American Journals was my third Camus book, and it, like his other works, delivered thought-provoking prose. Unlike The First Man, where the reader is offered a glimpse into Camus' early life and beyond—or The Stranger, where the reader is offered a fictional setting laced with autobiographical thoughts—American Journals lays in front of the reader a rare inner monologue and a window into Camus' private thoughts.
The book consists of two separate diaries Camus kept while on tour in North America and South America. His North American perspective was not much different from that of my favorite author, Henry Miller. Unfortunately, a large part of the first journal deals with the voyage itself, and the reader is thus offered only a limited glimpse into Camus' mind once he arrives. Nonetheless, he sees America as a place where everything is done to prove that life isn't tragic. At the same time, it is clear that life cannot be appreciated without tasting tragedy first. Where does this leave America? Impersonal, tasteless, wasteful, unreal. The reality comes through when he visits the Bowery. Camus feels better between the poor, the unfortunate, or the immigrants. Their lives are real; there is something to connect to. As for the rest, he does not seem to care for it much.
In the second diary, Camus grows more philosophical, yet, at the same time, conflicted. His voyage to South America does not seem as important, but his travels around South America take on a prominent role in his inner thoughts. While he seems unhappy in Rio, he takes interest in local religious ceremonies, in subcultures, and in native cultures. More so the latter. Yet, he cannot wait to leave. He also makes several notes on subjects that will appear in his later writing.
Overall, I appreciate the opportunity to read the author's inner thoughts, his intimate feelings. It will help me understand Camus better when I read his work. At the same time, the book left me feeling a little disappointed. I was expecting more, especially of his South American experience. After all, it is a world-apart from Europe or North Africa. The cultures, diversity, and landscape were probably like nothing he has seen before. But, that is the dreamer in me speaking now.