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DECEMBER 17 & 18

A xenophobic rage has returned to France; recall the recent films Hate and Dog Bites Man. Though both films are also warnings against violence in Bosnia, they hark back to the pre-WWI era when France and Algeria furiously debated French supremacy and a new protection of French territory. And with France and xenophobia comes the birth and revival of Albert Camus. Even so, I opened Olivier Todd’s new biography, Albert Camus, with trepidation. Schoolgirl studies of Camus’ political novels were soured by his seemingly selfish preoccupation with rights, duties, and outsiders. Well, that clearly never bothered his biographer, as he extols Camus’ life and loves in Algeria and France. Todd conjures every image of sun, earth, and grains of sand to establish links between the writer’s life and The Stranger or The Plague. Camus’ freedom-obsessed theories have won fans from post-WWII francophiles to punk rockers, and, since the biography’s publication, French readers have embraced it down to the last footnote. (American scholars, however, will have to refer to the French edition for full sources, which are excluded from the less academic American edition.) Although I have studied his style, his economy of words, and the writing of his peers, including Stein, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Malraux, and others, Camus still leaves me cold. But, just as John Steinbeck has been revived as a fore-running multiculturalist writer in the States, Camus has returned to tell France how it looks from the inside out. At 7 p.m. Wednesday at Alliance Francaise, 2142 Wyoming Ave. NW. FREE. (202) 234-7911; and 7 p.m.Thursday at Chapters, 1512 K St. NW. FREE. (202) 347-5495. (Ginger Eckert)