Chaque génération, sans doute, se croit vouée à refaire le monde. La mienne sait pourtant qu’elle ne le refera pas. Mais sa tâche est peut-être plus grande. Elle consiste à empêcher que le monde se défasse.
Every generation doubtless feels called upon to remake the world. Even so, mine knows that it will not remake it. But its task is perhaps greater. It consists in preventing the world from being unmade.Albert Camus, Nobel Prize Speech, 10 December 1957, Stockholm City Hall
Albert Camus was probably thinking of the danger of nuclear war when he spoke in 1957. Today, the danger that human activity presents to the global ecosystem comes more readily to mind when I read his words. Camus lived through some very dark times without losing his moral compass or his readiness to do what he could. Just as importantly, he never lost his love of life and its wonders. My admiration for him as a writer and a person grows with the passing years and his courageous hope is a good talisman in uncertain times. I wish all my friends and readers a happy new year and the resources that we all need to make it so.
The official English text of Camus’s speech differs a little from my version above, but I wanted to keep his use of ‘remaking’ and ‘unmaking’. The original text, in French and English, is on the Nobel website.