Departed or Converted?
Two Tales of God-Talk on Death Row by Peter Maurice
He started talking to me about God again, but I didn't have much time left. I didn't want to waste it on God.
—Albert Camus, The Stranger
The words of a man on the eve of execution have a way of claiming attention. Albert Camus, in his famous first novel, The Stranger,certainly knew how to exploit the drama inherent in a condemned man's final musings. Many readers of this magazine who have encountered the novel in high-school and college literature courses will recall the fictional Meursault's soliloquy as he awaits the guillotine. Few, if any, will have heard of the real Spanish priest Pedro Tarres (1905–1950) and his visit to three anarchists condemned to death in Barcelona shortly after the Spanish Civil War. The anarchists, unlike the anti-hero of The Stranger, died repentant. Such an ending in an age of all but absolute secularism is something of a plot spoiler, not the stuff of fictive apotheosis.
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Peter Maurice is a retired teacher of French, English, and humanities, at all levels from elementary through university. He is the recipient of several fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. His writing has appeared in The Wanderer, Chronicles, Touchstone, Crisis, New Oxford Review, and Gilbert magazines.
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