Absurdly, what is the source of this quote?
September 23, 2007 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Help me find the source of this famous Albert Camus quote. More inside..

Here is the quote: "The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience."

I have Googled and Yahoo'd and all to know avail. What is the source of this quote? I'm using it in an essay and need the citation. That pesky MLA format.

**Bonus points if you provide the source in MLA format.
posted by hammerthyme to Education (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The best I could do was discover that it is quoted, with a reference to an end note citation, on page 75 of Liberation by Oppression (Ppr): A Comparative Study of Slavery and Psychiatry, by Thomas Szasz, 2003. Google Books doesn't have the pages with the end notes, so I can't trace it further, but if it's in a library near you, maybe that can help.
posted by limon at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2007

If I'm correctly interpreting this Google Books hit (in their fucking "snippet view," which makes it impossible to know anything for sure), it's from p. 89 of the 1960 Modern Library edition of his Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, a collection of essays. As for the MLA, you're on your own.
posted by languagehat at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2007

Could the exact wording depend on who did the translation?
posted by stopgap at 10:50 AM on September 23, 2007

Best answer: Langagehat is right. Using this info, I cam across this, which gives this reference for the quote:

Camus, A., “Homage to an Exile” (1955), in Camus, A. Resistance, Rebellion, Death. Translated by Justin O’Brien. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961, p. 101.
posted by limon at 10:54 AM on September 23, 2007

Man, this is frustrating. I should be working, but I keep trying to pin this down. It seems like it should be easy given the actual title of the essay, as given by limon... but that doesn't appear to be the actual title. At least, googling camus, "Homage to an Exile" gets nine hits, which is absurd (heh) for a real title, and the table of contents for the book doesn't list any such title. (The Google Book page for the book has "No preview available," the bastards.) Could it be "Letters to a German Friend"? But that's from 1945. The title "Defense of Freedom" sounds promising, but that's such a common phrase I can't google up anything relevant. I try googling "camus" + various French words that should appear in the original of the quote, but nothing turns up. Bah!

Best answer for limon, huh? What's wrong with my citation??
posted by languagehat at 11:20 AM on September 23, 2007

IIRC, all the instances of this quote with any citation information at all appear to be related to this Szasz guy. I'd suggest you look up the citation, and if it's not there, there's a small chance he invented it.
posted by limon at 11:33 AM on September 23, 2007

And yeah, languagehat did the bulk of the work here!
posted by limon at 11:34 AM on September 23, 2007

I don't think Szasz invented it, since it predates his 2003 book by some time. But I'm most curious that I can't find any evidence of the quote in French at all (nor of the essay's title). This suggests a loose translation, or an obscure work that has only been widely published in translation via the 1961 (posthumous) collection. I'm thinking it's one of his zillions of editorials for the French Resistance newspaper Combat, where it may have been aimed at the Vichy government (thereby limiting its timeframe).

It may be necessary to do an "as quoted by" citation sourced to Szasz for the purposes of your paper.
posted by dhartung at 12:49 PM on September 23, 2007

Ridicule me all you want, but I actually went and looked it up, since I liked the quote, and I have to spend all day at the library, anyhow. I have the precise edition, and the quote appears in that exact form at the designated place.
The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience. It would be easy, however, to destroy that good conscience by shouting to them: if you want the happiness of the people, let them speak out and tell what kind of happiness they want and what kind they don't want! But, in truth, the very ones who make use of such alibis know they are lies; they leave to their intellectuals on duty the chore of believing in them and of proving that religion, patriotism, and justice need for their survival the sacrifice of freedom.
And so on. The essay, and those that appear beside it, were culled by Camus for this small anthology from his collection of essays in three volumes, Actuelles. This particular piece is a "[s]peech delivered 7 December 1955 at a banquet in honor of President Eduardo Santos, editor of El Tiempo, driven out of Colombia by the dictatorship".
posted by limon at 5:35 PM on September 23, 2007

excellent quote, btw. that camus!
posted by brandz at 8:15 PM on September 23, 2007

Good work, limon. I added this to Wikiquote, with citation.
posted by dhartung at 10:45 PM on September 23, 2007

See, now limon deserves best answer. Well done, and I would totally have looked it up myself if I'd been in a library—no ridicule from this quarter!
posted by languagehat at 9:22 AM on September 24, 2007

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