Albert Camus was born in Mondovi (Algeria) on November 7, 1913, the son of a farm worker and a young illiterate maid of Spanish origin. A year later his father was mortally wounded at the Battle of the Marne and his mother took him to live in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Algiers, near the Arab Quarter of the city. An excellent student, and tutored by his primary school teacher Louis Germain, the young Albert won a scholarship to go to the lycée where he discovered a passion for football and philosophy. Tuberculosis, however, put an end to his athletic activities.

After his baccalauréat Camus went on to study philosophy and published his first articles in the magazine Sud (1932). Aged 21 he married Simone Hié, finding various small jobs to make ends meet. He joined the Communist Party in 1935, only to leave it two years later. In 1936, with a diplôme d'études supérieures in philosophy, he started a small theatre troup, acting and directing plays by Malraux, Gide and Dostoevsky. His first book was a collection of essays, L’Envers et l’endroit (1937; The Right Side and the Wrong Side). In 1938 he started writing for the anti-colonialist newspaper Alger-Républicain, reviewing Sartre's books amongst others, but the paper was banned and Camus left for Paris where he was given a job at Paris-Soir. However, after the German army invaded France, Camus returned to Oran. He divorced Simone Hié and married Francine Faure. A self-proclaimed pacifist, writing openly against war in Europe, Camus was eventually asked to leave Oran so he returned to Paris, where his exile began.

In 1942, a member of the French Resistance, he published articles in the clandestine newspaper Combat, which he would edit until 1947, and published a number of works that have become associated with his doctrine of the absurd: the idea that it is impossible to make rational sense of one's experience, and human life is made meaningless by mortality: L’Etranger (1942; The Outsider), Le Mythe de Sisyphe (1942; The Myth of Sisyphus), followed by two plays: Le Malentendu (1944; Cross Purpose) and Caligula (1945). Letters to a German Friend also came out in 1945.

In 1944 Camus' wife gave birth to twins, Catherine and Jean. That same year Camus finally met Jean-Paul Sartre who wanted him to direct his play Huis Clos.

In 1947 Camus resigned from Combat and published The Plague (La Peste), an allegory of the Nazi occupation of France, to wide acclaim. In 1951, l'Homme révolté (The Rebel) advocating revolt over revolution, antagonised both surrealists and existentialists who accused Camus of being a traitor to the left. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a fierce 19-page letter in the review Les Temps modernes that sealed the end of the two philosophers’ friendship.

Camus remained an active advocate for human rights, increasing his political activities throughout the 1950s. He started writing for L'Express daily newspaper in 1955, covering the Algerian war – a war that deeply affected him. In 1956 The Fall (La Chute) came out. Exile and the Kingdom (L'Exil et le royaume) in 1957. That same year the 44-year-old writer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he dedicated to his primary school teacher. Three years later, on January 4, 1960 he died in a car crash, leaving an unfinished novel, Le Premier homme (The First Man).