“Proud, possessive and almost despotic& rdquor ;, as defined by Olivier Todd, biographer of Albert Camus the writer and the one who was his lover for 16 years, Maria Casares, legend of the French scene. When they met, in 1944, she was an actress on the rise, she was 21 years old and he was nine years older, and he was already the famous author of ‘The Foreigner’, the great literary sensation of occupied France. The future Nobel laureate and the great lady of the tragic theater, daughter of Santiago Casares Quiroga, a republican leader exiled in France after the civil war, met when she was chosen to join the cast of ‘The Misunderstanding’, the author’s first play to be staged. They met her eyes and began a turbulent relationship that would develop with ups and downs for 16 years and that would only end with his death in the traffic accident that took his life in 1960.
From the beginning they recognized each other as equals due to their Spanish origins and because both they liked to boast of ladylikeness. She is an independent woman, with magnetic eyes, a sandy and powerful voice, who has had love affairs but marriage is not among her plans. He, like so many men of the time, does not play fair. his wife, Francine Faure, A math teacher and mother of her two twins, Jean and Catherine, she is far from Paris, in Oran, Algeria, where they both come from. When she returns with the little ones, María Casares -in France she becomes Maria Casarès- decides to break up, but two years later the former lovers meet again by chance on Boulevard Sant Michel and they will no longer be separated.
That relationship, nothing secret because Casares and Camus used to exhibit themselves in public, rejected but ultimately consented to by the wife, generated by their own condition a long and intense correspondence that was gathered in France in 2017 and has now just been published in Spanish by Debate. It is a volume of more than 1,000 pages that brings together 865 fiery lettersas evidenced by “we met, we recognized each other, we gave ourselves to each other, we achieved a burning love of pure crystal, do you realize our happiness and what we have been given& rdquor;, written by her, who from afar writes the texts longer than that correspondence.
The interest of these letters exceeds that of their loving, almost theatrical character, which can make us blush as readers and witnesses of emotions written only to be read by the recipient’s eyes. There is much carnal love in them, recounted with exaltation, but they are also, specifically, an excellent mix of intimate diary, social chronicle, intimate, cultural and historical reflections, with special attention to Parisian theater life of which is a priceless story. The letters also have an important extraliterary value in the case of Camus, because he was not a man given to intimate confession and in her case they are a good example of a woman who knows what she wants and is not afraid to express it with intensity. and to measure himself on an equal footing with men.
The decision of the daughter and executor of Camus, Catherine, to bring them to light was not easy. She knew that for her mother, chronically depressed, who died in 1979, that relationship was very painful. “At home, after my father’s death, I never heard a bad word about María Casares. My mother referred to her with respect and even with affection & rdquor; her, she explained to this newspaper and she only decided to meet the actress personally after Francine had passed away. Her letters reached her after the death of Casares in 1996, which was stipulated in her will. “I am grateful to both of them. Thanks to her letters, the earth is wider, the space brighter, the air lighter, for the mere fact that they existed,” writes the daughter in the prologue of the work.
not so unique
The responses of the actress from the first two years of the relationship, a stage in which they are written almost daily, have not been preserved. As of 1948 with the reunion it is evident that despite the passion, they are aware that they must maintain autonomous lives and the frequency is reduced until reaching forty letters in recent years. These coincide with new extramarital love affairs of Camus, all of them maintained at the same time: with the French actress Catherine Sellers and with the very young painter Mette Ivers, whom everyone called Mi and who over the years would end up being the second wife of Sempé, the creator of ‘Little Nicolás’. All those involved were aware of these amorous geometries that they accepted more willingly -Casares- or worse -Sellers-. And at that point the name that the author of ‘The Last Man’ gave to María is somewhat laughable: the Only One.
Although it is not the last letter before the fatal accident -that honor belongs to Sellers-, Four days before, Camus wrote to Casares: “I am so happy at the thought of seeing you again that I laugh as I write to you. I have closed my folders and I don’t work anymore (too much family and too many family friends!). So I have no reason to deprive myself of your laughter, nor of our evenings, nor of my homeland. I kiss you, I hug you until Tuesday when I will repeat it.” She didn’t get to do it. María was denied the opportunity to attend the funeral.