to him to say that murder is reasonable or theoretically defensible. He would commit it, and there his convictions end. This implies the power of love, and also strength of character. Since intense love is rare, murder remains an exception and preserves its aspect of infraction. But as soon as a man, through lack of character, takes refuge in doctrine, as soon as crime reasons about itself, it multiplies like reason itself and assumes all the aspects of the syllogism. Once crime was as solitary as a cry of protest; now it is as universal as science. Yesterday it was put on trial; today it determines the law."
My latest adventure in non-crime reading opens with a discussion of crime. The paragraphs above are the opening of the introduction to The Rebel. Camus published the book in 1951, and his subjects were rebellion and revolution. But I say these two short paragraphs contain much to make contemporary crime writers and readers rub their chins thoughtfully.

Discuss.

© Peter Rozovsky 2013

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