BRAVE GENIUS by Sean B. Carroll


A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize


A chronicle of the friendship between writer Albert Camus and biologist Jacques Monod, skillfully combining science, biography and history.

They first came together in September 1948 to cooperate in a venture against international communism known as Groupes de Liaison Internationale, writes Carroll (Molecular Biology and Genetics/Univ. of Wisconsin; Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for Origins of Species, 2009, etc.). As the anonymous editor and lead writer of the underground resistance newspaper Combat, Camus had provided a voice for his fellow countrymen during the war and immediately after. Monod, a bitter opponent of what he called the Soviet Union's “insane phenomenon,” including Trofim Lysenko's genetic theories, attended meetings and contributed science writing to Combat. Their common effort involved a confrontation with friends and allies from past struggles against the Nazis, such as the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Carroll shows that through this cooperation, Camus and Monod began to understand that shared philosophical and political convictions had fueled their earlier, separate contributions to the Resistance. In those years, while Camus edited, Monod had been involved in clandestine military operations, securing weapons and ammunition, planning sabotage, coordinating with Americans in Switzerland and organizing the civilian uprising that helped liberate Paris. Their postwar cooperation was much broader than simple anticommunism. Nobel Prizes crowned the careers of both. In 1957, Camus became the second-youngest winner of the literature prize at age 44, primarily for his philosophical treatise The Rebel. Monod was awarded his prize in 1965 for discoveries concerning “the genetic control of enzyme and viral synthesis,” but Camus, tragically killed in an auto accident in 1960, did not live to see that day. Monod carried on Camus' work through his own later writings and such activities as welcoming Martin Luther King to Paris.

An important story well-told.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-95233-2
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2013


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