Lisa's Reviews > The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays by Albert Camus
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May 13, 10

Read in March, 2010

Camus is talking about the absurdity of life. He starts from a point of accepting that there is no God; and, as follows, that there is no meaning to life. The question of the book is, accepting these things, should we commit suicide? Is suicide the only rational solution to absurdity?

I think we are inclined, if we fully admit the premises of the argument, to believe that it is. The metaphor the title and closing passage make clear is that we are Sisphyus. We push the boulder up the hill; pause to catch our breath as the boulder rolls down; and walk down to push it up once again. There is no posterity; no purpose; no immortality; no progress. And I think we believe what we've always been taught: that Sisphyus' active futility on earth is worse than passive negation in hell.

But Camus concludes beautifully: "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." The book, for all its difficult messages, is a defense of life, a demand that we see suicide as a weak means of settling the question of the absurd, of exiting the arena so that we do not have to grapple with it truly or fully. Living without meaning, truly and fully, means applying consciousness to each moment for it's own sake. We have our revolt, our freedom, and our passion. Succint book review ending: We must imagine ourselves happy.

So five stars, rendered with irony.

"One of the only coherent philosophical positions is thus revolt... That revolt gives life its value. Spread out over the length of a life, it restores its majesty to that life. To a man devoid of blinkers, there is no finer sight than that of the intelligence at grips with a reality that transcends it."

Oh! And I should add: "Summer in Algiers," an essay at the end of this book, is one of the most beautiful essays I've ever read.
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