Rankin shines a light on Camus

Following the publication of two Albert Camus essays in August, the author’s works are republished by Penguin this month with new covers by a range of photographers such as Rankin and Simon Roberts. Again, the design concept is concerned with changing the perception of Camus’ philosophical writing

Following the publication of two Albert Camus essays in August, the author’s works are republished by Penguin this month with new covers by a range of photographers such as Rankin and Simon Roberts. Again, the design concept is concerned with changing the perception of Camus’ philosophical writing…

The Outsider (above) features a cover photograph by Rankin, while Caligula and Other Plays (below) uses an image taken by Joel Meyerowitz. Many of the photographs used on the new editions depict coastal locations bathed in sunshine, though some retain a sense of the foreboding, such as the cover of A Happy Death, for example – a close-cropped shot of a sunbather.

The new-look series was originally proposed by publisher Alexis Kirschbaum, while the images for the covers themselves were sourced by picture editor, Samantha Johnson. In August, the publication of The Sea Close By marked the beginning of the Camus relaunch (it is also the centenary year of the author) and introduced a discernably sunnier side to his novels, stories and plays.

“Image-wise we were keen to try something new and avoid the many visual clichés that are often associated with Camus,” says Penguin art director, Jim Stoddart. “These covers offer a new kind of iconography – we’re aiming to change the perception of Camus from a cold existentialist into an aesthetic sensualist.

“There has definitely been a tendency for Camus’ book covers to represent the literal aspects of his books – ie, the time and place,” Stoddart continues. “His covers in the past have tended to feature photographs that echo the romance (or an idealised romance) of north Africa in the 1940s or 50s.”

For Stoddart, covers that just show the “literal” aspect of the novels miss the wider point of Camus’ writing – “the stories have a universal spirit, while the location and period of the settings is a secondary appeal,” he says.

“With this selection of photographs we are allowing the covers to build a powerful atmosphere rather than literally portray time and place. And by deciding this we can move away from period photography and allow the novels to resonate as if new again.

“Camus was a big-hearted soul; a warm and sensuous writer – not the aspirationally moody philosopher he is sometimes mistaken for. His stories revel in the sunshine and the sea – and perhaps his appeal is also more French in attitude than African, despite growing up there and setting a lot of his writing there.”

The new editions of Camus’ works are published on October 31 by Penguin Modern Classics.

The Myth of Sisyphus, cover photograph by Mark Borthwick

A Happy Death, cover photograph by Howard McAlpine

The Rebel, cover photograph by Simon Roberts

The Plague, cover photograph by Rankin

The First Man, cover photograph by Dennis Stock

The Fall, cover photograph by Martina Hoogland Ivanow

Exile and the Kingdom: Stories, cover photograph by Eric Prine

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