Grief and Love: The Notebooks of Camus 1935-1937

In the entry for his notebooks of March, 1936 (no specific date is recorded), Camus writes:

My joy is endless.

Dolorem exprimit quia movit amorem.

There are so many ways to translate this. Exprimit, present tense, literally means “to shake out.” It is a compound of primo, primere, (which becomes “to press” in English) and the preposition ex meaning “out of.” It is a verb of extreme action, almost violence: to shake off dolorem (grief or pain).

And that quia, which is the centerpiece of the phrase, is so important: “because.”

Movit is from the Latin verb moveo, movere (which in English becomes the verb “to move”) but it is the perfect tense. Movit can mean many things, but here I like the translation “to undertake” or “to cause.” Both of these translations imply that he has himself been moved by love (amorem) but has also inspired this feeling in someone else. The change in verb tense, from the present exprimit, to the perfect movit is striking to me as well. He shakes off pain because he has inspired love?

Finally, the chiasmus he uses to compose this sentence is significant. Dolorem (pain, grief) and Amorem (love) frame the sentiment. The verbs are placed close together and, as I mentioned, that quia (because) stands out as the center, the most important part of the phrase.

So I have, for now anyway, decided I like this translation: “He expels pain because he has inspired love.”

But this really raises more questions: Does love, in any form, expunge grief? Can a new love expel the hurt and grief of a previous one? Or is it really easier to shake off grief because we have loved? Is it his love for someone else or the fact that someone else loves him that eases his pain?

Or is it both?

I will be immersed in Camus’s notebooks for some time to come with this phrase lingering in the back of my mind.

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