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Robert Zaretsky

Robert Zaretsky is professor of history in the Honors College, University of Houston. His most recent books are Albert Camus: Elements of a Life and, with John Scott, The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume and the Limits of Human Understanding.


Henri Cartier-Bresson, Magnum Photos

From Solitude to Solidarity

Spring 2013 | Essays

A century after his birth, Camus is still mislabeled and misunderstood in too many quarters. He was not a brooding, self-absorbed existential poseur, but a man of political and ethical commitment whose primary value was solidarity, the proper valuing of our ties with those around us.

James Boswell and Samuel Johnson: The Original Odd Couple

August 5, 2013 | Articles

On the morning of August 6, 1763, at the English port of Harwich, a wandering navvy—what Americans would call a dockworker—might have glimpsed a sight passing strange and strangely beautiful. Making their way across the pebble-strewn beach were two men who looked like the original “Odd Couple.”

Much Ado About Nothing: Review of Why Does the World Exist?

October 12, 2012 | Criticism

Mysteries small and great abound in Jim Holt’s new book—even in restaurants, where he spends an inordinate amount of time for an existential gumshoe. At a Paris bistro he dines alone on a plate of choucroute and a bottle of Saint-Emilion. A whiff of inscrutability suddenly wafts across the page: why would Holt choose a full-bodied red from Bordeaux rather than an Alsatian Riesling to accompany the famously heavy dish of that same region?

Silence Follows: Albert Camus in Algeria

On January 22, 1956, the residents of Algiers, abandoning their usual Sunday pastimes of strolling the boulevards and gathering at cafés, instead piled into the city’s central square, the Place du Gouvernement. On one side stood a stormy crowd o [...]