I’m *still* musing about the wonderful “At the Existentialist Cafe”, which I wrote about in my last post; the book really got under my skin, and I ended up feeling very drawn to reading any of the authors Bakewell covered! I don’t think I mentioned Albert Camus and how much he featured in the book; he’s a long term favourite of mine, and Bakewell included a beautiful quote from one of his essays, “The Rains of New York“, which I felt moved to track down immediately. It’s a short piece which was included in the collection “Lyrical and Critical Essays”; and the whole essay is just lovely.

…New York is nothing without its sky. Naked and immense, stretched to the four corners of the horizon, it gives the city its glorious mornings and the grandeur of its evenings, when a flaming sunset sweeps down Eighth Avenue over the immense crowds driving past the shop windows, whose lights are turned on well before nightfall.

First published in “Formes et couleurs” magazine in 1947, the essay is drawn from a trip Camus took to New York in 1946. He was a man who didn’t travel easily, and the contrast between the Algiers of his childhood and the Paris of his older years seems stark. He’s attracted and repelled by New York and its skyscrapers, and in fact what comes across most is the closed-in feeling he seems to have, surrounded by such massive buildings. However, the mornings and evenings, and of course the city in the rain, seem to enchant him; and seeing the just-post-war city through the eyes of this European is fascinating.

[CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“The Rains of New York” is a short and beautiful piece of writing, and as always when I read Camus, I was instantly reminded of what a brilliant author he is and how I really should read more of him, and more often. I shan’t say any more about this essay here except to say that it reall is lyrical – and also that it’s available to read online, so I do recommend you check it out here!