by Clive Gresswell
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Jean Paul Sartre was furious with Albert Camus because he had eaten all his cheese. He’d only asked him round for a quick argument but Camus had outstayed his welcome, guzzled the wine, and helped himself to the cheese. Not just some of the cheese Sartre had bought at the shop that very afternoon but ALL of it. Most of the absurdists thought Sartre was upset because Camus was nasty about Lenin but no, it was the cheese, take it from me, I asked him.
Sartre also told me that this was not untypical of Camus who liked to eat and drink everything in sight when he was at friends. Sartre said he certainly didn’t behave in such a boorish manner when he was at Camus’ – so no wonder he felt like an outsider. He suffered from bad dreams too. No surprises there if he made a habit of gobbling up the cheese. Also, apparently, he made no apologies either for his discourtesy to Lenin or for eating all that cheese.
Sartre had tried hard to forgive Camus but forgiveness wasn’t one of Sartre’s strong points. He was more your brooding deeply melancholic sort of an existentialist whereas Camus had no objection to a kick around on the football pitch every now and then.
Sartre had been complaining to Camus that people took the piss out of him all the time.
“Well, you should lighten up, you’re always going on about suicide and all that sort of heavy stuff. Can’t you get a girlfriend, be happy?”
Well of course that was a bit rich coming from Camus whose own pen was becoming more and more acquainted with the crowning beauty of Nihilism. In later life both he and his lover would adopt explaining why as part of their wedding vows. Both Camus and Sartre just got completely drunk at the event, decided life was too short etc, forgave each other, and kissed and made up to a round of riotous applause.
Camus however did not give up his guzzling ways and Sartre just didn’t know how to broach it with him.
“if he does it again ,I swear I will kill myself, “ said Sartre whom I’m afraid still held a grudge. Well, a little bit. What he didn’t know was that Sartre had always been jealous of him, thinking he was closer to the people.
There was a knock at the door and when Camus opened the door it was Blimey! Sartre who had bought with him an absolute mountain of various cheeses by way of apology.
As Camus went to thank him he put his fingers up to his lips and made a hissing sound.
“Don’t talk, eat,” he said.
“We need to stuff as much of it in as we can before the glorious revolution,” he said.
“Then we will be shot like all the other pigs. But at least we know what we are.”