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on 11 August 2016
Fascinating work
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on 18 November 2013
This book details the lives of Albert Camus and Jacques Monod, two giant intellects of 20th century France. The book is a rich tapestry of history, politics, science and philosophy, brilliantly weaved together by Carrol.
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on 10 February 2014
The choice of following this two great persons during the war years gives a new perspective to the second WW. The book is so well written and the story is inspiring. Long time since I had read such a fascinating book.
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on 12 January 2015
superb,educative, welwritten
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on 12 October 2013
This book is written in straightforward narrative style yet conveys brilliantly the essence of the philosophical, ethical and personal issues that occupied the two main characters Camus and Monod. These two geniuses and Nobel Laureates were far from being just some of the most profound thinkers of their generation - they were both active members of the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation, risking everything including their lives.
Almost as a free extra the story draws on both private and public sources to present a compelling feel of that period of oppression that in the context of all that has since happened in Europe I found amazing - yet it has all happened within my own lifetime.
There is a good deal of heavy stuff about molecular biology in the mid-section of the book and I would recommend reading the explanatory chapter in the appendix prior to tackling the technical bits.
The final summary of Monod's and Camus' conclusions regarding life and its meaning for the individual and society expresses my own strongly held beliefs, so no doubt some cognitive assonance influences my five-star rating!
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on 24 September 2013
"To ensure that life is free for each of us and just for all is the goal we must pursue... Indeed, nothing else is worth living and fighting for in today's world"

Part dual biography of Camus and Jacques Monod, part history of Paris under Nazi occupation, part political history of France from the war to 1968, this is a wide-ranging book which, somehow, manages to pull off its various interests with panache.

Carroll is an American academic biologist with a long-standing fascination with the second world war. Here he merges the two interests as he depicts the lives of Camus and Monod - both of whom fought with the French Résistance and went on to win Nobel prizes in their respective fields, literature and biology. The two men only became friends after the war and shared a humanistic concern with how to best live life in the face of an uncaring universe: "Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself", as Sartre put it.

This is a long book and could easily have become two volumes, but Carroll writes with such clarity, and such passion for his subjects that it never becomes a chore to read. He uses original sources such as radio broadcasts by de Gaulle, articles by Camus written for a Résistance newspaper, speeches by Pétain, to show rather than tell - though I would have liked to have had the originals in French in the notes rather than just the English translations, especially since many of the letters are in private family collections.

But that's a small niggle. Whether you're interested in the history of modern France, the French Résistance, Monod or Camus, this is a fascinating and absorbing read - highly recommended.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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