The Stranger

Today's post is a special one. This is the most interesting (and most valuable) thing I've found in a book. I had been saving it in hopes of including it in one of my books, but I doubt I'll ever get permission to publish it. I originally posted it on Forbes' Booked blog a few years back, here's the description I wrote:

As a general rule, I don’t buy books unseen. I made an exception this weekend and purchased 3,000 books from the estate of a college professor who had passed away. He was a English professor, so I was fairly certain there would be some good titles in the lot. The third book I picked up was a common paperback copy of The Stranger by Albert Camus. There was a folded paper stuck inside, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t have a look:

Here is the picture:

Albert Camus
Paris, France
December 18, 1959

Dear Prof. Ullmann: A number of American and European friends have formed a committee to help Spanish refugees. I write simply to ask you to help us.

For us, the Spanish Civil War is long since ended; not so for the thousands who now live in France with their families. For them the war continues, in suffering and privation. They endure poverty and illness with pride. 

But we should ease their condition if we can. Our help can give them medical care, the tools for making a living, the hope for a life with some dignity. Whatever you do for them will make an immediate difference in their daily lives. Help them, I beg you. And, in advance, I thank you with all my heart.

- Albert Camus

Most remarkable is the date of the letter, December 18th, 1959. Camus died in a car accident just 17 days later on January 4th.

EDIT: Here's another version sent to me by @LettersOfNote:

-Click to enlarge photos-


  1. wow, that's fantastic!! what a find!!

  2. Wow. What a truly remarkable find. I cannot imagine finding something like this. It would certainly take my breath away.

  3. The pied-noir plight was a focus in Elizabeth Musser's Two Crosses/Two Destinies books, the third coming out shortly. I highly recommend them.

  4. You must have got some serious goosebumps, finding that.

    And it says something about Camus' chops that it's a pretty darn effective charity appeal letter.

  5. The randomness of everyday life never fails to amaze and delight me. I can only imagine how awestruck you were at its discovery! That it wasn't simply a friendly note but had actual historical context makes this even more of a treasure. Wow!

  6. Gives me shivers. how incredible.

  7. What a wonderful treasured find!

  8. Amazing! The past is always reaching out to us.

  9. Very poignant - I'm amazed at what you find in the books you buy, but this is really special :-)

  10. Wow! What an awesome find!
    I hope you can sell it and make a massive fortune! :)

  11. Why would you need permission to publish it, and why do you think you would be refused?

  12. Carla, Camus' letters are still considered his creative work, and Gallimard has already turned me down (the letter was set to be in the book)