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Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)

Lifespan: 1913 - 1960

Related: absurd - alienation - existentialism - hate - misanthropy - pessimism - suicide

The Stranger (1942) - Albert Camus [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
"Maman died today..."


Albert Camus (November 7, 1913 – January 4, 1960) was a French author and philosopher and one of the principal luminaries (with Jean-Paul Sartre) of existentialism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus [Aug 2005]


Camus particularly is considered the originator of absurdism, a philosophy related to Existentialism. Absurdism contends that human beings are basically irrational and human suffering is the result of vain attempts by individuals to find reason or meaning in the absurd abyss of existence.

Camus claimed that the only true philosophical question was that of suicide. That is, should we bother living at all or simply kill ourselves? Camus argued that historically most people have either believed that life is meaningless and concluded in favor of suicide, or have created some artificial meaning like religion to fill their lives. Camus claims that there is a third option: we can realize that life is meaningless and nevertheless keep living. People who opt for this third option are "absurd heroes."

The Rebel, the Don Juan, and the Artist are three figures that Camus identifies as absurd heroes. Each of these people finds meaning in his or her own pursuits and thus lives up to the example of the Greek mythical figure Sisyphus, who was "condemned" to push a boulder up a hill for eternity fully aware that the boulder would simply fall down the hill as soon as he seemingly finished his task. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus [Aug 2005]

The Stranger (1942) - Albert Camus

First sentence:

"Maman died today..."

Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J'ai reçu un télégramme de l'asile : « Mère décédée. Enterrement demain. Sentiments distingués. » Cela ne veut rien dire. C'était peut-être hier.

The Stranger, also translated as The Outsider, (the original French version is called L'Étranger) (1942) is a novel by Albert Camus.

The Plot
The novel tells the story of an alienated man, who eventually commits a murder and waits to be executed for it. The book uses an Algerian setting, drawn from Camus' own upbringing.

At the start of the novel, Meursault goes to his mother's funeral, where he does not express any emotions and is basically unaffected by it. The novel continues to document the next few days of his life through the first person point-of-view. In these days, he befriends one of his neighbors, Raymond Sintes. He aids Sintes in getting revenge on a woman he was involved with. Later, the two confront the woman's brother ("the Arab") on a beach and Sintes gets cut in the resulting knife fight. Meursault afterwards goes back to the beach and shoots the Arab five times.

At the trial, the prosecution focuses on the inability or unwillingness of Meursault to cry at his mother's funeral, considered suspect by the authorities. The killing of the Arab apparently is less important than whether Meursault is capable of remorse. The argument follows that if Meursault is incapable of remorse, he should be considered a dangerous misanthrope and subsequently executed to prevent him from doing it again, and by executing, make him an example to those considering murder. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stranger_%28novel%29 [Aug 2005]

see also: 1942 - alienation - literature - France The Myth of Sisyphus From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search The Sisyphus of Greek mythology was cursed to roll a boulder up to the peak of a mountain for all eternity. Enlarge The Sisyphus of Greek mythology was cursed to roll a boulder up to the peak of a mountain for all eternity.

The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) - Albert Camus

The Myth of Sisyphus is an extended essay by Albert Camus, published originally in French in 1942 as Le Mythe de Sisyphe, and published in English in 1955. The essay's title comes from a story from Greek mythology. In the essay, Camus discusses the question of suicide and the value of life, using the myth of Sisyphus as a metaphor for life itself. In doing so he introduces the philosophy of the absurd, which holds that our lives are meaningless and have no values other than those we create. Given such a futile world, he asks, what is the alternative to suicide?

Sisyphus was a character in Greek mythology who was lauded as one of the cleverest, yet most devious men in history, with a propensity for flouting the traditions of Greek hospitality by murdering his guests. He was eventually condemned after deceiving first Death himself and then Hades, Lord of the Underworld, in order to escape his inevitable demise. As punishment for his audacity, he was sentenced to be blinded and to perpetually roll a giant boulder up a mountain to the peak, only to have it inevitably roll back down the mountain into the valley.

Camus develops the idea of the "absurd man", the man who is periodically conscious of the ultimate futility of life. The lingering memory of this realization forms a basis for perception without the unjustified infusion of meaning. This notion directly opposes the idea of faith which is characteristic of most religions. The search for truth is seen as futile, as modes of perception are constantly changing due to fluctuation of their axioms, which may be manifest as a consistent set of beliefs directly conflicting with those once thought irrefutable. Drawing on numerous philosophical and literary sources, and particularly Dostoevsky, Camus describes the historical development of absurd awareness and concludes that Sisyphus is the ultimate absurd hero.

Camus presents Sisyphus's ceaseless and pointless toil as a metaphor for modern lives spent working at futile jobs in factories and offices. "The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious."

A major difference between Sartre and Camus is that the latter suggests that some things and situations are out of human control (for example, death), whilst the former believes everything can be changed and manipulated, regardless of the situation or individual. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Sisyphus [Aug 2006]

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