I just read Peter Brooks’ brilliant article in Slate talking about American torture of prisoners, and referring to the writings of Camus and Sartre on the French crisis of conscience relating to their torture of prisoners during the Algerian War. (NOTE: You will have to go through an advertisement to get to the article.)
These are the writings that first taught me the politics of torture, and that’s part of why the article struck me so strongly.
Brooks quotes Camus’ The Fall, in which Jean-Baptiste Clamence, “empty prophet for shabby times,” tells his listener of the medieval prison cell known as le malconfort, the little-ease — a cell of “ingenious dimensions,” not high enough to stand up in, not wide enough to lie down in. The prisoner had to spend his life crouching — a way to teach him, says Clamence, that he must be guilty, since innocence consists precisely in being able to move about freely.
It’s impossible, Clamence claims, to conceive of a prisoner in the little-ease as innocent. “That innocence could be reduced to living all hunched up is an hypothesis I refuse to entertain for a single second.” It would constitute a moral scandal to think that an innocent person could be punished in such a way. Such a possibility doesn’t bear thinking about. It’s much more comforting to assume that anyone in the little-ease must be, by definition, guilty.”
Check Brooks’ article out for more .