Shortly after the outbreak of WWI, when Camus was less than a year old, his father was recalled to military service and, on October 11, , died of shrapnel wounds suffered at the first battle of the Marne. As a child, about the only thing Camus ever learned about his father was that he had once become violently ill after witnessing a public execution.
In his posthumously published autobiographical novel The First Man , Camus recalls this period of his life with a mixture of pain and affection as he describes conditions of harsh poverty the three-room apartment had no bathroom, no electricity, and no running water relieved by hunting trips, family outings, childhood games, and scenic flashes of sun, seashore, mountain, and desert.
These father figures introduced him to a new world of history and imagination and to literary landscapes far beyond the dusty streets of Belcourt and working-class poverty. It was in secondary school that Camus became an avid reader absorbing Gide, Proust, Verlaine, and Bergson, among others , learned Latin and English, and developed a lifelong interest in literature, art, theatre, and film.
He also enjoyed sports, especially soccer, of which he once wrote recalling his early experience as a goal-keeper: That helped me in later life, especially in mainland France, where nobody plays straight. Among his various employments during the time were stints of routine office work where one job consisted of a Bartleby-like recording and sifting of meteorological data and another involved paper shuffling in an auto license bureau. One can well imagine that it was as a result of this experience that his famous conception of Sisyphean struggle, heroic defiance in the face of the Absurd, first began to take shape within his imagination.
That same year Camus also earned his degree and completed his dissertation, a study of the influence of Plotinus and neo-Platonism on the thought and writings of St. Over the next three years Camus further established himself as an emerging author, journalist, and theatre professional.
The name change signaled a new emphasis on classic drama and avant-garde aesthetics and a shift away from labor politics and agitprop. It was during this period that he also published his first two literary works— Betwixt and Between , a collection of five short semi-autobiographical and philosophical pieces and Nuptials , a series of lyrical celebrations interspersed with political and philosophical reflections on North Africa and the Mediterranean.
He started the decade as a locally acclaimed author and playwright, but he was a figure virtually unknown outside the city of Algiers; however, he ended the decade as an internationally recognized novelist, dramatist, journalist, philosophical essayist, and champion of freedom.
This period of his life began inauspiciously—war in Europe, the occupation of France, official censorship, and a widening crackdown on left-wing journals. Camus was still without stable employment or steady income when, after marrying his second wife, Francine Faure, in December of , he departed Lyons, where he had been working as a journalist, and returned to Algeria.
To help make ends meet, he taught part-time French history and geography at a private school in Oran. All the while he was putting finishing touches to his first novel The Stranger , which was finally published in to favorable critical response, including a lengthy and penetrating review by Jean-Paul Sartre.
The novel propelled him into immediate literary renown. Camus returned to France in and a year later began working for the clandestine newspaper Combat , the journalistic arm and voice of the French Resistance movement.
During this period, while contending with recurrent bouts of tuberculosis, he also published The Myth of Sisyphus , his philosophical anatomy of suicide and the absurd, and joined Gallimard Publishing as an editor, a position he held until his death.
After the Liberation, Camus continued as editor of Combat, oversaw the production and publication of two plays, The Misunderstanding and Caligula , and assumed a leading role in Parisian intellectual society in the company of Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir among others. In the late 40s his growing reputation as a writer and thinker was enlarged by the publication of The Plague , an allegorical novel and fictional parable of the Nazi Occupation and the duty of revolt, and by the lecture tours to the United States and South America.
In he published The Rebel , a reflection on the nature of freedom and rebellion and a philosophical critique of revolutionary violence. This powerful and controversial work, with its explicit condemnation of Marxism-Leninism and its emphatic denunciation of unrestrained violence as a means of human liberation, led to an eventual falling out with Sartre and, along with his opposition to the Algerian National Liberation Front, to his being branded a reactionary in the view of many European Communists.
Yet his position also established him as an outspoken champion of individual freedom and as an impassioned critic of tyranny and terrorism, whether practiced by the Left or by the Right. In , Camus published the short, confessional novel The Fall , which unfortunately would be the last of his completed major works and which in the opinion of some critics is the most elegant, and most under-rated of all his books.
During this period he was still afflicted by tuberculosis and was perhaps even more sorely beset by the deteriorating political situation in his native Algeria—which had by now escalated from demonstrations and occasional terrorist and guerilla attacks into open violence and insurrection. Camus still hoped to champion some kind of rapprochement that would allow the native Muslim population and the French pied noir minority to live together peaceably in a new de-colonized and largely integrated, if not fully independent, nation.
Alas, by this point, as he painfully realized, the odds of such an outcome were becoming increasingly unlikely. In the fall of , following publication of Exile and the Kingdom, a collection of short fiction, Camus was shocked by news that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He absorbed the announcement with mixed feelings of gratitude, humility, and amazement. On the one hand, the award was obviously a tremendous honor.
On the other, not only did he feel that his friend and esteemed fellow novelist Andre Malraux was more deserving, he was also aware that the Nobel itself was widely regarded as the kind of accolade usually given to artists at the end of a long career. Yet, as he indicated in his acceptance speech at Stockholm, he considered his own career as still in mid-flight, with much yet to accomplish and even greater writing challenges ahead:.
Every person, and assuredly every artist, wants to be recognized. A man almost young, rich only in his doubts, and with his work still in progress…how could such a man not feel a kind of panic at hearing a decree that transports him all of a sudden…to the center of a glaring spotlight? And with what feelings could he accept this honor at a time when other writers in Europe, among them the very greatest, are condemned to silence, and even at a time when the country of his birth is going through unending misery?
Of course Camus could not have known as he spoke these words that most of his writing career was in fact behind him. He also formulated new concepts for film and television, assumed a leadership role in a new experimental national theater, and continued to campaign for peace and a political solution in Algeria. Unfortunately, none of these latter projects would be brought to fulfillment. On January 4, , Camus died tragically in a car accident while he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his friend and publisher Michel Gallimard, who also suffered fatal injuries.
The author was buried in the local cemetery at Lourmarin, a village in Provencal where he and his wife and daughters had lived for nearly a decade. In this respect, it is also worth noting that at no time in his career did Camus ever describe himself as a deep thinker or lay claim to the title of philosopher. Instead, he nearly always referred to himself simply, yet proudly, as un ecrivain —a writer. This is an important fact to keep in mind when assessing his place in intellectual history and in twentieth-century philosophy, for by no means does he qualify as a system-builder or theorist or even as a disciplined thinker.
To pin down exactly why and in what distinctive sense Camus may be termed a philosophical writer, we can begin by comparing him with other authors who have merited the designation. Right away, we can eliminate any comparison with the efforts of Lucretius and Dante, who undertook to unfold entire cosmologies and philosophical systems in epic verse. Camus obviously attempted nothing of the sort. On the other hand, we can draw at least a limited comparison between Camus and writers like Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche—that is, with writers who were first of all philosophers or religious writers, but whose stylistic achievements and literary flair gained them a special place in the pantheon of world literature as well.
Here we may note that Camus himself was very conscious of his debt to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche especially in the style and structure of The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel and that he might very well have followed in their literary-philosophical footsteps if his tuberculosis had not side-tracked him into fiction and journalism and prevented him from pursuing an academic career.
Perhaps Camus himself best defined his own particular status as a philosophical writer when he wrote with authors like Melville, Stendhal, Dostoyevsky, and Kafka especially in mind: By his own definition then Camus is a philosophical writer in the sense that he has a conceived his own distinctive and original world-view and b sought to convey that view mainly through images, fictional characters and events, and via dramatic presentation rather than through critical analysis and direct discourse.
He is also both a novelist of ideas and a psychological novelist, and in this respect, he certainly compares most closely to Dostoyevsky and Sartre, two other writers who combine a unique and distinctly philosophical outlook, acute psychological insight, and a dramatic style of presentation. Like Camus, Sartre was a productive playwright, and Dostoyevsky remains perhaps the most dramatic of all novelists, as Camus clearly understood, having adapted both The Brothers Karamazov and The Possessed for the stage.
However, his body of work also includes a collection of short fiction, Exile and the Kingdom ; an autobiographical novel, The First Man ; a number of dramatic works, most notably Caligula, The Misunderstanding , The State of Siege , and The Just Assassins ; several translations and adaptations, including new versions of works by Calderon, Lope de Vega, Dostoyevsky, and Faulkner; and a lengthy assortment of essays, prose pieces, critical reviews, transcribed speeches and interviews, articles, and works of journalism.
Camus made no effort to conceal the fact that his novel was partly based on and could be interpreted as an allegory or parable of the rise of Nazism and the nightmare of the Occupation. However, the plague metaphor is both more complicated and more flexible than that, extending to signify the Absurd in general as well as any calamity or disaster that tests the mettle of human beings, their endurance, their solidarity, their sense of responsibility, their compassion, and their will.
Set in a seedy bar in the red-light district of Amsterdam, the work is a small masterpiece of compression and style: Camus began his literary career as a playwright and theatre director and was planning new dramatic works for film, stage, and television at the time of his death.
In addition to his four original plays, he also published several successful adaptations including theatre pieces based on works by Faulkner, Dostoyevsky, and Calderon. He took particular pride in his work as a dramatist and man of the theatre.
However, his plays never achieved the same popularity, critical success, or level of incandescence as his more famous novels and major essays. The Misunderstanding Le Malentendu , —In this grim exploration of the Absurd, a son returns home while concealing his true identity from his mother and sister. The two women operate a boarding house where, in order to make ends meet, they quietly murder and rob their patrons.
Through a tangle of misunderstanding and mistaken identity they wind up murdering their unrecognized visitor. Camus has explained the drama as an attempt to capture the atmosphere of malaise, corruption, demoralization, and anonymity that he experienced while living in France during the German occupation.
The play is set in the Spanish seaport city of Cadiz, famous for its beaches, carnivals, and street musicians. By the end of the first act, the normally laid-back and carefree citizens fall under the dominion of a gaudily beribboned and uniformed dictator named Plague based on Generalissimo Franco and his officious, clip-board wielding Secretary who turns out to be a modern, bureaucratic incarnation of the medieval figure Death. One of the prominent concerns of the play is the Orwellian theme of the degradation of language via totalitarian politics and bureaucracy symbolized onstage by calls for silence, scenes in pantomime, and a gagged chorus.
The Just Assassins Les Justes , —First performed in Paris to largely favorable reviews, this play is based on real-life characters and an actual historical event: The play effectively dramatizes the issues that Camus would later explore in detail in The Rebel , especially the question of whether acts of terrorism and political violence can ever be morally justified and if so, with what limitations and in what specific circumstances. After the successful completion of his bombing mission and subsequent arrest, Kalyayev welcomed his execution on similarly practical and purely political grounds, believing that his death would further the cause of revolution and social justice.
Upon seeing the two children in the carriage, he refuses to toss his bomb not because doing so would be politically inexpedient but because he is overcome emotionally, temporarily unnerved by the sad expression in their eyes. Similarly, at the end of the play he embraces his death not so much because it will aid the revolution, but almost as a form of karmic penance, as if it were indeed some kind of sacred duty or metaphysical requirement that must be performed in order for true justice to be achieved.
Nuptials Noces , —This collection of four rhapsodic narratives supplements and amplifies the youthful philosophy expressed in Betwixt and Between. Affirming a defiantly atheistic creed, Camus concludes with one of the core ideas of his philosophy: It is here that Camus formally introduces and fully articulates his most famous idea, the concept of the Absurd, and his equally famous image of life as a Sisyphean struggle.
In the end, Camus rejects suicide: Only this time his primary concern is not suicide but murder. He takes up the question of whether acts of terrorism and political violence can be morally justified, which is basically the same question he had addressed earlier in his play The Just Assassins.
After arguing that an authentic life inevitably involves some form of conscientious moral revolt, Camus winds up concluding that only in rare and very narrowly defined instances is political violence justified.
To re-emphasize a point made earlier, Camus considered himself first and foremost a writer un ecrivain. However, he apparently never felt comfortable identifying himself as a philosopher—a term he seems to have associated with rigorous academic training, systematic thinking, logical consistency, and a coherent, carefully defined doctrine or body of ideas.
This is not to suggest that Camus lacked ideas or to say that his thought cannot be considered a personal philosophy. It is simply to point out that he was not a systematic, or even a notably disciplined thinker and that, unlike Heidegger and Sartre , for example, he showed very little interest in metaphysics and ontology, which seems to be one of the reasons he consistently denied that he was an existentialist.
In short, he was not much given to speculative philosophy or any kind of abstract theorizing. His thought is instead nearly always related to current events e. Though he was baptized, raised, and educated as a Catholic and invariably respectful towards the Church, Camus seems to have been a natural-born pagan who showed almost no instinct whatsoever for belief in the supernatural. Even as a youth, he was more of a sun-worshipper and nature lover than a boy notable for his piety or religious faith.
On the other hand, there is no denying that Christian literature and philosophy served as an important influence on his early thought and intellectual development. As a young high school student, Camus studied the Bible, read and savored the Spanish mystics St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, and was introduced to the thought of St. Augustine would later serve as the subject of his baccalaureate dissertation and become—as a fellow North African writer, quasi-existentialist, and conscientious observer-critic of his own life—an important lifelong influence.
In college Camus absorbed Kierkegaard, who, after Augustine, was probably the single greatest Christian influence on his thought. He also studied Schopenhauer and Nietzsche—undoubtedly the two writers who did the most to set him on his own path of defiant pessimism and atheism.
Other notable influences include not only the major modern philosophers from the academic curriculum—from Descartes and Spinoza to Bergson—but also, and just as importantly, philosophical writers like Stendhal, Melville, Dostoyevsky, and Kafka. Here he unfolds what is essentially a hedonistic, indeed almost primitivistic, celebration of nature and the life of the senses. In the Romantic poetic tradition of writers like Rilke and Wallace Stevens, he offers a forceful rejection of all hereafters and an emphatic embrace of the here and now.
There is no salvation, he argues, no transcendence; there is only the enjoyment of consciousness and natural being. One life, this life, is enough. Sky and sea, mountain and desert, have their own beauty and magnificence and constitute a sufficient heaven. In the first place, the Camus of Nuptials is still a young man of twenty-five, aflame with youthful joie de vivre.
He favors a life of impulse and daring as it was honored and practiced in both Romantic literature and in the streets of Belcourt. Recently married and divorced, raised in poverty and in close quarters, beset with health problems, this young man develops an understandable passion for clear air, open space, colorful dreams, panoramic vistas, and the breath-taking prospects and challenges of the larger world.
Consequently, the Camus of the period is a decidedly different writer from the Camus who will ascend the dais at Stockholm nearly twenty years later. The young Camus is more of a sensualist and pleasure-seeker, more of a dandy and aesthete, than the more hardened and austere figure who will endure the Occupation while serving in the French underground.
He is a writer passionate in his conviction that life ought to be lived vividly and intensely—indeed rebelliously to use the term that will take on increasing importance in his thought. He is also a writer attracted to causes, though he is not yet the author who will become world-famous for his moral seriousness and passionate commitment to justice and freedom.
All of which is understandable. After all, the Camus of the middle s had not yet witnessed and absorbed the shattering spectacle and disillusioning effects of the Spanish Civil War, the rise of Fascism, Hitlerism, and Stalinism, the coming into being of total war and weapons of mass destruction, and the terrible reign of genocide and terror that would characterize the period It is proudly and inconsolably pessimistic, but not in a polemical or overbearing way.
It is unbending, hardheaded, determinedly skeptical. It is tolerant and respectful of world religious creeds, but at the same time wholly unsympathetic to them. In the end it is an affirmative philosophy that accepts and approves, and in its own way blesses, our dreadful mortality and our fundamental isolation in the world. Regardless of whether he is producing drama, fiction, or non-fiction, Camus in his mature writings nearly always takes up and re-explores the same basic philosophical issues.
These recurrent topoi constitute the key components of his thought. They include themes like the Absurd, alienation, suicide, and rebellion that almost automatically come to mind whenever his name is mentioned. Hence any summary of his place in modern philosophy would be incomplete without at least a brief discussion of these ideas and how they fit together to form a distinctive and original world-view. Indeed, as even sitcom writers and stand-up comics apparently understand odd fact: What then is meant by the notion of the Absurd?
Although that perception is certainly consistent with his formula. Instead, as he emphasizes and tries to make clear, the Absurd expresses a fundamental disharmony, a tragic incompatibility, in our existence. So here we are: Sartre, in his essay-review of The Stranger provides an additional gloss on the idea: It arises from the human demand for clarity and transcendence on the one hand and a cosmos that offers nothing of the kind on the other. Such is our fate: Two of these he condemns as evasions, and the other he puts forward as a proper solution.
The first choice is blunt and simple: If we decide that a life without some essential purpose or meaning is not worth living, we can simply choose to kill ourselves. Camus rejects this choice as cowardly. In his terms it is a repudiation or renunciation of life, not a true revolt.
The second choice is the religious solution of positing a transcendent world of solace and meaning beyond the Absurd. In effect, instead of removing himself from the absurd confrontation of self and world like the physical suicide, the religious believer simply removes the offending world and replaces it, via a kind of metaphysical abracadabra, with a more agreeable alternative.
Since the Absurd in his view is an unavoidable, indeed defining, characteristic of the human condition, the only proper response to it is full, unflinching, courageous acceptance.
Doomed to eternal labor at his rock, fully conscious of the essential hopelessness of his plight, Sisyphus nevertheless pushes on. In doing so he becomes for Camus a superb icon of the spirit of revolt and of the human condition.
To rise each day to fight a battle you know you cannot win, and to do this with wit, grace, compassion for others, and even a sense of mission, is to face the Absurd in a spirit of true heroism.
Over the course of his career, Camus examines the Absurd from multiple perspectives and through the eyes of many different characters—from the mad Caligula, who is obsessed with the problem, to the strangely aloof and yet simultaneously self-absorbed Meursault, who seems indifferent to it even as he exemplifies and is finally victimized by it.
In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus traces it in specific characters of legend and literature Don Juan, Ivan Karamazov and also in certain character types the Actor, the Conqueror , all of who may be understood as in some way a version or manifestation of Sisyphus, the archetypal absurd hero.
A rather different, yet possibly related, notion of the Absurd is proposed and analyzed in the work of Kierkegaard, especially in Fear and Trembling and Repetition. For Kierkegaard, however, the Absurd describes not an essential and universal human condition, but the special condition and nature of religious faith—a paradoxical state in which matters of will and perception that are objectively impossible can nevertheless be ultimately true.
Simply defined, it is the Sisyphean spirit of defiance in the face of the Absurd. More technically and less metaphorically, it is a spirit of opposition against any perceived unfairness, oppression, or indignity in the human condition. He takes his place in it. He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel to its end.
He belongs to time, and by the horror that seizes him, he recognizes his worst enemy. Tomorrow, he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it. That revolt of the flesh is the absurd. Between the certainty I have of my existence and the content I try to give to that assurance, the gap will never be filled. Forever I shall be a stranger to myself.
This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future. But whether or not one can live with one's passions, whether or not one can accept their law, which is to burn the heart they simultaneously exalt - that is the whole question. Society has but little connection with such beginnings. The worm is in man's heart. That is where it must be sought. One must follow and understand this fatal game that leads from lucidity in the face of existence to flight from light. This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists.
This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction. For if I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers. I can sketch one by one all the aspects it is able to assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing, this origin, this ardor or these silences, this nobility or this vileness.
But aspects cannot be added up. This very heart which is mine will forever remain indefinable to me. Between the certainty I have of my existence and the content I try to give to that assurance the gap will never be filled. The groping, anxious quest of a Proust, his meticulous collecting of flowers, of wallpapers, and of anxieties, signifies nothing else.
- Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus' essay, 'The Myth Of Sisyphus' is an insightful analysis of the classic work, 'The Myth Of Sisyphus'.
The Myth of Sisyphus (French: Le Mythe de Sisyphe) is a philosophical essay by Albert Camus. The English translation by Justin O'Brien was first published in The English translation by Justin O'Brien was first published in Author: Albert Camus.
Essay on Literary Devices Used in Albert Camus' The Plague. A book of horrors, fear and death. “The Plague” is a book by Albert Camus which weaves these emotions and events into one suspenseful tale. - Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus' essay, 'The Myth Of Sisyphus' is an insightful analysis of the classic work, 'The Myth Of Sisyphus'. In some regards .
How does Albert Camus show us his beliefs through Meursault in the Stranger Meursault, the narrator and main protagonist in Albert Camus's existentialist novel The Stranger, . The Stranger, written by Albert Camus, takes place in Algeria in the mid ’s. Around this time period, the French had colonized this area and considered themselves to be superior to the Arabs.