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The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

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One of the most influential works of this century, this is a crucial exposition of existentialist thought. Influenced by works such as Don Juan, and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide: the question of living or not living in an absurd universe devoid of order or meaning. With lyric eloquence, Camus posits a way out of despair, reaffirming the value of personal existence, and the possibility of life lived with dignity and authenticity.

212 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1942

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About the author

Albert Camus

849 books26.9k followers
Works, such as the novels The Stranger (1942) and The Plague (1947), of Algerian-born French writer and philosopher Albert Camus concern the absurdity of the human condition; he won the Nobel Prize of 1957 for literature.

Origin and his experiences of this representative of non-metropolitan literature in the 1930s dominated influences in his thought and work.

He also adapted plays of Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Vega, Dino Buzzati, and Requiem for a Nun of William Faulkner. One may trace his enjoyment of the theater back to his membership in l'Equipe, an Algerian group, whose "collective creation" Révolte dans les Asturies (1934) was banned for political reasons.

Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest, he came at the age of 25 years in 1938; only chance prevented him from pursuing a university career in that field. The man and the times met: Camus joined the resistance movement during the occupation and after the liberation served as a columnist for the newspaper Combat.

The essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), 1942, expounds notion of acceptance of the absurd of Camus 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.

Besides his fiction and essays, Camus very actively produced plays in the theater (e.g., Caligula, 1944).

The time demanded his response, chiefly in his activities, but in 1947, Camus retired from political journalism.

Doctor 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 words: "We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them."

People also well know La Chute (The Fall), work of Camus in 1956.

Camus authored L'Exil et le royaume (Exile and the Kingdom) in 1957. His austere search for moral order found its aesthetic correlative in the classicism of his art. He styled of great purity, intense concentration, and rationality.

Camus died at the age of 46 years in a car accident near Sens in le Grand Fossard in the small town of Villeblevin.

Chinese 阿尔贝·加缪

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Profile Image for Rakhi Dalal.
208 reviews1,431 followers
July 14, 2014

Camus, as a writer, receives mixed response from the readers. It is understandable when some readers avoid reading him, because he seems a difficult writer whose works are taken to be disturbing. Some readers appreciate his writings though they do not agree with him. While for some, Camus’ ideas are irrelevant when compared with those proposed by existential philosophers. Although Camus is often categorized as an existential philosopher but he himself never approved of that. In one of his interviews he said:

“No, I am not an existentialist. Sartre and I are always surprised to see our names linked. We have even thought of publishing a short statement in which the undersigned declare that they have nothing in common with each other and refuse to be held responsible for the debts they might respectively incur. It's a joke actually. Sartre and I published our books without exception before we had ever met. When we did get to know each other, it was to realise how much we differed. Sartre is an existentialist, and the only book of ideas that I have published, The Myth of Sisyphus, was directed against the so-called existentialist philosophers.”*

When compared with different periods of his life, his writings offer an insight into the state of mind Camus was often fraught with. The penning of “The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus”, which he did almost simultaneously, came at a point when he himself faced despair about the kind of life he was living, which included his anxiety about his future as a writer and finding his place in the World. At this time he was in Algiers, his native land, far from the hubbub of Paris. His more mature works i.e. “The Rebel and The Plague” came later on where Rebel dealt with the problem of “murder” as against the problem of “suicide” which he dealt in The Myth of Sisyphus. We can notice the change in the focus of the writer, which turned from inner to outer, from individual to social. As he progressed from Sisyphus to the Rebel, he matured as a writer and later on himself felt annoyed at his proposed idea of absurd. He said:

“This word “Absurd” has had an unhappy history and I confess that now it rather annoys me. When I analyzed the feeling of the Absurd in The Myth of Sisyphus, I was looking for a method and not a doctrine. I was practicing methodical doubt. I was trying to make a “tabula rasa,” on the basis of which it would then be possible to construct something. If we assume that nothing has any meaning, then we must conclude that the world is absurd. But does nothing have any meaning? I have never believed we could remain at this point.”**

Now this is what keeps me in awe of the writer. He is one writer, who has never been afraid of opening his heart, his thoughts, anything which plagues his mind, before his readers, before this world. In that sense, he may be termed as a radical and approached with skepticism, but it cannot be ignored that the ideas he proposed came to influence the generation of writers engaged in the “works of absurd” e.g. Samuel Beckett who contributed significantly to the “theatre of Absurd”. The idea of repetition which he proposed with Sisyphus, which in turn was inspired by Kierkegaard’s Repitition, is witnessed significantly in the works of Beckett too. What is more, his ideas also, even now influence the readers like me in whose face the “why” of existence suddenly strikes one fine day. It wouldn’t be an overstatement or some form of fervent adherence to the writer if I admit that he inspired the mind to seek more and not be satisfied till the response unites the thought and the experience.

He is not an easy writer to read, agreed, but his writings are not disturbing, specially if one gets to understand that his writing,in The Myth of Sisyphus, is a declaration of writer’s notion that the life must be lived fully in awareness of the absurdity of this World.

In the Myth of Sisyphus, he terms the World as absurd because it doesn’t offer any answer to the question of existence, it being a silent spectator to the suffering of whole humanity. In a Universe, divested of meaning or illusions, a man feels a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. But does this situation dictate death? Camus ponders upon the problem of suicide and contemplates then whether suicide is the answer to this absurd world which doesn’t answer anything. He opines:

In the face of such contradictions and obscurities must we conclude that there is no relationship between the opinion one has about life and the act one commits to leave it. Let us not exaggerate in this direction. In a man’s attachment to life there is something stronger than all the ills in the world. The body’s judgement is as good as the mind’s and the body shrinks from annihilation. We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking. In that race which daily hastens us towards death, the body maintains its irreparable lead.

And to kill one self means to allow both life and death to have dominion over one. Hence, the absurd doesn’t dictate death but calls for the awareness and rejection of death. It calls for living it with consciousness ----with revolt, freedom and passion.

Neither religion, nor Science for that matter, provides answer to a questioning mind satisfactorily. While the former tends to imbue it with an idea of eternity; an extension of life in heaven, the latter merely tries to explain it by hypothesis. But Camus cannot believe either of them.

Then turning to existential philosophers, he says that they “without exception suggest escape”.

“Through an odd reasoning, starting out from the absurd over the ruins of reason, in a closed universe limited to the human, they deify what crushes them and find reason to hope in what impoverishes them. That forced hope is religious in all of them.”

To further explain this, he presents to us the ideas proposed by different philosophers. For example he says:

Of Jasper:
Jasper writes: “Does not the failure reveal, beyond any possible explanation and interpretation, not the absence but the existence of transcendence?”

So that Jasper proposes the existence which cannot be defined as “unthinkable unity of the general” and the “inability to understand” as the existence which illuminates everything.

Of Chestov:
Chestov names the fundamental absurdity by saying: “This is God: we must rely on him even if he does not correspond to any of our rational categories.”

For Chestov, reason is useless but there is something beyond reason, even if that something is indifferent to us.

Of Kierkegaard:
Kierkegaard calls for the third sacrifice required by Ignatius Loyola, the one in which God most rejoices: The sacrifice of the intellect. He says, ‘In his failure, the believer finds his triumph.’

Kierkegaard substitutes his cry of revolt for frantic adherence.

Camus doesn’t agree with these philosophers, who did, all of them, tried to understand the absurd but finally gave into that which they found impossible to define. He calls their giving up as Philosophical suicide. He cannot believe in Jasper’s idea of Transcendence. In response to Chestov, he says ‘To an absurd mind reason is useless and there is nothing beyond reason.’ He chooses ‘despair’ instead of Kierkegaard’s frantic adherence. He says “I want everything to be explained to me or nothing.”

So now when faced with absurd and being in consciousness, how best to live the life? Camus advocates the life of a seducer (Don Juanism) actor, conqueror or creator following the three consequences of absurd i.e. revolt, passion and freedom.

By revolt, Camus means to keep the absurd alive by challenging the world anew every second.

By Freedom, he means losing oneself in that bottomless certainty , feeling henceforth sufficiently removed from one’s own life to increase it and take a broad view of it.

By passion, he means being aware of one’s life, one’s revolt, one’s freedom, and to the maximum.

Though he praises the absurd man in a seducer, actor or conqueror, it was his stance on creator which I felt more inclined towards. He says:

“Creating is living doubly. The groping, anxious quest of a Proust, his meticulous collecting of flowers, of wallpapers, and of anxieties, signifies nothing else.”


Towards the end of this essay, he compares absurd with Sisyphus, who, according to the myth, was condemned to rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, only to see it rolling down back every time he reached the top. He says that though Sisyphus is well aware of his fate, of the continuous struggle he has to engage in, but he is still passionate about his life and doesn’t give up. It is during his descent, that Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained.

Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols. In the universe suddenly restored to its silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. Unconscious, secret calls, invitations from all the faces, they are the necessary reverse and price of victory. There is no sun without shadow, and it is es-sential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his effort will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be the master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which becomes his fate, created by him, combined under his memory’s eye and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.

The other essays in the collection, Summer in Algiers, The stop in Oran, Helen’s Exile and Return to Tipasa are worth reading too. In Return to Tipasa, we observe Camus prevailed over by nostalgia for home, for his land. It is here that he says:

In the direction of the ruins, as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but pock-marked stones and wormwood, trees and perfect columns in the transparence of the crystalline air. It seemed as if the morning were stabilized, the sun stopped for an incalculable moment. In this light and this silence, years of wrath and night melted slowly away. I listened to an almost forgotten sound within myself as if my heart, long stopped, were calmly beginning to beat again. And awake now, I recognized one by one the imperceptible sounds of which the silence was made up: the figured bass of the birds, the sea’s faint, brief sighs at the foot of the rocks, the vibration of the trees, the blind singing of the columns, the rustling of the wormwood plants, the furtive lizards. I heard that; I also listened to the happy torrents rising within me. It seemed to me that I had at last come to harbor, for a moment at least, and that henceforth that moment would be endless.

What I realized reading these essays over again was that despite of being labelled as the proponent of absurd, it is actually living that he so fervently speaks about; Not just living but living passionately and fully. Living in awareness and questioning. Though he seems to be recommending a negative faith (as James Wood says in introduction) against the religious or existentialist ideologies, he nevertheless demonstrates a distinctive way to the seekers to come to terms with the existence; the way to be chosen henceforth, of course, depending upon the individual, starting every day with an ever new light.

“In the middle of winter, I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.”


*From an interview with Jeanine Delpech, in Les Nouvelles Littéraires, (1945). Cited in Albert Camus: Lyrical and Critical Essays, Vintage (1970)
** From an interview with Gabriel d'Aubarède, in Les Nouvelles Littéraires, (1951). Cited in Albert Camus: Lyrical and Critical Essays, Vintage (1970)
Source : http://www.camus-society.com/albert-c...
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
February 9, 2019
"The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

One must definitely imagine Sisiphus a teacher. Teaching 15-year-olds every day is pretty much like pushing that boulder up the hill. One knows one has to do it, as the future of humanity depends on proper education. It is hard work that requires concentration, and one can never look the other way or take a break. In the evening, one is exhausted, and quite happy to see that stupid boulder roll all the way to the deepest depths of Hades. But tomorrow is another day, and Sisiphus sets out to roll that boulder up the hill again.

One must imagine Sisiphus happy.

Imagination, that means, is the main tool of any teacher.

I say, looking at today's boulder catching speed down the hill. See you tomorrow!
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,293 reviews21.7k followers
April 5, 2016
One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the question of whether it is better to have no hope at all, or to be constantly confronted with dashed hope. There are certainly parts of my life that I have structured so as to ensure that I have no hope at all – that is, that I live my life in such a way that it is impossible for certain things to ever happen, and those are things that otherwise I would desire intensely – and in large part that is because ‘dashed hope’ was proving far too much for me to really live with.

Now, that is part of the reason why I thought I would read this book. The myth of Sisyphus is surely one of the better examples of having to live constantly with dashed hope, and so I was hoping (all very ironic, when you think about it) that this book might provide some answers or guidance. This series of essays basically ends with Camus telling the story of the myth – which I found a bit unexpected, as I might have thought he would have started here. But in fact, this myth is sort of the punch line to the series of ideas he is discussing mostly related to suicide.

His main point is the assertion that life is fundamentally absurd. We generally don’t recognise this absurdity – life presents patterns and ways of being that we enact, rather than think about, and so one day follows another. It is only when we pause and think ‘what is the point?’ that the real absurdity of life becomes overwhelming. It is for this reason that Camus says that the only real question of philosophy is ‘why do I not commit suicide?’ – this does seem a rather predictable response to the ‘it is all meaningless anyway’ problem.

I think of this argument as being somewhat an argument with religion and so a sort of ‘first generation atheist’ problem. In the sense that religious people often say stuff like – ‘if life is so meaningless, why don’t you just kill yourself then?’ To which, I presume, the answer is, ‘five more minutes of stupid bloody questions like that and I might welcome it’. As an atheist who has never felt or even felt the need for eternal life, that level of ‘confronted meaningless of life’ has never really bothered me. The absurdity that Camus speaks of is, as he more or less admits himself, an abstract conception outside of the actual living of life. While we are living life, such absurdity is basically impossible to acknowledge – so, the answer, it seems, is just to get back to living life and shut up.

Anyway, you have a great big rock and your task is to push it to the top of the mountain. You never quite get it there. It always rolls back down to the bottom. And on the trip back down the mountain to start pushing the rock back up again, surely you must say to yourself – ‘god, no, not this shit again…’ Which is part of the reason why this is a ‘punishment’. Camus’s response is to say that Sisyphus has to approach his task with a happy heart, despite knowing it is pointless, absurd, meaningless. It is his only refuge from suicide.

Right. But, I’m not sure how well that would keep me from committing suicide, this sort of ‘whistle while you work’ idea. We are not told what reward Sisyphus has been promised if he were to get the rock to the top of the mountain. Presumably, Camus has decided that this is immaterial as Sisyphus would soon realise that was never going to happen. For this reason I find the myth of Tantalus more immediately confronting of the issues I actually want to grapple with. It is completely obvious what Tantalus desires – he is hungry and thirsty – and all around him there is food and drink. But he is never able to satisfy his hunger or thirst. He is surrounded by what he desires, and knows he has no hope of ever satisfying them. This is what I mean about the choice between no hope and dashed hope. For Tantalus, desire is all – but he constantly must live with his desires going unfulfilled, with his hopes being dashed. I don’t know that this is a sustainable way to live one’s life – when it becomes clear to me that my desires will be constantly dashed, that is one of the hardest things I can think of. I’ve worked in jobs as meaningless as Sisyphus’s, boredom I can cope with. Dashed desire is quite another matter. And so, I believe Tantalus is likely to seek to blind himself to his desires. I am not sure how successfully one is able to do this – desire and hope find ways to sneak in while we are unguarded, they find ways to tempt us, despite our will and our reason, but we are soon punished yet again for these hopes and desires in much the same way Tantalus was.

As I said, I had hoped Camus would have discussed these issues – the issues of dashed hope and how to actually live with them. For Camus, Sisyphus is the most proletarian of the myths – something noted previously by Marx and Engels in relation to the meaninglessness of work under capitalist alienation of labour. If Sisyphus is a myth illuminating the horrors of capitalist production – surely Tantalus is the myth that does so for capitalist consumption. We are drowning in desires that can never be satisfied, and are never meant to be satisfied. And yet, we seem to constantly choose thwarted desire over abandoned hope every time – despite our repeated experience, despite the pain of that experience. Perhaps it is because we simply could not live in Dante’s hell – where all hope is abandoned – and so any alternative is preferable?

If you do decide to read this, I recommend you notice when Camus talks about rocks – given what Sisyphus got up to in his day job, this talk of rocks is always something worth considering and worrying over, always worth noticing.
Profile Image for Yuval.
79 reviews68 followers
June 2, 2008
Most of my friends will probably think I'm being sarcastic when I call this as good a "self-help" book as any I can imagine, but this essay honestly inspired in me an awe of human nature and its absurd indomitability. I think Camus gets a bad rap for being a cold, detached pessimist who only points out the meaninglessness of life again and again in his books. OK, he may indeed declare life "meaningless," but this book is passionately affirmative of life in the face of that void. Beginning as a refutation of suicide, the essay encourages an embrace of the absurdity of life and the refutation of hope for a future life (or afterlife) as the only ways to live with any liberty or happiness. While I ultimately don't see eye to eye with all his thinking--and if you're at all religious, you should probably save your self the agitation of reading this--but viewing human nature and activity through his eyes in this book has been immensely rewarding.
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,178 followers
November 4, 2019
I still vividly remember my writing class in my first semester of college. Our professor was a lover of paradoxes. She had us read Kafka and Borges, whom none of us could understand. And she had a habit of asking impossible questions—such as “What does it mean to be infinitely finite?”—and savoring the uncomfortable silences that followed. Once, she even scared us half to death by asking one of these questions, and than yelping like a banshee half a minute later. Quite a good professor.

The final section of this iconic essay was among the readings she assigned. Of course I did not understand a word of it. I was no where near mature enough to wrap my mind around the idea of absurdism. The “meaning of life” was not a problem for me at that time. Surrounded as I was by thousands of potential friends and girlfriends—free for the first time in my life to do as I pleased—such a confrontation with nihilism was beyond the horizons of my mental life.

This was not the case four years later, when I graduated college with thousands of dollars in debt, confronted with the possibility of deciding “Who I Wanted to Be.” Probably I should have read this book at that time, when I could so keenly feel the weight of life’s pointlessness. Or maybe I should have read it a year later, when I was working in an office job. Humankind has seldom plunged deeper into the void than in entry-level positions.

I mention this biographical background because I think this book should likely not be read during a time of relative stability and contentedness, such as I am in now. We seldom pause to ponder the “meaning of life” when we are enjoying ourselves. The problem of “philosophical suicide” is not a problem at all on beautiful summer days. It is only a problem on cold, rainy Tuesday nights, in the few minutes of mental calm between work, chores, sleep, and work the next day. Unfortunately, such Tuesdays come all too often in this world of ours.

My point is simply that I would have enjoyed this essay far more under more propitious circumstances. Albert Camus’s style is well-calculated to please: a winsome mixture of anecdote, philosophy, literary criticism, and poetry. Certainly it is a relief after dragging my way through Sartre’s tortured syntax and cumbersome verbiage. Camus, by contrast, is concise and stylish. My only reservation is that, for all his accessibility, Camus is not perfectly clear. I say this from the perspective of somebody trying to read his essay as a philosophical work. All philosophy consists in argument; and in order to accept or reject an argument, one must use clearly defined terms. With Camus, however, I was never quite sure what his criteria were for considering something absurd or meaningful—his two central categories.

This is perhaps the wrong way to read Camus. What he was trying to create was arguably more in the tradition of wisdom literature than formal philosophy. From this perspective, the essay is somewhat more satisfying. However, here too I found Camus lacking. One extracts more piquant lessons in the art of life from Montaigne or La Rochefoucauld than from Camus. Where Camus excels these authors is not in wisdom per se, but in capturing a certain mood, a mood peculiar to modern times: being intellectually and spiritually adrift. After all of the traditional systems belief which underpinned life have crumbled, it is the crushing realization that one is unable to justify anything, even life itself. In this peculiar vein, Camus is difficult to beat.

Even so, I wonder if this iconic essay adds anything essential to that famous remark of Pascal: “Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed.” Camus’s Sisyphus is the twin brother of Pascal’s thinking reed—the plaything of an indifferent universe, and yet dignified by his consciousness. In his more despairing moments, Pascal may have been quite as horrified by the vast spectacle of an indifferent cosmos as Camus: “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.” The essential difference between these two men is not their realization of humanity’s insignificance, but their reactions. Pascal seeks to escape this conclusion any way he can, bolstering his faith with every fallacious argument under the sun. Camus was innovative in his insistence that we must calmly accept this situation, taking it as a starting point and not as a depressing conclusion.

My main criticism with this essay is that, if life has no inherent meaning, and the universe is nothing but a cold expanse, this throws the question of the “meaning of life” back upon each individual. Answering that question definitively, for every person, becomes de facto impossible. But, again, perhaps Camus is not trying to prove anything universal. Rather, his essay is a sort of invitation to abandon the traditional justifications of life, and to focus, as Camus himself did, on the smaller joys—sunlight, the sea, travel. The rest of the essays in this collection may be seen in that light, as enlarging upon Camus’s omnivorous curiosity for his surroundings.

What bothers me is that I do not agree with Camus’s opening assertion: I do not think the most pressing question is whether we should all just commit suicide. To the contrary, once this question is decided in the negative, it opens up a world of far more interesting issues.
Profile Image for Lynne King.
490 reviews657 followers
October 26, 2015

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards.

Only Albert Camus, I believe, could have made that statement.

I’ve tried many times over the years to accept philosophical reasoning by reading various books by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Plato, etc. and the only individual I could equate to was Roger Scruton with his “Philosophy, an Introduction and Survey” with his own specific logic and in particular his views on God. It’s certainly not light reading, rather dry in fact, and looking at this book now I’m even beginning to wonder what I truly felt when I read this twenty years ago.

I’ve always had a very high regard for Albert Camus since I first encountered his works at university. He has an extremely rich and elegant writing style, and yet he seems to open up his heart to the reader and his reasoning is invigorating. In fact I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his works in the past, especially The Stranger. Nevertheless I found it very hard to come to terms with The Myth of Sisyphus. It was the meditation on suicide that rather unnerved me. I really do not believe philosophers, unless they have contemplated suicide themselves, should air their opinions. That’s my personal view of course. If an individual wishes to end his/her life, be it for whatever reason, they have the choice. I feel sorry, however, for those individuals with dreadful terminal diseases who wish to end their lives and are unable to do so because of legal constraints.

Anyway, linking absurdism with suicide was all too much for my psyche and she went into full revolt. Camus is indeed very persuasive but what I don’t understand is that he is supposedly discussing Absurdism and yet the cover on the back states that this is a book on Existentialism. I also thought that he was an Absurdist?

In fact recently I’ve read so many articles regarding the above paragraph that I believe the following seems to be the closest that comes to my own way of thinking:

The Algerian-born French thinker Albert Camus was one of the leading thinkers of Absurdism. He was actually a writer and novelist with a strong philosophical bent. Absurdism is an off-shoot of Existentialism and shares many of its characteristics. Camus himself was labelled as an ‘Existentialist’ in his own life, but he rejected this title..

So I pass from this section of the book which also covers Don Juan (rather interesting) onto Absurd Creation with Philosophy and Fiction, and to parts that are quite beyond my comprehension. I’m still in revolt. Here is an example:

All those lives maintained in the rarefied air of the absurd could not persevere without some profound and constant thought to infuse its strength into them. Right here, it can be only a strange feeling of fidelity. Conscious men have been sent to fulfill their task amid the most stupid of wars without considering themselves in contradiction. This is because it was essential to elude nothing. There is thus a metaphysical honour in enduring the world’s absurdity. Conquest or play-acting, multiple loves, absurd revolt are tributes that man pays to his dignity in a campaign in which he is defeated in advance.

I’m sure that many individuals will have no problem with interpreting the above-mentioned paragraph but I certainly did.

There’s an excellent section on Dostoevsky and in fact even he discusses logical suicide in his Diary of a Writer.

The individual that I really felt sorry for was Sisyphus who ceaselessly rolled a rock to the top of a mountain and then the stone would fall back on its own weight. It certainly doesn’t do to be condemned by the Gods and that’s for sure.

In the Appendix to this section, hope and the absurd are discussed in the life of Franz Kafka and actually one of the best parts in The Myth of Sisyphus. I could never really understand Kafka’s reasoning until I read two excellent biographies about him.

The following essays are excellent:

Summer in Algiers
The Minotaur or The Stop in Oran
Helen’s Exile
And indeed my favourite, “Return to Tipasa”.

One really gets a sense here why Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. I found that this essay talked to me and also resonated with me. It was so touching as he describes his feelings upon returning to the place of his childhood, Tipasa, Algeria after an absence of twenty years. I absolutely loved this and there is also a sense of place. This is Camus philosophizing at the highest level, after having lived through a horrific second world war by making comparisons between the two periods. Plus the descriptions are exquisite. I wanted to go to Tipasa myself when I read:

At noon on the half-sandy slopes covered with heliotropes like a foam left by the furious waves of the last few days as they withdrew, I watched the sea barely swelling at that hour with an exhausted motion, and I satisfied the two thirsts one cannot long neglect without drying up – I mean loving and admiring. For there is merely bad luck in not being loved; there is misfortune in not loving. All of us, today, are dying of this misfortune. For violence and hatred dry up the heart itself; the long fight for justice exhausts the love that nevertheless gave birth to it. In the clamour in which we live, love is impossible and justice does not suffice. This is why Europe hates daylight and is only able to set injustice up against injustice. But in order to keep justice from shrivelling up like a beautiful orange fruit containing nothing but a bitter, dry pulp, I discovered once more at Tipasa that one must keep intact in oneself a freshness, a cool wellspring of joy, love the day that escapes injustice and return to combat having won that light. Here I recaptured the former beauty, a young sky, and I measured my luck, realizing at last that in the worst years of our madness the memory of that sky had never left me. This was what in the end had kept me from despairing.

The final essay, The Artist and His Time, consists of questions and answers of Camus’ views as an artist. An example:

Is not the quixotism that has been criticized in your recent works an idealistic and romantic definition of the artist’s role? , and this was answered in a rather splendid way.

In conclusion, I have my own philosophical views on life, as we all do and only I can choose what direction my life is going to take, be it with a certain amount of serendipitous luck thrown in along the way. This was not an easy book to read but still it is excellent and succeeded in bringing happiness and optimism to me for the future.

And yes, I mustn't forget Rakhi. Do read her review below as it is excellent:


Profile Image for Yu.
84 reviews118 followers
July 22, 2018
Sisyphus must be humanism in its fiercest form, but is it as heroic as in Camus' idolization?

Because there is no assured eternality and reason knows its limit, man is forced into the corner of absurdity. There are three available options: 1) Turn away from the absurd and leap into spiritual irrationality; 2) Commit suicide and kill one's self-consciousness which is the very source of the break between one and the world; 3) Keep the absurd alive, live unreconciled, revolt consciously, and scorn triumphantly.

There is no unity between the man and the world, but there is a unity between man and his own crushing fate. It is the consciousness of this unity that fills a man's heart and makes Sisyphus happy.

My main objection to Camus' humanism is that it's all consciousness and no action. As Dostoevsky's underground man shows us, mere consciousness doesn't make a man heroic. Yes one must imagine Sisyphus happy but that's just an imagination and in reality a submission to futility. Awareness of the superiority of one's personal fate should not be the final step. To end with a quote from Achilles in The Iliad: "Xanthos, why do you prophesy my death? This is not for you. I myself know well it is destined for me to die here far from my beloved father and mother. But for all that I will not stop till the Trojans have had enough of my fighting."
Profile Image for Jason.
158 reviews45 followers
March 3, 2008
Okay, so the basic premise in this book is that there are two schools of thought involved with becoming conscious as a man. There is one in which you become conscious of God, accepting faith as the channel between this world and the next. Existence is a matter of order, one that is concrete and follows the compelling obligations towards the God whom you commit your faith.

The other option is the absurd, for which this book is written. The problem asks is it possible not to commit suicide in a meaningless world and without faith in God. The absurd man simply states, I and my plight are ephemeral, but I still choose life. Why?

The comparison to Sisyphus is made through this absurd man. A man who is doomed by the gods to perpetually push a rock up a mountain which becomes steeper as it moves up. Eventually slope takes the better of the effort and as a matter of prescribed definition the rock falls down the hill; to which, the man, Sisyphus, must start again. The absurd man follows the archetype of the Sisyphus myth of which Camus says is “wanting to know,” and in wanting to know realizing that the whole of existence is a continuous repetition, nothing is gained nor loss; “the sin of which the absurd man can feel guilt and innocence.”

This is not existentialism. It is presupposed in an existence without explanation that it is unreasonable to assume anything concrete. As Camus puts it, “the theme of the irrational, as it is conceived by the existentials, is reason becoming confused and escaping by negating itself.” He confines the absurd to, rather than negation, setting up a “lucid reasoning,” or playground for activity, and merely “noting limits” so that you are free to work within your living situation.

It’s all about cheerful compliance. Realizing you’re in the situation and you’re damned to it. Fuck it. It’s not that I’m lost in this absent void of existence, with no telling of the future and no cause for impetus. I realize that there is a chance, be it strong or tiny, that there is a vastness far beyond the compelling straits of life that leave me wondering “what’s the difference?” If I do anything, I am compelled to the possibility of it not mattering. Camus was talking about a “lucid indifference” to this. Saying, I live it. It would be a crime to strip my life of the possibility of something. Even if I am a slave I can sing. I give up on morality, a legitimization of my actions that either says this, based on prescribed foundations “okays” it or disallows it. Really, the impetus is for responsibility. What I do in this life is directly reflected in this life. If I steal, then there is recourse. If I lie; but what if someone lies to me? I guess it’s the categorical imperative, but sans morality. Morality lines things within the sights of God, establishing guilt. What is guilt? It’s mindless, an obscenity. I feel guilt for not abiding to my addiction. Who can identify the real factions of guilt, who can identify its sincerity. It’s emotional. I’d rather be rational. I’d rather see that this whole circus, a great jibe of the floating, tender inevitability of death is but a contraption set for me to build and destroy and collect and decipher. Camus said, “for the absurd man it is not a matter of explaining and solving, but of experiencing and describing. Everything begins with lucid indifference.” I am in a state of despair. Anything that I do has no value. On the other hand, I am living and I am breathing and in a strange way I have a personal freedom unpronounced by most people who establish their own freedoms. All I have to do is have faith in my freedom and like a majesty that is lain out in silver robes before me, it is there. I only have to respect that I am living in a free slate, unmitigated by a stratified moral imperative that limits so many people from following intuition and there actual imperative needs. Do you believe in destiny? That we all have a purpose and it is designated by our need to imbibe the principles of our life into a system that we can identify for ourselves. There is that mode of philosophy that says that we are the people whom we are, we are meant to be these people, this specific type of person completely genuine to himself and totally as that self. My identity is the world surrounding me combusting into a single frame that I can represent justly by my merely living life as I should be doing it. I do not need to live up to this social strata of an impartial development towards nowhere, rather I should live life as I make fit, feeling good. Feeling established. So what if my endeavors are rooted to rolling a rock up a hill at least I have something to do, in the formation of my universe I need a place to put what is concrete, even if there is nothing concrete. As analogous creatures, if we do not have any basis to compare then we are no more capable of being thoughtful than a bar of soap. I’d rather be the dirt, simply abiding to my state of being, minus the will, minus the infirmity, I’d be an obstacle for the righteous, and standing in the way I could laugh at the adversity, laugh at the spectacle of my life so deranged in its absurdity. And at the last moment before my death, that is how I could acknowledge that I was alive. Or how I am still alive, whatever.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,377 reviews2,254 followers
February 10, 2018
Albert Camus has captured the internal plight of much of the modern world. When a person begins to question his own monotonous reality, seeking to find meaning behind his daily motions of life and failing to find any at all, he comes to contemplate that void. Camus implies that if one were to honestly think about “nothing,” it would be the contemplation of the futility of most questions in life. He exemplifies the fact that the earth revolves around the sun. People lived and died in pursuit of that knowledge, and yet the question and answer alike do not matter, because we live in accordance to social structures and norms that are man-made and will one day be reformed, replaced, or blinked out of existence. The insignificance of human life in comparison to the infinite void of space and the abstract concept of time, which rules over humanity, is the notion which can manifest in the minds of men and bring about absurdity. He suggests that suicide amounts to a confession that life is not worth living. He links this confession to what he calls the "feeling of absurdity", that on the whole, we go through life with meaning and purpose, with a sense that we do things for good and profound reasons. Occasionally, however for some at least, we might come to see our daily lives dictated primarily by the forces of habit, thus bringing into question the following, if one feels that the embodiment of freedom is lost to a drone-like existence, all of our actions and reasons for them to a degree become pointless, with a feeling of absurdity linked to meaningless, meaningless to death by ones own hand. The book delves deep into "absurdity" a concept which is at the backbone to the book however is never fully explained with clarity. Definitely an essential book for those interested in nihilism as the alternative rather optimistic take on the concept is enlightening and on the contrary to common belief of the concept being parallel with pessimism. Camus in basic terms simply implies that we start to live before the habit of thinking on a deep level takes hold, thus avoiding the consequences of the meaningless nature of life, through what Camus calls an "act of eluding.", we choose not to think about the absurd because our nature is built on that of hopes and dreams for a meaningful life rather than face the consequences of staring into the void. One the main attributes used throughout his fiction, that of "exile" is also included heavily as a comparative for this essay. No one else but Camus could have wrote this work, as soon as you enter his world, the world around you becomes less apparent. Ending with with a discussion of the myth of Sisyphus to complete this work, who, according to the Greek myth, was punished for all eternity to roll a rock up a mountain only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. Sisyphus, the absurd hero, and his punishment are representative of the human condition, he must struggle perpetually and without hope of success. Says Camus, so long as he accepts that there is nothing more to life than this absurd struggle, then he can find happiness in it. A thought-provoking book, that is not a casual read, it's probably best suited to die-hard Camus fans, and those studying Existentialism or philosophy.
Profile Image for Patrick.
262 reviews91 followers
February 7, 2008
There was a part of me that really, really, really wanted to give this book 4 stars because of the way it made me think about life and consider and reconsider my own notions about the meaning we make in our worlds. It contained some really interested ideas regarding the philosophy of absurdism, which I would best describe as something of a happy medium between existentialism and nihilism, though I understand Camus himself might consider it nihilism's polar opposite.

That said, I can't say I really liked it. There were some interesting ideas eloquently described, but Camus gets a little too bogged down in his own verbosity. Perhaps I'm shattering the windows of my own glass house when I say this, but his writing just seemed a bit too showy for me. It seemed as if he had things to say, very interesting, thought-provoking things to say, but he would rather dance around them with flowery language and arcane examples rather than just come out with them. In short, while I really enjoyed the ideas in this book, I simply can't say that I enjoyed this book. Camus had enough interesting sentiments to keep me going, but it definitely got to the point where it became a chore to read. When you find yourself questioning whether you should read the book you brought onto the T or the 'Metro', you know it's maybe not the most enthralling book.
Profile Image for Helga.
887 reviews128 followers
January 4, 2021
O my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible.
- Pindar

The Myth of Sisyphus is a collection of philosophical essays by Albert Camus, exploring the Philosophy of the Absurd and its correlation between humanity's craving to give meaning to life and the unreasonableness and futility of the universe.

There is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

The title refers to Sisyphus from the Greek mythology, whom Zeus punished to forever rolling a rock up a hill in the depths of Hades, from which, the stone would fall back of its own weight.
Profile Image for Edita.
1,303 reviews392 followers
August 25, 2020
Likewise and during every day of an unillustrious life, time carries us. But a moment always comes when we have to carry it. We live on the future: “tomorrow,” “later on,” “when you have made your way,” “you will understand when you are old enough.” Such irrelevancies are wonderful, for, after all, it’s a matter of dying. Yet a day comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. 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.
A step lower and strangeness creeps in: perceiving that the world is “dense,” sensing to what a degree a stone is foreign and irreducible to us, with what intensity nature or a landscape can negate us. At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise. The primitive hostility of the world rises up to face us across millennia, for a second we cease to understand it because for centuries we have understood in it solely the images and designs that we had at- tributed to it beforehand, because henceforth we lack the power to make use of that artifice. The world evades us because it becomes itself again. That stage scenery masked by habit becomes again what it is. It withdraws at a distance from us. Just as there are days when under the familial face of a woman, we see as a stranger her we had loved months or years ago, perhaps we shall come even to desire what suddenly leaves us so alone. But the time has not yet come. Just one thing: that denseness and that strangeness of the world is the absurd.
Profile Image for Gary.
114 reviews12 followers
April 23, 2023
“Is one to die voluntarily or to hope in spite of everything?”

I keep this book on me almost everywhere I go. Whenever I have 10 to 15 minutes to think I pull it out and find some marked passages and try to decipher them.

It is difficult to put into words the profound effect MoS has had on me. It feels like colours are more vivid, the grass is green, the monotony is ever present but it passes into ambiguity as soon as I notice it. Life may have no meaning but that opens up so many doors.

I may be missing the point of this book (I hope not; like I said it’s hard to put into words) but this is one of the books that have changed my world.
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
713 reviews591 followers
July 23, 2021
The other essays included are interesting and I read them a few years ago with the titular essay (which remains as one of my favourite essays ever written). My review of Sisyphus alone is elsewhere for some reason, here. The other essays ("SUMMER IN ALGIERS", "THE MINOTAUR or THE STOP IN ORAN", "HELEN'S EXILE", "RETURN TO TIPASA" and "THE ARTIST AND HIS TIME") pale after the first. The latter essay was interesting to see Camus talk about the "artist"; the essay about Algiers is nostalgic and well-written too, but then again, wouldn't we adore to read every writer on their homeland?
Profile Image for Shima Mahmoudi.
105 reviews45 followers
September 29, 2017
من این کتابو به خاطر افسانه سیزیفش شروع کردم چون بخشی از کلاس معنای زندگی بنیاد فرهنگ زندگی بود.
کتاب فوق العاده ایه.
از اوناست که میتونی در مورد مسائل مطرح شده ساعت ها فکر کنی و خواندن تک تک جملاتش لذت ببری.
شایدم توی بوک کلاب امسال اصلا این کتابو شروع کنم. خیلی جای بحث داره و حس خوبی منتقل می کنه.
Profile Image for Gorana.
27 reviews77 followers
December 15, 2012
Since it is 'the thing' nowadays to put lots of sparkly gifs and pics in a review, who am I to differ?

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"They bear away from their light, while their strict lord Death bids them to dance... and the rain washes, and cleanses the salt of their tears from their cheeks."

Absurd enough.

Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,226 followers
June 27, 2016
It's been 20 years since I've read The Myth of Sisyphus. Although I've wanted to write a review about it ever since joining Goodreads I haven't, because I don't remember it very well. And yet, every time I go through my books-read list and I see it sitting there unreviewed, I get the urge to write one and then I remember that I don't know the book well enough, so I drop it. A few months later I repeat the cycle. It's sort of like pushing the proverbial boulder up the hill and having it roll back down, and then trying again and again with the same result. Wish I could remember what this book was about...
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews14 followers
August 23, 2015
 And that is indeed genius: 
the intelligence that knows its frontiers.

Description: One of the most influential works of this century, this is a crucial exposition of existentialist thought. Influenced by works such as Don Juan and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide: the question of living or not living in an absurd universe devoid of order or meaning.

Opening: There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest—whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect.

Dipping into this as an aside to my current bedside read Nine Lives and that the Jains are in the news this week. So many high star results, so few words. Is that because no-one wishes to contemplate death?

I was peeved to see there was little to console the half dead - those in coma, probable death by cancer, alzheimer's etc.

For such a short entry, this should occupy the thinking person's mind for all lifespan. Nothing is inconsequential here.

* Peregrinus Proteus (Greek: Περεγρινος Πρωτεύς Peregrinos Proteus; c. 95 – 165 AD) was a Greek Cynic philosopher, from Parium in Mysia. Leaving home at a young age, he first lived with the Christians in Palestine, before eventually being expelled from that community and adopting the life of a Cynic philosopher and eventually settling in Greece. He is most remembered for committing suicide by giving his own funeral oration and cremating himself on a funeral pyre at the Olympic Games in 165. wiki sourced

- An Absurd Reasoning
- The Absurd Man
- Absurd Creation
- The Myth of Sisyphus
- Appendix: Hope And The Absurd In The Work Of Franz Kafka
- Summer in Algiers: Opening: The loves we share with a city are often secret loves. Old walled towns like Paris, Prague, and even Florence are closed in on themselves and hence limit the world that belongs to them. But Algiers (together with certain other privileged places such as cities on the sea) opens to the sky like a mouth or a wound. In Algiers one loves the commonplaces: the sea at the end of every street, a certain volume of sunlight, the beauty of the race. And, as always, in that unashamed offering there is a secret fragrance. In Paris it is possible to be homesick for space and a beating of wings. Here at least man is gratified in every wish and, sure of his desires, can at last measure his possessions.
- Helen's Exile
Profile Image for Tieu uyen.
54 reviews90 followers
May 20, 2013
Hồi đi học, đọc Sisyphus xong chúng mình hay đùa nhau hỏi: Thế Sisyphus chơi nhạc gì? Cả lũ sẽ nhe răng ra cười xong gào lên: “Rock and roll”
Thế đấy, "Huyền thoại Sisyphus" là câu chuyện nhảm nhí về anh chàng sáng lăn tảng đá lên đỉnh núi, rồi đứng nhìn nó rơi xuống, rồi ảnh tà tà hạ sơn, về uống cốc bia, tắm rửa, đi ngủ lấy sức sáng mai lại ra lăn cái hòn đá nọ lên đỉnh núi, rồi lại đứng nhìn nó rơi xuống rồi mọi việc lại diễn ra y chang ngày hôm qua, cứ thế ngày này qua tháng nọ. Cuộc đời vốn dĩ phi lý thế đấy, nhưng lao động/đấu tranh/ra sức có lấp đầy được trái tim trống rỗng của con người phi lí không thì cũng chả biết được? Làm người là thế, cố mà tìm cái sướng trong cái khổ thôi.
Profile Image for Andrei Tamaş.
438 reviews285 followers
March 18, 2016
"Nu există decât o problemă filosofică într-adevăr importantă: sinuciderea. A hotărî dacă viată merită sau nu trăită înseamnă a răspunde la problema fundamentală a filosofiei!" Aşa priveşte Camus, iar raţionamentul lui este destul de simplu: dat fiind că problema crucială a filosofiei este aceea de a hotărî dacă viată merită sau nu trăită, nu are rost -e absurd!- să mergi cu gândirea mai departe. De ce? Pentru că, dacă răspunsul dat ar fi "nu", toate raţionamentele ulterioare ar fi nule. Asta în planul absurdului cotidian, însă Camus dedică un capitol şi "sinuciderii filosofice": "Cel care trăieşte sub acest cer de plumb nu are de ales decât între a fugi şi a rămâne. Vreau să ştiu cum se fuge de aici sau de ce se rămâne". Această sinucidere filosofică este văzută deci nu că o moarte fizică în sine, ci ca o debarasare de propria conştiinţă care este bazată pe regrete. Existenţialistul -deci omul absurd- nu ar trebui să aibă niciodată regrete. Dacă în trecut a greşit (sau aşa consideră), pe viitor nu face altceva decât să proiecteze situaţia cu aferentă corecţie..

"A te omorî înseamnă, într-un sens, ca şi în melodramă, a mărturisi. A mărturisi că eşti depăşit de viaţă sau că nu o înţelegi". În acest sens se face o trimitere la Kirilov, "eroul" romanului Demonii, de Dostoievski, un roman pe care Camus îl "diseaca" şi redă în paginile scrierii de faţă măcar un dram din esenţă. Idea romanului dostoievskian este dată de condiţia sinucigaşului: Simte că Dumnezeu e necesar şi că El trebuie să existe. Dar, totodată, ştie că Dumnezeu nu există şi că El nu poate exista. "Cum de nu înţelegi, exclamă el, că acest motiv e suficient pentru a te omorî?" Raţionamentul e de o claritate clasică. Dacă Dumnezeu nu există, Kirilov este Dumnezeu. Dacă Dumnezeu nu există, Kirilov trebuie să se omoare , Kirilov trebuie deci să se omoare pentru a fi dumnezeu. Şi -în fapt- rezumatul istoriei universale de până acum nu ar fi altul decât acesta: "Omul l-a născocit pe Dumnezeu că să nu se omoare!"

Aşadar, "Mitul lui Sisif" nu reprezintă altceva decât baza filosofiei şi a curentului existenţialist. Oricât ar ciopârti Sartre terminologia sa filosofică, nu poate reda ideile atât de fluent precum o face Camus. Dacă Sartre se pierde în detalii abstracte (ceea ce contravine, într-o oarecare măsură, absurdului), Camus precizează degajat principiile existenţialiste în detrimentul curentelor de gândire anterioare.

Şi, la urma urmei, consider că existenţialistul nu a fost nicicând mai bine definit: "Toate moralele sunt întemeiate pe ideea că un act are consecinţe care-l legitimează sau îl anulează. Un spirit pătruns de ideea absurdului socoteşte numai că aceste urmări trebuie privite cu seninătate. El este gata să plătească. Altfel spus, dacă pentru el poate să existe responsabilitate, în schimb nu există vinovăţie. Cel mult, va consimţi să se folosească de experienţă să trecută, spre a-şi întemeia pe ea actele sale viitoare." Se face astfel distincţia dintre moralul general (sau universal) şi cel individual. În existenţialism, moralul individual este deasupra celui universal tocmai pentru că acesta din urmă nu există.
Profile Image for Arjun Ravichandran.
222 reviews138 followers
March 12, 2013
"The only serious philosophical problem is that of suicide. Everything else (whether the mind has 2 or 16 dimensions, whether the red I see is the red you see etc) are merely games."
This is the starting-point for Camus' exploration ; life is absurd. It is absurd because human beings have search for reason, unity and meaning in a universe that has essentially none. Now that the absurd has been exposed, is life worth living?
It is a fascinating and fundamental query that in the hands of a better writer could have been really earth-shattering. But the problem is that Camus is the typical French intellectual ; in love with his own importance, name-dropping philosophers left and right who are tangential to his argument anyways, and needlessly verbose. And this kind of slipshod writing is absolute irresponsible ; because, existentialism is a revolt from the ineffectual abstractions of 'traditional philosophy' with its epistemology, logic, metaphysics etc. It was a philosophy deigned to return the focus solely on the human individual and his life ; to disregard the importance of his subject and write as if he was writing an advanced college-level course on modal logic, is a betrayal. Reading Camus, you wish for Nietzsche's prose. Now, there was a philosopher who could write.
To be honest, the Sparknotes of this book do a much better job of conveying what the author is trying to say ; even the Wikipedia page is not that bad.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
April 9, 2020
Really beautiful and thoughtful essays about a post-God (or more accurately, post-afterlife, society). What to do with the absurdity of life and why live at all?
Profile Image for Anh.
86 reviews
January 3, 2021

“If the universe is meaningless, so is the statement that it is so… The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance” - Alan Watts.

Dựa trên câu chuyện thần thoại Hy Lạp v�� Sisyphus, người bị các vị thần trừng phạt bằng cách bắt anh ngày ngày lặp đi lặp lại hành động đẩy một tảng đá nặng lên đỉnh núi, chỉ để nhìn nó lăn trở lại xuống vực, Albert Camus phân tích sự phi lý (absurdity) và vô nghĩa của đời sống. Theo Camus, sự phi lý không nằm trong bản chất của đời sống hay ở bản thân con người. Sự phi lý nảy sinh từ sự đối lập giữa khát vọng của con người mong muốn tìm được một ý nghĩa, một mục đích cho sự tồn tại của mình với một cuộc sống có vẻ như là vô nghĩa, mơ hồ, và không có gì chắc chắn. Điều chắc chắn duy nhất trong cuộc đời của mỗi người có lẽ chỉ là cái chết. Ngày mai, con người thường đặt toàn bộ hi vọng cũng như mục đích cho sự cố gắng của mình vào ngày mai, nhưng điều mà ngày mai chắc chắn mang lại cho con người chỉ là việc kéo họ gần hơn đến cái chết. Tôn giáo gán cho cuộc sống một ý nghĩa thông qua các khái niệm mơ hồ, không thể kiểm chứng được như thiên đàng, địa ngục, kiếp sau, thế giới bên kia...trong khi khoa học mới chỉ dừng lại ở việc giải thích và mô tả hiện tượng mà chưa thể trả lời những câu hỏi về bản chất và ý nghĩa của sự tồn tại. Đứng trước khát vọng của con người dường như chỉ là một cuộc sống vô nghĩa và không thể hiểu được. Giống như số phận đẩy tảng đá của Sisyphus, cuộc sống của chúng ta dường như chỉ là một chuỗi lặp lại tẻ nhạt của những thứ Hai, thứ Ba, thứ Tư...8 giờ làm việc, nghỉ ngơi, ăn, ngủ... Đó chính là điều mà Camus gọi là cảm giác phi lý (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).

Từ sự phi lý này, Camus đặt ra câu hỏi về mối quan hệ giữa sự phi lý với hành động tự sát. Liệu tự sát có phải là câu trả lời logic cho một cuộc sống phi lý và vô nghĩa? Liệu việc kết luận rằng đời sống là vô nghĩa có đồng nghĩa với việc kết luận rằng nó không đáng sống? Những câu hỏi này và câu trả lời cho chúng, theo Albert Camus, là vấn đề quan trọng nhất của triết học, trên cả những vấn đề siêu hình như thế giới có bao nhiêu chiều hay tư duy của con người có bao nhiêu phương diện. Vì vậy, điều hấp dẫn và làm Camus quan tâm trong câu chuyện nguyên bản về Sisyphus không phải những tiểu tiết về cuộc đời anh và lý do vì sao anh bị các vị thần trừng phạt. Điều hấp dẫn ông là khoảng khắc ngay sau khi Sisyphus đẩy được tảng đá lên đỉnh núi, đứng nhìn nó từ từ lăn trở lại xuống vực, lặng lẽ đi xuống để lặp lại hành động vô ích mà anh biết sẽ không bao giờ chấm dứt. Camus cho rằng chính khoảnh khắc đó, chính giây phút Sisyphus ý thức hoàn toàn về sự vô nghĩa của việc làm của mình, là một bi kịch. Sẽ không có một bi kịch nào nếu như Sisyphus làm tất cả các hành động của mình trong vô thức. Sẽ không có một bi kịch nào nếu như Sisyphus không nhận ra rằng hòn đá anh đang vất vả đẩy lên đỉnh núi sẽ lại từ từ lăn xuống, và rằng anh sẽ phải lặp lại việc làm vô nghĩa này đến vô tận. Cũng giống như cuộc đời của vua Oedipus, bi kịch sẽ không đến nếu ông mãi mãi vô thức về thân phận của mình, về việc chính mình đã sống theo lời sấm truyền: giết cha và ngủ với mẹ. Bi kịch chỉ thực sự đến vào thời điểm ông ý thức được mình thực sự là ai, ý thức được toàn bộ hành động và cuộc đời mình. Oedipus là nạn nhân của chính lòng quyết tâm sắt đá của bản thân cho việc tìm được câu trả lời cho câu hỏi "Who am I?" ( Jocasta : Oh, you unhappy man! May you never find out who you really are!)!

Để giải quyết sự phi lý, Camus và các nhà triết học hiện sinh cho rằng có ba giải pháp: tự sát, tìm đến tôn giáo, hoặc ý thức toàn vẹn về sự phi lý nhưng không ngừng phản kháng bằng cách tiếp tục sống. Camus bác bỏ tính hợp lý của giải pháp tự sát vì cho rằng đó là hành động loại bỏ sự phi lý thông qua việc đầu hàng và chấp nhận nó. Mâu thuẫn đối lập giữa khát vọng của con người và sự vô nghĩa của cuộc sống, từ đó cảm xúc phi lý nảy sinh, cần phải được ý thức và duy trì. Nó không thể tồn tại nếu con người tự sát. Camus cũng phản đối giải pháp tìm đến một Đấng Toàn Năng hay thế giới bên kia thông qua tôn giáo hoặc tìm đến một thực thể triết học siêu hình, một ý nghĩa lớn lao vượt trên mọi khái niệm. Camus cho rằng, giải pháp này gán cho cuộc sống một ý nghĩa, phủ nhận sự phi lý bằng cách tin vào một thực thể hay một khái niệm mơ hồ vượt bên trên nó. Ông gọi đây là sự tự sát triết học (philosophical suicide). Mâu thuẫn giữa cuộc sống và con người làm nảy sinh sự phi lý không thể bị phủ nhận, trái lại cần phải được con người ý thức và duy trì, nhưng đồng thời không ngừng phản kháng lại nó. Bị tước bỏ khỏi mọi niềm tin và hi vọng mơ hồ vào một cuộc sống tốt đẹp hơn ở thế giới bên kia, thiên đàng, hay thậm chí tương lai, con người phi lý (the absurd man) hoàn toàn được giải phóng. Điều anh có thể thấu hiểu chắc chắn ở cuộc sống này là từng khoảnh khoắc của giây phút hiện tại và cái chết của mình. Câu trả lời cho câu hỏi liệu có cần một ý nghĩa nào không cho sự tồn tại nay đã trở nên rõ ràng. Con người có thể tận hưởng cuộc sống tốt hơn nhiều nếu nó không có một ý nghĩa mặc định sẵn có nào. Bị tước bỏ khỏi mọi Đấng Toàn Năng, khỏi mọi lý thuyết mặc định có sẵn về cuộc sống, con người được tự do sáng tạo cho cuộc đời mình một ý nghĩ, một mục đích. Con người là tác giả duy nhất, được mặc sức sáng tạo, và là người duy nhất chịu trách nhiệm về bức tranh hay bản nhạc của cuộc đời mình. Vì vậy theo Camus, hành trình đi xuống vực đầy đau khổ của Sisyphus cũng có thể tràn ngập niềm vui. Trong chính khoảnh khắc nhận ra sự phi lý và vô nghĩa của đời sống và rằng không hề tồn tại một chúa Trời, một Đấng Toàn Năng, hay một ý nghĩa lớn lao nào, con người phi lý đồng thời nhận ra anh làm chủ từng khoảnh khắc hiện tại của cuộc đời mình. Ý thức toàn vẹn về sự phi lý và cái chết, nhưng con người phi lý cũng không ngừng phản kháng lại nó bằng sự thức dậy mỗi ngày, thậm chí bằng từng hơi thở. Tương tự, bằng việc tiếp tục đi xuống và đẩy hòn đá lên đỉnh núi một, một trăm, một nghìn, hay một vạn lần nữa, Sisyphus thể hiện sự chống đối, sự tự do, và niềm đam mê của mình với cuộc đời phi lý (Thus I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt, my freedom, and my passion. By the mere activity of consciousness I transform into a rule of life what was an invitation to death—and I refuse suicide.).

"Chính trong điều này chứa đựng niềm vui lặng lẽ của Sisyphus. Số phận của chàng thuộc về chính chàng. Tảng đá kia là công việc của chàng. Cũng như vậy, con người phi lý, khi suy tư về sự đau khổ của mình, làm im tiếng tất cả thần tượng... Bản thân cuộc tranh đấu hướng tới đỉnh cao là đủ đế lấp đầy trái tim con người. Ta phải tưởng tượng là Sisyphus hạnh phúc." (All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing. Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.)
Profile Image for Adrian Colesberry.
Author 3 books43 followers
April 13, 2009
Classic for a reason. This book is a tonic for any agnostic or cynic struggling with the whole meaning-of-life thing. Camus, in a way that I find totally satisfying, solves that problem without the standard religious cop-out of locating meaning outside this world.
What is wrong with being Sisyphus? Is this a punishment or is this just what life is if you take you head out of the bubble for long enough to see the truth of things. My essential vision of life I more or less cribbed from Camus and Sartre: it's an absurdist project that you can accept and live and love the living of it. What I appreciate about Camus in this series of essays is that he's more positive about the whole thing than Sartre, who is quite bleak.
Profile Image for তানজীম রহমান.
Author 22 books546 followers
November 10, 2021
এই বইয়ের রেটিং দেওয়া কঠিন। যদি দর্শন হিসেবে বিচার করি তাহলে ���করকম হবে. যদি সাহিত্য হিসেবে বিচার করি তাহলে অন্যরকম।

সাহিত্য দিয়ে শুরু করা যাক।
লেখা হিসেবে ‘দ্য মিথ অফ সিসিফাস’ চমৎকার, আমার পড়া সেরা প্রবন্ধগুলোর মধ্যে একটা। লেখক যা বলতে চেয়েছেন তা স্পষ্ট, পরিষ্কার, আত্মবিশ্বাসী ভাষায় লিখেছেন। কাঠামোর দিক দিয়েও ‘দ্য মিথ অফ সিসিফাস’ পরিচ্ছন্ন, সুন্দর। ছোটো ছোটো অধ্যায়ের শুরুতে অধ্যায়ের মূল প্রশ্ন বা প্রসঙ্গটা তুলে ধরা হয়। বাকি অধ্যায় জুড়ে সেটার ব্যাখ্যা দেওয়া হয়। লেখক কোনোকিছুর অতিরিক্ত বর্ণনা বা প্রমাণের তথ্যভাণ্ডারে সময় নষ্ট করেননি, কারণ এই লেখায় একটা বিষয় আছে যা প্রায় সব অসাধারণ লেখায় থাকে। লেখক যা বিশ্বাস করেন, যা অনুভব করেন, তা তুলে ধরেছেন পাঠকদের সামনে। তার কাছে যা সত্য, তাই প্রকাশ করেছেন, এবং ভরসা রেখেছেন যে বোঝার আর বিচার করার দায়িত্ব পাঠক তুলে নেবে।

এবার দর্শন হিসেবে বইটা কেমন, সে কথায় আসি।

প্রথমেই বলে নেওয়া দরকার যে কাম্যু নিজেকে দার্শনিক বলতে পছন্দ করতেন না। শিল্পী বা সাহিত্যিক ভাবতে পছন্দ করতেন। “I think according to words and not according to ideas”- বলেছিলেন নিজেই। তারপরেও, সার্ত্রে থেকে শুরু করে এখনকার অস্তিত্ববাদীরা ‘সিসিফাস’-কে দার্শনিক প্রবন্ধ হিসেবে ধরে নেয়। তাই দর্শন হিসেবে এটার বিচার করা যেতেই পারে।

এই প্রবন্ধে কাম্যুর মূল বক্তব্য হচ্ছে যে—দুনিয়া অর্থহীন, এ কথা আগে অনেক দার্শনিক স্বীকার করেছে, কিন্তু মেনে নেয়নি। কির্কেগার্ড, হেইডেগার সহ আরো অনেকেই এই বিষয়টা নিয়ে লিখেছেন। কিন্তু তারা সবাই দাবি করেছিলেন জগতের অর্থহীনতা থেকে মুক্তি পাওয়া সম্ভব। ‘বিশ্বাস’ রাখতে হবে, তা ঈশ্বরে হোক, যুক্তিতে হোক বা শিল্পকর্মে। অনেক দার্শনিক বলেছিলেন যেটাকে আমরা অর্থহীনতা মনে করি, সেটাই আসলে ঈশ্বরের উপস্থিতি। আমাদের বিশ্বাস রাখতে হবে যে আসলে অর্থ আছে, যেই অর্থ জানেন ঈশ্বর।

কাম্যু এই ‘বিশ্বাস’কে বলেন `Leap’, বা ‘Leap of Faith’. পৃথিবী যে অর্থহীন, তা চোখের সামনে দেখার পরও মনে করা যে আসলে অর্থ আছে, গোপন, লুকানো কোনো অর্থ-এই বিশ্বাসকে কাম্যু পছন্দ করতেন না। যা অনুভব করছি, যেই অভিজ্ঞতা হচ্ছে-সেটাই হচ্ছে সত্য। এর বাইরে যা আছে, আশা, ধর্ম, বিজ্ঞানের ভরসা-কোনোকিছুর ওপরই নির্ভর করা উচিত নয়-এই ছিলো কাম্যুর বক্তব্য। পৃথিবীকে অর্থহীন হিসেবে মেনে নেওয়াই আমাদের প্রধান দায়িত্ব। যেখানে কোনোকিছুর নির্দিষ্ট, নিজস্ব অর্থ নেই, সেখানে সব সিদ্ধান্তই সমান। সব সিদ্ধান্তই অর্থহীন।
এমন একটা পৃথিবীতে আমরা কেন বেঁচে থাকতে চাইবো?

এখানেই ঝামেলা। এই ‘কেন’-এর কোনো ভালো উত্তর কাম্যুর কাছে নেই। প্রবন্ধজুড়ে তিনি বারবার বলেন যে মানুষের বেঁচে থাকতে হবে। অর্থহীনতা মেনে নিয়ে বেঁচে থাকাই হচ্ছে সত্যিকারের সাহস। নির্ভয়ে বাস্তুবের মুখোমুখি হওয়া, কোনো আশা ছাড়া, ‘Appeal’ ছাড়া বেঁচে থাকাই হচ্ছে আমাদের সামনে একমাত্র খোলা পথ।

কিন্তু কেন আমি বেঁচে থাকবো? যে মহাবিশ্বে সবই অর্থহীন, সেখানে কেন বেঁচে থাকা আর মারা যাওয়ার মধ্যে কোনো পার্থক্য থাকবে? এখানে কাম্যুর মতামত নিরপেক্ষ নয়। তার ধারণা বেঁচে থাকা ভালো, তাই বেঁচে থাকতে হবে। প্রবন্ধের এক জায়গায় তিনি বলেন: যেখানে কোনো নীতি নেই, সেখানেও অপরাধ বাড়বে না। কারণ অপরাধ হচ্ছে শিশুতোষ চিন্তা। যারা সত্য জানে, অর্থহীনতা মেনে নেয় (এ ধরনের মানুষের জন্য তার নাম হচ্ছে The Absurd Man), সেই মানুষেরা এ ধরনের শিশুতোষ কাজ করবে না। কেন? যে বিশ্ব অর্থহীন, সেই বিশ্বে কেন অপরাধী এবং নিরপরাধীর মধ্যে পার্থক্য করা হবে?

কেন সিসিফাসের মুখে হাসি থাকবে পাথর ঠেলার সময়? কেন সে পাথরের নিচে নিজেকে পিষ্ট হতে দেবে না?

সে প্রশ্নের উত্তর এই প্রবন্ধে নেই। তাই দর্শন হিসেবে (অন্তত আমার কাছে) লেখাটা অসম্পূর্ণ, যথেষ্ট শক্তিশালী নয়।

আমার বক্তব্য রিভিউয়ের সাইজে আনতে যেয়ে কয়েক জায়গায় ছোটো করতে হয়েছে (যদিও এই সুদীর্ঘ রচনা দেখে তা বোঝার উপায় নেই)। বাকিটা আমার ভবিষ্যতের কোনো গল্পে বা উপন্যাসে আলোচনা করবো আশা করি।

এটাও সাহিত্য হিসেবে প্রবন্ধটার শক্তির আরেকটা প্রমাণ। যে লেখা অন্য লেখার জন্ম দিতে পারে, সেটা যদি সাহিত্য না হয় তাহলে কী?
Profile Image for Sara Sherra.
62 reviews48 followers
January 9, 2017
I have a problem with this book.

If i wanted him to say: "The little boy waited at the bus stop for the bus to take him to school.", he would instead say:

"The plump little boy over there, wearing blue jeans shorts and a green striped t-shirt is doing something. He is carrying a small backpack. Who knows what he has inside it. Some people carry backpacks filled with food, some with books and papers, some with clothes. Some backpacks are made of cotton, others of polyester, and other materials, of course. I prefer the cotton ones, they appear to be more durable, and are also easily thrown in with the laundry if needed.

There is a bus coming. The bus is yellow and black, and seems to have words written on it. Come to think of it, is that really a bus? Not all that glitters is gold, so why should all that looks like a bus be a bus? Where does the bus lead? Is that little boy waiting for the bus? There seems to be a sign above the little boy's head, if one looks at it carefully he'll find words on it, too. It says: "bus stop". Why is the little boy standing at that sign? The bus has arrived.

Did you know that a tomato is actually a fruit, not a vegetable? No? Not many people know that. Does the tomato even know that? Does the tomato care? I wonder if it is bothered by that fact. No one knows how a tomato started, and why it was sorted as a vegetable in the first place. I don't know why people still use it in their salad, and not in their fruit salad. I wonder how dictionaries define tomatoes now. We must check the Merriam-Webster dictionary to find out.

The boy got on the bus, the bus which may or may not be a real bus, which has a destination. The little boy, too, has a destination, for what is life if you do not have one. He would be leading a very sad life if he didn't have one. What is life, anyway? I wonder if it means the same to me as it does to the little boy, going somewhere, on the yellow and black bus. I've seen many little boys carrying backpacks at this time of day going to schools, maybe that is where the little boy is going. I think that is where the little boy is going, with his little backpack."

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