In the spring of 1940, the aspiring but unknown writer Albert Camus and budding scientist Jacques Monod were quietly pursuing ordinary, separate lives in Paris. After the German invasion and occupation of France, each joined the Resistance to help liberate the country from the Nazis, ascended to prominent, dangerous roles, and were very lucky to survive. After the war and through twists of circumstance, they became friends, and through their passionate determination and rare talent they emerged as leading voices of modern literature and biology, each receiving the Nobel Prize in their respective fields.
Drawing upon a wealth of previously unpublished and unknown material gathered over several years of research, this book tells the story of how each man endured the most terrible episode of the twentieth century and then blossomed into extraordinarily creative and engaged individuals. It is a story of the transformation of ordinary lives into exceptional lives by extraordinary events - of courage in the face of overwhelming adversity, the flowering of creative genius, deep friendship, and of profound concern for and insight into the human condition.
“What is life, and how should we live it? Those two questions weave through Brave Genius, a remarkable profile of the friendship between the philosopher Albert Camus and the biologist Jacques Monod. With deep research and compelling story-telling, Sean Carroll follows these two Nobel-prize winners from the desperate depths of World War II to international fame.”
—Carl Zimmer, author of Soul Made Flesh and Microcosm: E. coli and the New Science of Life
“Brave Genius is itself a brave, ambitious, unexpected book. Who knew that Sean B. Carroll, a brilliant biologist, could or would write such a work of literary, political, and scientific history? It brings many revelations, offers several heroes, but at its heart is Jacques Monod, emerging as one of the great, complete men of the 20th century.”
—David Quammen, author of Spillover and The Song of the Dodo
“The story of two brilliant men who understood better than anyone the randomness and absurdity of life, but who fought valiantly and fiercely to make the world a better place. History, personality, and ideas come together in this amazing tale of science, philosophy and friendship.”
—Sean M. Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here and Particle at the End of the Universe
“Art and science are two essential components forming the very essence of what makes being human worth being human. Sean Carroll has done a yeoman's job of merging these two vital areas beautifully in this moving and carefully researched history of two great minds and two brave men. Their lives were tied together by the horrors of war and the courage to do something about it, and above all, by the intellectual integrity needed to promote reason and understanding in a world where insanity and hatred were in control. It is impossible not to be inspired by their story.”