Albert Camus

Albert Camus

Born: 1913. Died: 1960.

Ideas

- Absurdity lies in the opposition between the human need for meaning, on the one hand, and the unconcerned and meaningless world, on the other.

- The presence of the absurd makes the problem of suicide the most fundamental philosophical question.

- The absurd does not dictate death; what gives life its value is the consciousness of the absurd together with the revolt that consists in a defiant heroism that resists injustice.

- By rebelling against the absurd conditions that waste life - whether they be social, political or personal - the rebel shows solidarity with other persons and encourages the struggle for a more human world.

Biography

Albert Camus was a representative of non-metropolitan French literature.

His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest in philosophy (only chance prevented him from pursuing a university career in that field), he came to France at the age of twenty-five.

The man and the times met: Camus joined the resistance movement during the occupation and after the liberation was a columnist for the newspaper Combat. But his journalistic activities had been chiefly a response to the demands of the time; in 1947 Camus retired from political journalism and, besides writing his fiction and essays, was very active in the theatre as producer and playwright (e.g., Caligula, 1944). He also adapted plays by Calderon, Lope de Vega, Dino Buzzati, and Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun. His love for the theatre may be traced back to his membership in L'Equipe, an Algerian theatre group, whose "collective creation" Révolte dans les Asturies (1934) was banned for political reasons.

The essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), 1942, expounds Camus's notion of the absurd and of its acceptance with "the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement - and a conscious dissatisfaction". Meursault, central character of L'Étranger (The Stranger), 1942, illustrates much of this essay: man as the nauseated victim of the absurd orthodoxy of habit, later - when the young killer faces execution - tempted by despair, hope, and salvation. Dr. Rieux of La Peste (The Plague), 1947, who tirelessly attends the plague-stricken citizens of Oran, enacts the revolt against a world of the absurd and of injustice, and confirms Camus's words: "We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them". Other well-known works of Camus are La Chute (The Fall), 1956, and L'Exile et le royaume (Exile and the Kingdom), 1957.

His austere search for moral order found its aesthetic correlative in the classicism of his art. He was a stylist of great purity and intense concentration and rationality.

Major Books of Albert Camus

- A Happy Death (La Mort heureuse) (written 1936-1938), 1971
- The Fall (La Chute), 1956
- The First Man (Le premier homme) (incomplete), 1995
- The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942
- Notebooks 1935-1942 (Carnets, Mai 1935 — Fevrier 1942), 1962
- Notebooks 1943-1951, 1965
- Notebooks 1951-1959 (Carnets Tome III : Mars 1951-December 1959), 1989
- The Plague (La Peste), 1947
- The Rebel, 1951
- The Stranger (L'Étranger, often translated as The Outsider), 1942
- Reflections on the Guillotine (Réflexions sur la guillotine), 1957
- Neither Victims Nor Executioners, 1946

Quotes from Albert Camus

- "An actor lends more force to a tragic character the more careful he is not to exaggerate it." (from "The Myth of Sisyphus", 1942)

- "As I usually do when I want to get rid of someone whose conversations bore me, I pretended to agree." (from "The Stranger", 1942)

- "Gazing up at the stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe." (from "The Stranger", 1942)

- "The hero of the book is condemned because he doesn't play the game ... If you ask yourself in what way Meursault doesn't play the game. The answer is simple. He refused to lie." (from "The Stranger", 1942)

- "Again and again there comes a time in history when the man who dares to say that two and two make four is punished with death." (from "The Plague", 1947)

- "Jean Tarrou: It comes to this: what interests me is learning how to become a saint.
Bernard Rieux: But you don't believe in God.
Tarrou: Exaclty! Can one be a saint without God? - that's the problem, in fact the only problem. I'm up against today." (from "The Plague", 1947)

- "Query: How contrive not to waste one's time?
Answer: By being fully aware of it all the while." (from "The Plague", 1947)

- "There can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness." (from "The Plague", 1947)

- "A maxim [is] an equation in which the elements of the first term reappear in the second, but in a different order." (from "Chamfort" in Sewanee Review, 1948)

- "[Chamfort's maxims] are sallies, flashes to insight, but not laws." (from "Chamfort" in Sewanee Review, 1948)

- "Nothing remains for us... but to be reborn or to die." (from "The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt", 1951)

- "All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the State." (from "The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt", 1951)

- "Every revolution ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic." (from "The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt", 1951)

- "Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present." (from "The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt", 1951)

- "Reality is a perpetual process of evolution, propelled by the fertile impact of antagonisms which are resolved each time into a superior synthesis which, itself, created its opposite and again causes history in advance." (from "The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt", 1951)

- "The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown. He must dominate in his turn." (from "The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt", 1951)

- "This world where only the stones are innocent." (from "The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt", 1951)

- "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." (from "Summer", 1954)

- "The welfare of the people... has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyrany a good conscience... The very ones who make use of such alibis know they are lies; they leave to their intelectuals on duty the chore of believing in them and of proving that religion, patrionism, and justice need for their survival the sacrifice of freedom." (from "Homage to an Exile", 1955)

- "Alas, after a certain age every man is responsible for his face." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "Deabauchery is liberating because it creates no obligations. In it you possess only yourself; hence it remains the favorite pastime of the great lovers of their own person." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "Doubtless they suspected me of living fully, given up completely to hapiness; and that cannot be forgiven." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "How many crimes commited merely because their authrs could not endure being wrong!." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "I'll tell you a big secret, mon cher. Don't wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "I never complained that my birthday was overlooked; people were even surprised, with a touch of admiration, by my discretion on this subject. But the reason for my disinterestedness was even more discrete: I longed to be forgotten in order to be able to complain to myself." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "My sensuality ... was so real that even for a ten-minute adventure I'd have disowned father and mother ... I had principles, to be sure, such as that the wife of a friend is sacred. But I simply ceased quite sincerely, a few days before, to feel any friendship for the husband." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "Martyrs ... is to choose between being forgotten, mocked, or made use of. As for being understood-never!" (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "Property, gentelmen, is murder!" (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "Too many people have decided to do without generosity in order to practice charity." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something! Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if he has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "How many crimes commited merely because their authrs could not endure being wrong!." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- "What we call basic truths are simply the ones we discover after all the others." (from "The Fall", 1956)

- ""Every wall is a door," Emerson correctly said. Let us not look for the door and the way out, anywhere but in the wall against which we are living. Instead, let us seek respite where it is - in the very thick of the battle" (from "Create Dangerously", 1957)

- "The nobility of our calling will always be rooted in two commitments difficult to observe: refusal to lie about what we know, and resistance to oppression." (from Nobel Prize in Literature Acceptance Address, December 10, 1957)

- "I know that creation is an intellectual and bodily discipline, a school of energy. I have never achieved anything in anarchy or physical slackness." (from "Three Interviews", 1959)

- "Art advances between two chasms, which are frivolity and propaganda. On the ridge where the great artist moves forward, every step is an adventure, an extreme risk. In that risk, however, and only there, lies the freedom of art." (from "Resistance, Rebellion, and Death", 1960)

- "Freedom is not a gift received from a State or a leader but a pos¬session to be won every day by the effort of each and the union of all." (from "Resistance, Rebellion, and Death", 1960)

- "There is not a single true work of art that has not in the end added to the inner freedom of each person who has known and loved it." (from "Resistance, Rebellion, and Death", 1960)

- "With freedom of the press, nations are not sure of going toward justice and peace. But without it, they are sure of not going there." (from "Resistance, Rebellion, and Death", 1960)

- "A time comes when one can no longer feel the emotion of love. The only thing left is tragedy" (from "Notebooks: 1935-1942", 1962)

- "An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself." (from "Notebooks: 1935-1942", 1962)

- "To grow old is to move from passion to compassion." (from "Notebooks: 1942-1951", 1965)

- "Contemporary literature. Easier to sock than to convince." (from "Notebooks: 1942-1951", 1965)

- "Illness is a convent which has its rule, its austerity, its silence, and its inspirations." (from "Notebooks: 1942-1951", 1965)

- "There are more things in men to admire than to despise." (from "Notebooks: 1942-1951", 1965)

- "We invent maxims to fill the holes in oir own natures." (from "Lyrical and Critical Essays", 1968)

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