Kirsten's Reviews > Lyrical and Critical Essays

Lyrical and Critical Essays by Albert Camus
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Mar 20, 09

bookshelves: non-fiction-drama-poetry, perfect-prose, tip-top, read-in-2009, politics-philosophy-allegory
Recommended to Kirsten by: Elizabeth
Recommended for: those interested in Camus, the lyric essay, and writing on nature and philosophy.
Read in March, 2009

This book is split into two sections of essays. The lyrical essays in the first section are probably of more interest to the general reader, since the critical essays are often in response to other works of French literature (not having read all of them, it's a bit harder to follow Camus's arguments). The very last section contains some interviews with him, where he emphatically denies being a nihilist.

What was unexpected for me is that the lyrical essays are almost all nature essays in some respect, or about the combination of man and landscape. One of these, "The Desert," is probably one of the most beautiful essays I have ever read. Even when I disagreed with Camus, his prose, descriptions, and turns of phrase have a kind of indelibility, an indelibility that seems as if only those words, in that order, could provide the right shade of meaning for what's expressed. To me, this is always the most beautiful, and moving, writing -- writing that organizes and hallows the world by its very form. These are travel essays; they are meditations on existence; on mens' lives (unfortunately, women are there to be like a landscape--a surface from which to draw pleasure in looking); on religion; youth; the spirit at odds with the corruptibility of the body. The perfectly chiseled prose leaves me speechless and almost unable to argue, even when I don't agree. Reading the lyrical essays, and then some of the critical essays and interviews where Camus sets himself apart from the literature of the absurd and some of his contemporaries, I see his point. It is not disgust at all that wells from these short, vivid, and meditative pieces, but rather a kind of boundless ability to confront beauty, accepting joy and terror together. There is a kind of arrogance, to be sure, especially in his focus on Mediterranean culture, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment. It's tempting to reach for even more lofty statements of my own to recommend this anthology, but I'll be more concise and simply say that I loved it and plan to treasure it.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Meghan I'll loan you my copy, but you have to come visit me in NJ to pick it up :)

Elizabeth She's already borrowing my copy. Ha! The built-in bookcase in our living room is closer than NJ. :)

Kirsten I love that you guys just fought a duel of sorts over who would lend me a book. It's true, I am blessed in friends. :-)

P.S. Meghan, you know I don't need Camus to come visit you. In fact, his presence there might be a bit of a killjoy...

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