How Does An Artist Remain Pure?

The New Yorker just published, for the first time in English, Albert Camus’s The Life of the Artist: A Mimodrama in Two Parts. Ryan Bloom, the translator, describes the short play this way:

Unlike his other plays, “La Vie d’Artiste” contains no dialogue; the text of the mime, or “mimodrame,” as Camus called it, is made up entirely of actions and directions. Composed in a clipped, elliptical style, and alternating between humor and horror, the play, appearing in English here for the first time, poses the question: How is one to be a pure, authentic artist and live in a world that corrupts and destroys purity?

Tracing the evolution of a painter’s fortunes, the entire work can be read in just a few minutes. The opening scene:

A small painter’s studio. Three walls, one of which is, perhaps, made of glass. These panels must be mobile. The studio is shabby but contains some attractive objects: an antique, a beautiful pitcher, some drawings, an old copper vase, two or three pieces of old furniture with dirty, but handsomely made, wood. Above all, the light.

As the curtain rises, the painter and his wife. He paints, she poses. They are shabbily, but tastefully, dressed. She shivers. He looks at her. He stops painting, goes to load up the stove. While he’s doing this, she gets up and goes over to hug him. He keeps her against him a moment, then takes her back to the pedestal on which she poses. She makes angry faces. They laugh. She returns to posing. He works.

Continued here.