"Here now, for the first time in a complete English translation, we have Camus's three little volumes of essays, plus a selection of his critical comments on literature and his own place in it. As might be expected, the main interest of these writings is that they illuminate new facets of his usual subject matter."--The New York Times Book Review
"A new single work for American readers that stands among the very finest."--The Nation
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.
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.
For a man indifferent to despair and happiness, what does it matter if the sun rises everyday and then the day proceeds habitually in its entire splendor. For a man torn between Yes and No, what does the love of his land matter. For a man who expects nothing, what does a passion hold? How does a burdened heart embrace the joy of living? And yet, it is this contradiction which defines most of Camus’ writing and thoughts, his ideas of life and living. His despair stems from a deep love, despair because he loves life too much not to be selfish. His passion is unnerving because it poses a question on the accepted notions of happiness and makes one wonder if this happiness that we talk of and experience or imagine to experience, is just a form of escapism. This evident contradiction is viewed with skepticism by many critics who question these inconsistencies in his ideas. However, they are not the ideas of an established or esteemed philosopher, but those of a rebel, of a man hopelessly in love with life in an absurd world, of a kind heart which seeks harmony in the existence, a refuge in solidarity. What makes him uncomfortable to read is that he doesn’t offer solace or hope but a glaring truth whose brightness overwhelms. But then he also offers love; honest and uncompromising. And it is not surprising that the indifferent heart of a stranger could also be filled with immense joy….
To understand the nature of his rebel, it is essential to read through the Lyrical essays. Written from 1935 when he was relatively unknown to 1954, by the time he had already published significant works, Lyrical essays compile his personal musings, but thereby also offer a glimpse into the origin of ideas behind some of his fiction and non-fiction. The section “Betwixt and Between” and “Nuptials” were published in 1937 and 1938 respectively and “Summer” in 1954. The initial two sections are often labeled as his naïve works not only because they were written when he was barely 25-26 years of age but also because they seem to bubble with an exuberance and restlessness distinctive of young age as compared to his more mature works later. But these essays are as profound as his later works. In the first section, he seeks to understand and accept the struggle, giving words to those thoughts which plagued him. In “Nuptials”, he is more a poet who praises the beauty of nature and speaks of its inevitable bonding with man, of the necessity in wake of absurdity, to return to it. In “Summer”, he celebrates the spirit of mankind and emphasize those ideas which man, in his view, must cling to make this life meaningful, those places or the lands to which they must return to feel one with life again.
What also characterizes these essays is the distinct style in which they are written. Camus writes in a lucid manner. His writing is terse when he speaks of the injustices suffered by man in this indifferent universe or of the inevitable fate that he is destined for, but on the other hand it is lyrical in a delightful manner when he speaks of the beauty associated with life. And both of these combine to create that harmony which he also always searched for, a harmony between despair and happiness. His writing style is striking because it is sincere, because it is an honest reflection of his inner self and his thoughts, a reflection also of a man who lived by what he wrote.
“O light! This is the cry of all the characters, who in classical tragedy, come face to face with their destiny. Their final refuge was also ours, and I now knew that this was so. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there lay within me an invincible summer.”
This quote possesses a subdued expression of rebellion. Subdued, because it accompanies not only the acceptance of absurdity, of that unavoidable fate, but also a certain joy in the knowledge of that invincible source from which the passion of life springs forth and calms the mind; source which keeps us pushing further, to which we return again and again, in turbulent as well as happier times. Source which stands unperturbed, spreading warmth and illuminating heart with its shine. Like Algerian sun to which Camus returns so often, I find myself returning to his works --- again and again. I have found in his writing that source whose radiance fills me with an unspeakable joy. A joy, for it doesn’t deceive the senses but lay open everything in this world in its bareness, whether in beauty or repulsiveness. It doesn’t lead to pine hope but to accept this world, as well as oneself, in entirety. But this acceptance doesn’t equate with weariness, instead it imbues the heart with a passion to live, to love, to be kind.
To me his writing is like that home where peace is granted - a resting place.
These essays are highly recommended to those who seek to live life passionately.
Knowing that certain nights whose sweetness lingers will keep returning to the earth and sea after we are gone, yes, this helps us to die. Great sea, ever in motion, ever virgin, my religion along with night! It washes and satiates us in its sterile billows, frees us and holds us upright. Each breaker brings its promise, always the same. What does each say? If I were to die surrounded by cold mountains, ignored by the world, an outcast, at the end of my strength, at the final moment the sea would flood my cell, would life me above myself and help me die without hatred. * There are, before our eyes, realities stronger than we ourselves are. Our ideas will bend and become adapted to them. * It is thus that I wake up at night, and, still half-asleep, think I hear the sound of waves and the breathing of the waters. Fully awake, I recognize the wind in the trees and the sad murmur of the empty town. [...] There is no country for those who despair, but I know that the sea precedes and follows me, and I hold my madness ready. Those who love and are separated can live in grief, but this is not despair: they know that love exists. This is why I suffer, dry-eyed, in exile. I am still waiting. A day comes, at last... * [...] Space and silence weigh equally upon the heart. A sudden love, a great work, a decisive act, a thought that transfigures, all these certain moments bring the same unbearable anxiety, quickened with an irresistible charm. Living like this, in the delicious anguish of being, in exquisite proximity to a danger whose name we do not know, is this the same as rushing to your doom? Once again, without respite, let us race to our destruction. I have always felt I lived on the high seas, threatened, at the heart of a royal happiness.
“The curtain of habits, the comfortable loom of words and gestures in which the heart drowses, slowly rises, finally to reveal anxiety’s pallid visage. Man is face to face with himself: I defy him to be happy…” — Albert Camus, Death in the Soul
A collection of short essays by Camus, my favourites being the lyrical essays at the beginning of the book. They were mostly autobiographical, depicting Camus’ time in Algeria and also his observations in the countries he visited. Camus writes lovely essays about his travels and his time spent in Algeria. It’s evident how much he loved Algeria:
"No, you must certainly not go there if you have a lukewarm heart or if your soul is weak and weary! But for those who know what it is to be torn between yes and no, between noon and midnight, between revolt and love, and for those who love funeral pyres along the shore, a flame lies waiting in Algeria." - "A Short Guide to Towns Without a Past"
“We enter a blue and yellow world and are welcomed by the pungent, odorous sigh of the Algerian summer earth. Everywhere, pinkish bougainvillea hangs over villa walls; in the gardens the hibiscus are still pale red, and there is a profusion of tea roses thick as cream, with delicate borders of long, blue iris.” - Nuptials at Tipasa
The critical half consisted more of critiquing famous French literature, such as Sartre, that I hadn’t read and for that reason couldn’t fully appreciate. The book ends with a few interviews which made it clear that Camus denied being an existentialist.
Camus was definitely a thinker. Though I didn’t agree with all his observations and thoughts, this was a fascinating collection all the same. I also noticed the essays covered a lot of themes explored in "The First Man", Camus’ autobiography. Definitely a must for fans of the literary essay.
"there is more love in these awkward pages than in all those that have followed.."
The title speaks for itself. Taking it from Camus himself, reading this book made me feel many things. Like an energized adolescent wanting to express all the things I felt as if it is worth expressing everything one feels in the first place. This anthology has some of his earliest published essays. Got to know about the places he lived, writers he loved and admired, about his own writings, his opinions on living during 'the most tragic times.' A much needed one personally. Not really sure but I feel one would be able to appreciate this better if they have explored most of his works of fiction and essays.
Yesterday I shared an excerpt with a new acquaintance from one of the novels that I read this year that love is not an end in itself but a process by which one gets to know another better. In that way, I love this one in particular and probably will hold this time to time again over the course of future very close to my heart. A sort of rejuvenation for my nostalgic intoxication.
I can't claim that I read every essay in this book, nor that I liked every one that I did read, but the ones that I read and enjoyed, I enjoyed SO much that this collection definitely deserves 4 stars. Camus' intellect and erudition are deep and incisive. I found myself making connections between his thoughts and others I've read, from Rilke to Wendell Berry. And his writing in gorgeous. I think my favorite essay was "Between Yes and No." The sensory detail and metaphors are beautiful, like when he describes the sound of the distant sea as "the world sighs toward me in a long rhythm, and brings me the peace and indifference of immortal things." So much in that one phrase: a perfect description of what the ocean sounds like from a distance, a perfect evocation of the feelings it inspires, and a perfect philosophical statement about the difference between humans and immortals. Camus is often lumped in with Sartre as an existentialist, but he claims in another essay that that's an incorrect classification. In fact, he insists on not being classified, pointing out that when he writes he is exploring questions, which is different from providing answers (hence the mental link I made to Rilke). I think he is an existentialist to the extent that he doesn't claim to know what our lives mean, or whether they have any significance at all. What he really seems to advocate in many of these essays is simply paying attention to moments and events as they play out, and pondering them for a meaning that we will never fully understand. Like my reviews? Check out my blog at http://www.kathrynbashaar.com/blog/
Some of these are familiar and some not. Camus is a fascinating essayist, he has a firm grasp and wields his ideas with dexterity and honesty. I found his critical essays profound and appreciative. The more lyrical essays are essays, especially when he is describing Algiers, in sunlight and colour. A writer of profound integrity and apparently wholly lacking in egotism.
In answer to an interviewer's question about about what wish he would make at this stage of his life (1959) Camus answered with this quote from Nietszche..
"Within a superabundance of life-giving and restoring forces, even misfortunes have a sunlike glow and engender their own consolation"
If he could have the "superabundance" even infrequently that would suffice. Yup!
Reading “Lyrical and Critical Essays” by Albert Camus, I think, should be a good introduction and foundation to his famous novels written later. A reason is that these essays revealing his outstanding views, his powerful narration as well as his inspiring ideas have since affirmed his literary stature since he wrote them in 1935-1936, he was then twenty-two (p. 5). As a reader having read his “The Outsider” (aka. “The Stranger”) and “The Plague”, I found it simply interesting to read this book by such a young writer in three parts: Lyrical Essays, Critical Essays and Camus On Himself, in which I preferred Part II to Part I, in other words, I was primarily keen on the critical essays followed by the lyrical ones. Moreover, avid Camus readers should find reading his ‘Preface to the Stranger’, ‘Letter to Roland Barthes on The Plague’, ‘Letter to P.B.’ and ‘Three Interviews’ in Part III intimately and illuminatingly informative.
For instance, in ‘Between Yes and No’, we can sadly enjoy reading this memoir-based extract between a son and his mother: … “Is it true I look like my father?” “The spitting image. Of course, you didn’t know him. You were six months old when he died. But if you had a little moustache!” He mentioned his father without conviction. No memory, no emotion. Probably he was very ordinary. Besides, he had been very keen to go to war. His head was split open in the battle of the Marne. Blinded, it took him a week to die; his name is listed on the local war memorial. … (pp. 38-39)
Next, in ‘Preface to the Stranger’, Camus has clarified his highly-paradoxical remark by elaborating, “I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game. In this respect, he is foreign to the society in which he lives; he wanders, on the fringe, in the suburbs of private, solitary, sensual life. And this is why some readers have been tempted to look upon him as a piece of social wreckage. A much more accurate idea of the character, …, will emerge if one asks just how Meursault doesn’t play the game. The reply is a simple one: he refuses to lie. …” (pp. 335-336)
Then, in his ‘Letter to Roland Barthes’, he has summarized his four interesting points on “the Plague”; Summary 2 cited as follows: “Compared to “The Stranger”, “The Plague” does, beyond any possible discussion, represent the transition from an attitude of solitary revolt to the recognition of a community whose struggles must be shared. If there is an evolution from “The Stranger” to “The Plague”, it is in the direction of solidarity and participation.” (p. 339)
I sometime cannot help wondering if other readers think like me, that is, reading Camus is not only enjoyable but it is also unique since we can come across some good seemingly philosophy-oriented sentences for his readers to think, apply, redefine, etc. For example: “No longer to be listened to: that’s the terrible thing about being old.” (p. 24) “What we seek is the culture that finds life in the trees, the hills, and in mankind.” (p. 197) “A novel is never anything but a philosophy expressed in images.” (p. 199) etc.
When Camus mentioned Francis of Assissi, I was like Hey! I know that dude from the time Greta Gerwig mentioned him on Colbert.
What I got out of this book are a truck-load of French book recommendations and a feeling that Camus would've been a great teacher.
“for example, how tragedy differs from drama or melodrama. This is what seems to me the difference: the forces confronting each other in tragedy are equally legitimate, equally justified. In melodramas or dramas, on the other hand, only one force is legitimate.”
The lyrical essays, the first section of this book, present Camus' deductions about the nature of mankind, written with glorious poetic tenderness. The critical essays, a second portion, present Camus' ideas on what art ought to aspire to, and how it should relate to its own world and its predecessors.
This was a key question for Albert Camus, a handsome, Nobel Prize winning French philosopher. Camus believed that death steals the meaning from life — what’s the point of living if all that awaits us is a cold, worm-infested grave? God is dead, and an eternal afterlife is longer a possibility. Without religion to save us, how can we live with the pointlessness of existence, with the absurdity of it all?
Lyrical and Critical Essays is a volume of stories and essays in which Camus explores this fundamental question, shedding further light on the ideas expressed in his novels.
While travelling in Italy in 1937, the following reflection encapsulates the problem that Camus was wrestling with:
“Italy, like other privileged places, offers me the spectacle of a beauty in which, nonetheless, men die.” — The Desert
What is the point in such beauty existing, and for us to experience that beauty, if it’s destined to be forever lost? How can we muster the strength to go on in the face of our inevitable death? Camus experienced undeniable natural beauty, but bristled with anguish at its meaninglessness. Things happen, we experience them, and then we die. Metaphysical significance cannot be found in anything.
“The air grows cool. A foghorn sounds at sea. The beams from the lighthouse begin to turn: one green, one red, and one white. And still the world sighs its long sigh.” — Between Yes and No
We’re on a perpetual merry-go-round, with the same tired tune from the same tired speakers, crushing us into relentless anguish and despair.
“His fever sings. He walks a little faster; tomorrow everything will be different, tomorrow. Suddenly he realizes that tomorrow will be the same, and, after tomorrow, all the other days. And he is crushed by this irreparable discovery. It’s ideas like this that kill one.” — Irony
Camus found his answer to the meaninglessness of life in a tenacious, immutable acceptance of our sorry condition. We’re going to die, and there’s nothing we can do to change that, so rather than wallowing in anguish at our situation, why not just accept it? This acceptance is a form of rebellion against the merciless impotency of existence — I’m going to die, but fuck you, I’ll accept it nonetheless.
“At this extreme point of acute awareness everything came together, and my life seemed a solid block to be accepted or rejected. I needed a grandeur. I found it in the confrontation between my deep despair and the secret indifference of one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.” — Death In The Soul
The battle between Camus’ despair of the futility of life, and the indifference of the world, amounts to a decision between acceptance or rejection. Between living fully, or throwing your hands up and committing suicide.
“There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” — The Myth of Sisyphus Why live, if we’re going to die?
Affirming every aspect of our lives won’t necessarily lessen our despair, but we shouldn’t want to lessen our despair, because this is also a part of life to be accepted. Fantasising of another life is a tragedy — our own can be dazzling with the right perspective.
“For if there is a sin against life, it lies perhaps less in despairing of it than in hoping for another life and evading the implacable grandeur of the one we have.” — Summer in Algiers
“I love this life with abandon and wish to speak of it boldly: it makes me proud of my human condition.” — Nuptials at Tipasa
One cannot remove the negative from life without also removing the positive. The negative can only be identified because of the existence of positive. Take away despair, and you must also remove its natural contrast: joy.
“There is no love of life without despair of life.” — The Wrong Side and the Right Side
“But if we give up a part of what exists, we must ourselves give up being; we must then give up living or loving except by proxy. Thus there is a will to live without refusing anything life offers: the virtue I honor most in this world.” — Return to Tipasa
“In the difficult times we face, what more can I hope for than the power to exclude nothing and to learn to weave from strands of black and white one rope tautened to the breaking point?” — Return to Tipasa
There’s nothing for it but an unbridled acceptance of everything that happens to us, and by existing in this way, we’re rebelling against the absurdity of our human condition. Shunning the world does nothing to alter its uncompromising indifference; only affirmation can provide us with the determination to continue living.
“If an anguish still clutches me, it’s when I feel this impalpable moment slip through my fingers like quicksilver. Let those who wish to turn their backs upon the world. I have nothing to complain of, since I can see myself being born.” — The Wrong Side and the Right Side
Camus found unending solace in natural beauty, and the sensual abilities that allow us to receive the world. Awareness of every spectacular triviality was enough for him, despite their lack of meaning. Simply experiencing the world was the point.
“What counts is to be true, and then everything fits in, humanity and simplicity. When am I truer than when I am the world? My cup brims over before I have time to desire. Eternity is there and I was hoping for it. What I wish for now is no longer happiness but simply awareness.” — The Wrong Side and the Right Side
“Millions of eyes, I knew, had gazed at this landscape, and for me it was like the first smile of the sky. It took me out of myself in the deepest sense of the word. It assured me that but for my love and the wondrous cry of these stones, there was no meaning in anything. The world is beautiful, and outside it there is no salvation.” — The Desert
“How many hours have I spent crushing absinthe leaves, caressing ruins, trying to match my breathing with the world’s tumultuous sighs! Deep among wild scents and concerts of somnolent insects, I open my eyes and heart to the unbearable grandeur of this heat-soaked sky.” — Nuptials at Tipasa
Only by living honestly, by accepting our absurd condition completely and without restraint, can we expel the terror of our impending doom. Our efforts should be placed on the body, in our ability to perceive and appreciate the awesome wonder all around us. Only there can meaning be found. Bitter, often uncomfortable, but meaning nonetheless.
“The immortality of the soul, it is true, engrosses many noble minds. But this is because they reject the body, the only truth that is given them, before using up its strength. For the body presents no problems, or, at least, they know the only solution it proposes: a truth which must perish and which thus acquires a bitterness and nobility they dare not contemplate directly.” — The Desert
“It is not surprising that the sensual riches this country offers so profusely to the sensitive person should coincide with the most extreme deprivation. There is no truth that does not also carry bitterness.” — Summer in Algiers
What we need most of all is the fearlessness to accept everything that comes our way, good or bad. We must positively affirm every experience — open our arms to receive it, and be consequent rebels.
“The great courage is still to gaze as squarely at the light as at death.” — The Wrong Side and the Right Side
“There are some people who prefer to look their destiny straight in the eye.” — Between Yes and No
Why live, if we’re going to die? Because life can be spectacular with the right attitude. We’ll experience everything that is thrown at us — joy, agony, depression, hope, lust, love, ambivalence — and by accepting all of it, we’re rebelling valiantly against the absurdity and meaninglessness of existence. Only through acceptance can we truly be free.
Absurdity is a powerful tool that helps humans scrutinize their uncontrollable appetites for life. And Camus’s literary vocabulary refuses such happiness that is warped in its own glorious vanity. He believes that humans often use the excess of life to make up for the loss of our own awareness of happiness. And how that “self-pitying awareness of happiness” can teach us more about ourselves than happiness itself.
In this book, Albert Camus presents a paradoxical and existential manifestation of the meaning of life and the role of indifference and unhappiness in it. It’s absurd that by rejecting any metaphysical and scientific meaning of human existence that resolves for us the corporeality of life and death, Camus has nullified the pursuit of our own desires. He writes, “it is not easy to become what one is, to rediscover one’s deepest nature.” So how does one even attempt at illuminating the happiness and sorrow of life?
Through his ideas of the absurdity of the world, the inevitability of death, and the importance of the material world, Camus reconstructs the heartbeat of human nature. He also admits, in a deeply artistic and idyllic manner, certain inerasable truths about the edifying nature of poverty, the love of despair, and the contradictory nature of the excess of how things are.
The marriage of happiness with despair, lucidity with nihilism, and fervor with indifference; you’ll find in this book of essays the assimilation of simplicity and wholesomeness which characterizes the life of a brilliant writer who considers, above all, that the “secret indifference of the world as a beautiful landscape” is the only clear and unrivaled fundamental of life. If that isn’t reason enough to commit to the urgency of life and to learn, patiently and arduously, how to live, I don’t know what is.
I bought this book chiefly because it included Camus’ essays on his life in French Algeria, and in particular the essay ‘Summer in Algiers’ which I remembered well from reading in High School.
I digress (because Goddammit this is my page and I can if I want to) to add that it was a particularly insightful teacher, John McMahon, who set as reading in Year 11 and Year 12 French Camus’ L’Etranger and Sartre’s Huis Clos. He made the shrewd judgment that these were ideas that would appeal to 16-17 year old minds. Interestingly, Camus’ ideas proved far more popular with my group than those of Sartre.
The essays about life in Algeria were as good as I remember. Interestingly, they reflect (unconsciously) the way that the coastal parts of Algeria were administered as part of metropolitan France; that is, it was legally as much a part of France as Gascony or the Auvergne. This freed up the essays to allow them to consider how the (French) population related to this piece of geography where “the sun left no shadows”. That is, the presence of the Arab population barely registers, and there is no sign of Camus or anyone else thinking of themselves as colonists or inhabitants of an imperial possession (1).
By freeing the essays up to focus on the relationship of geography and climate to philosophical outlook, Camus reaches the conclusion that the Mediterranean culture he describes is one for people who are young enough to soak up the sensory overload it provides. Once that capacity is lost (depressingly, by about the age of 30!) people find themselves in a kind of limbo, effectively waiting to die, without the consolations of religion (which Camus himself rejected and in any case finds inapposite in Algerian culture).
It is a shame that essays like “Summer in Algiers” are not better known. At the risk of being parochial, at least some sections of Australian society in the 1990s could have drawn (and could still draw) some interesting insights from it. My thinking is this: the 1990s have been described - I think it was in Andrew Roberts’ History of the English Speaking Peoples since 1900 - as the “long weekend off from history”. This epoch was inaugurated with the slow collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989-91 and the very firm assertion of Western dominance in the Gulf War. At about the same time, Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man provided a philosophical underpinning to these experiences, arguing that the West of that time might be getting close to the highest form of human organization, beyond which further political development would be impossible (2). And a generally accessible cultural landmark for society was the proximity of the year 2000, which I think formed a psychological watershed for a great many people for whom 2000 was a year that represented The Gateway To The Future. While this congeries of factors probably wasn’t a coherent philosophical setting for most people (outside of an Arts Faculty lounge), I think it can be said that the concepts involved did filter down to form part of the intellectual landscape of a great many people in a similar way to that in which (according to Carlo Ginzburg) Domenico Scandella absorbed ideas to form a philosophical framework of his own (see The Cheese and the Worms).
This formed a particularly potent combination in Australia, this being - despite intermittent hyperventilation about “the rise of the religious right” - an almost completely deChristianized society (3). That is, it created the elements of a culture in which there was no apparent prospect of a new political or economic order, or any substantial belief in a (religiously) apocalyptic remaking of the world. One could say that the box labelled “a new heaven and a new earth” had been opened and turned out to be empty.
In this context, some parts of Australian society busied themselves with moral issues to take the place of evaporated political and religious quarrels (for example, arguments over land rights, the republic and the stolen generation ultimately did not have to be moral debates and could have remained disputes over resource ownership, constitutional theory and injury compensation). Others - closer to my generation - were Camusards with or without knowing it, going to the beach and to Bali, watching ‘90210’ and ‘Melrose Place’, and listening to music that swung between the empty-headed dreaming of The Cardigans and the world-hating ferocity of Smashing Pumpkins. It is this generation which is now in its thirties and (to my observation) seems lost in exactly the limbo that Camus foresaw. I’m not sure that, had they known of Camus twenty-or-so years ago, they would feel differently today, or would have lived their lives differently to this point. I also don’t think that a world-remaking crusade is something this generation needs or (after Iraq and Afghanistan) desires. I am, however, curious to see if time, culture and experience cause this generation - my generation - to create a culture which will go beyond limbo, finding a vision of life not rooted in the cafes and beaches of Algiers.
(1) This itself prompts an interesting contrast with, say, the French population of New Caledonia - the Caldoches - who tend to think of themselves as cut from much the same cultural cloth as Australians and New Zealanders.
(2) For the record, Fukuyama tended to think that the then European Economic Community, rather than the United States, was the direction in which history was going.
(3) Trust me on this. I‘m a conservative Catholic and can assure you we WISH we had the electoral clout we‘re usually believed to have. A good barometer, next time you hear someone assert “Australia is a Christian country …”, is to ask them as casually as possible who said there was “a time to every purpose under heaven, a time to be born, a time to die”. The answer will almost always be ‘The Byrds’ or ‘the soundtrack to Forrest Gump’, and not Ecclesiastes.
"Within a superabundance of life-giving and restoring forces, even misfortunes have a sunlike glow and engender their own consolation." This remark of Nietzsche's is true, and I have experienced it myself. And all I ask is that this strength and this superabundance should be given to me again, even if infrequently... A.C. 1959
چیزی که هنر نوشتن از نظر کاموست: مقاومت اخلاقی و سیاسی در برابر سلطه دروغ و ایدئولوژی است شرافت صنعت ما همواره در دو نوع تعهد ریشه داره یکی پرهیز از دروغ گفتن و دومی مقاومت در مقابل اختناق
سیاست از نظر کامو: 1. هنر ساماندهی جامعه است 2. مساله حس عمومی نسبت به کرامت انسانی که میدونیم برای کامو بسیار مهم است کرامت انسانی برای کامو بسیار مهم است کامو هیچ ایدئولوژی سیاسی وابسته نیست
کامو: دموکراسی سیستمی است که از همه کمتر بد است کامو همون مخالفتی که با راست میکنه با چپ هم میکنه میگه دموکراسی چون مرز نداره همیشه از همه سو در خطره فاشیسم موسیلینی نازیسم هیتلری استالینیزم شوروی هستش
در مقابل اینا باید بتونیم از دموکراسی دفاع کنیم کامو به کمونیسم: شما نمیتونین بگین خشونت ما انقلابی است قابل قبوله در جامعه تام گرا هیچ تحویلی ندارید تنها تحول حرکت از بد به بدتره ما در برابر تعصب ایدئولوژیک قرار میگیریم زمانی که هیچ پاسخگویی اخلاقی وجود نداره در سیستم های ایدئولوژیک و تام گرایی چنین چیزی نیست پاسخگویی به مردم نیست مردم صغیرند آدم نیستند کامو منتقد شدید تاریخی گری است شما نمیتونید قوانین تاریخی مطلق داشته باشید و بگید از این میریم فئودالیسم از اون میریم سرمایه داری از اون میریم سوسیالیسم اینا نقد کامو از شورویسم میرسه به نقد مارکسیسم کامو 1335 وارد حزب کمونیسم الجزایر میشه و 1337 خارج میشه از این حزب کامو سل میگیره فوتبالیست حرفه ای بوده نمیتونه بخاطر سل ادامه بده فقیر بودن درسش خیلی خوب بوده کامو یه استاد خوب داشته اون بهش میگه بیا کمونیسم کامو میره اون میاد بیرون! کامو تنها عذر من در پیوستن به کمونیستم اینه که خودمو نمیتونم از طبقه کارگر که جزوشون هستم خارج بشم اما کمونیسم اهداف کارگران و در چنگ خودش گرفته کمونیستا تا جایی که میتونن جلوي کامو رو میگیرن بخاطر انتقاد نپذیریشون در انسان طاغی مجادله اش و با مارکس و مارکسیسم مطرح میکنه تاریخی گری- مساله حقیقت و یزدان سالاری تام گرا و... از جمله موارد مخالفتش با کمونیسم است یزدان گرایی تام گرا: یعنی یه دین جدیده خدا نداره تاریخ و قدسی میکنه کمونیستم
کامو در مورد افرادی که فقط حرف میزنن میگه فلاسفه تماشاگر درس بزرگ کامو اینکه وقتی فهمیدیم دنیا پوچ است پس قهرمان پوچی باشیم و زندگی رو با وجود مشکلات به نحو احسن تجربه کنیم و لذت ببریم حتی از چیزهای ساده... شما خشم کامو رو در نوشته هاش حس میکنید کامو انقلاب مجارستان در 56 مقاله داره و دفاع شدید داره در موردش این اولین انقلاب ضد کمونیستی است قبل از پراگ است
کامو با امپریالیسم غربی هم مخالفت بسیار کرده در مورد رزنبرگ ها که کمونیست های جاسوس بودن که امریکایی ها کشتنشون کامو ازین دفاع میکنه که مخالفتش از کشتن کمونیستا در امریکا رو بیان میکنه کامو: اگه زمانی کمونیسم بودم هیچ گاه مارکسیسم نبودم مارکس و با داستایوفسکی مقایسه میکنه: برای مدتی فکر میکنیم مارکس پیامبر زمان بود ولی مدتی بعد فهمیدیم پيامبر همان داستایوفسکی بود و مفتش قرن
مخالفت کامو با کمونیسم و سرمایه داری در سه موضوع است: 1. مساله تاریخ که در جزوه بحران انسان درباره ش صحبت میکنه و میگه: تاریخ انسان ها تاریخ خطاهای آنهاست نه تاریخ حقایق آنها 2. نگرش دوم نگرش کامو به حقیقت است و میگه حقیقت مثل سعادت ساده و بدون تاریخ است ایدئولوزی ها همه میگن خطه مشخصه تاریخ داره 3. مساله سیاست: هدف سیاست مهیا کردن جهان با انجیل سیاسی نیست. سياست سامان دادن به خانه ماست نه پرداختن به مسائل دروغین آن.
کامو: ما باید انتخاب بکنیم بین تنهایی با خداوند یا تاریخ با انسان ها کامو تنهایی با خدا براش جالب نیست میاد از هنرش برای بیان درد انسان ها کار میکنه
عندما تهجم عليك الأسئلة الوجودية، ويعيث الشك والارتياب عالمك، ستدخل لمتاهات من اليأس والتشاؤم، ولابد أن تعيد توجيه بوصلتك من جد��د لكي تستطيع أن تعيش هذه الحياة. فكنت محتارة كيف أستطيع أن أسيطر على تفكيري؟ وهل يجب أن أظل في حالة من البحث والتفكير. هذه الحالة جعلتني أفقد قدرتي على العيش، وبدأت في الانسحاب من الحياة تدريجيا، لكن كان هذا هو الخطأ الذي اكتشفته قبل حدوث الكارثة، لأجد كل ما مررت به وما خلصت إليه، في هذا الكتاب لألبير كامو.
في هذه المقالات رأيت جانب آخر بعيدا عن التشاؤم والسوداوية التي ارتبطت بألبير كامو، هنا وجدت كلماته عن حب الحياة والسعادة والوعي والموت والسفر. "هؤلاء الذين يفضلون مبادئهم على سعادتهم، يرفضون أن يكونوا سعداء خارج الظروف المرتبطة بسعادتهم”
عندما تتحول مبادئنا التي شكلت حياتنا الداخلية إلى عادات، فنشوة الروتين والإنتاجية المنظمة، تدخلنا في حالة من الجمود، فبدلا من أن توسع قدرتنا على السعادة فهي تحد منها. فلهذا نخاف من السفر، وهذا الخوف هو ما يعطي قيمة له، فهو يكسر نوع من البنية الداخلية لدينا، فلم يعد بإمكاننا أن نغش أو أن نختبئ وراء ساعات العمل الطويلة في المكتب أو في المصنع، هذه الساعات التي تحمينا جيدا من ألم وحدتنا. مردداً تحذير كيركيغارد: “من بين جميع الأشياء السخيفة، أكثرها سخافة بالنسبة لي، أن تكون مشغولاً” وكتبَ الفيلسوف الدنمركي أن كثرة التفكير أكبر مصدر من مصادر التعاسة، ويعتبر كامو أن نشوة الإنتاجية تسرق منا الوجود اللازم لتحقيق السعادة، والمهم هو أن تكون إنسانا بسيطا وحقيقيا، وعندها سيكون كل شيء في مكانه المناسب، الإنسانية والبساطة: بساطة الوعي.
أما بخصوص ثنا��ية الموت والحياة، فكلاهما ضروري لتعريف الآخر، فالموت هو ما يعطي للحب شكله مثلما يعطي للحياة شكلها، محولا كل ذلك على قدر. فإذا ماتت المرأة التي تحبها فحبك لها سيبقى ثابتًا إلى الأبد، ولولا تلك النهاية لتلاشى. ولولا الموت لكانت الحياة سلسلة من الأشكال المتلاشية، ولحسن الحظ، هناك ما هو ثابت، الموت. يرى ألبير كامو أن الحب يساعد المرء على المضي في حياته ضد اليأس والعالم العبثي: يجب أن يكون لدى المرء حُب – حب كبير في حياته، لأنه ضد حالات اليأس غير المبرر التي تضنينا.
أظن أن ألبير حاول وضع إجابات عن أسئلة طرحها في روايات وكتبه السابقة حول الوجودية وعبثية الحياة التي نعيشها، وعن بحثنا الدائم عن الحقيقة في هذا العالم العبثي، فليس له أي حقيقة وكل من يعتقد بأنه وصل إلى الحقيقة فهو واهم، ويكفي فقط أن تعيش الحياة ببساطة.
And i finished it. It took me 4 month, with excruating on and off reading in between writing my never ending thesis. Camus essay to me, will always will be sublime, poetic, represent compelling resilient that i can always turn to. I remember vaguely in my lonely day when i'm first start college, i first get ahold of The Stranger in my freshman year of college. It blew my mind as soon i finished it. There many thing that i didn't understand first, but as life goes on, Camus writing come accros to me once again, in my 21st years of age.
It start with the beauty of the passage "In the midst of winter, i found there was, within me, an invisible summer" and his art come back to me many years after i vaguely understand, and finished The Stranger. And the immerse feeling for founding the ray of light vividly represented in book, a right book in desperate hour of need. That is how i discovered Camus book once again.
Different than Hemingway, in which i found raw, simple, even to the point parsimonious strenght againts suffering, or Subagio, whose poem in my own languange, i can search for warm, and consolation, where i can mummur his brutal and philoshopical verse again and again. But in Camus, i see a combination of both, completed but not replace two writer that i held in high esteem, become my main reason to falling in love in literature.
I hold Camus in high esteem: I know of no other author who has written a less thrilling, less plot-filled story full of such meaningful, yet contradictory symbols (sun and ennui, hope and hopelessness, absurd and realism, personal truth and societal lies). I speak of The Stranger. On the other hand, Camus's Myth of Sisyphus should be taught in schools as the survival manual for the modern man who struggles to find meaning in today's hectic world.
Lyrical and Critical Essays is true to its title: here you will find a Camus, poetic and sharp, but always full of sun and sea, full of humanity, and of love for life. That latter point is the most important one. Before this book I had not realised how much Camus truly loved his existence on this planet and how much he wished to transfer this feeling to his fellow man—a mission worthy of the Nobel Prize he was awarded.
These essays illustrate with precision and elegance Camus’s ardor for life and his concerns about materialistic excess. The core of his empowering and inspiring philosophy focuses on how to save life. This quest involves acknowledging, understanding, and practicing tolerance and moderation. Failure or refusal to do so leaves the world vengeful and violent. Life is exiled when the mind is abandoned. The greatest wisdom comes from admitting that we cannot know everything. In trying to remake the world, we must be wary of the use of tyranny. Art and beauty must be embraced. Art is liberty, and liberty is beauty. There is a choice between creation and inquisition. All of Camus's central ideas echo strongly in these essays, and he shows how ignorance leads to misunderstanding and destruction. In poetic fashion, he also expresses his lifelong admiration for the sun’s power to have a medicinal effect on life. Indulgence with life and nature will ensure that everything life has to offer will never be lost.
Some incredible essays. My favorite book of them was the first, which contains "Irony" and "Between Yes and No" which were both incredibly sad, and "Love Of Life" which had an amazing scene at a gay bar in Palma in the 1930s. Some essays, like "Nupitals at Tipisa" are just beautiful, rhapsodic celebrations of our bodies and nature. There's also some fascinating (and surprising to me at least) theological thought, such as "Portrait of a Chosen Man". In all, I preferred the Lyrical essays, which made up the first half of the book, to the Critical ones. Many of the critical essays were discussion of writers who Camus admired, but none of which I had heard of or read (aside from a brief one about Sartre).
Scattered throughout are observations that felt very like criticisms one hears about society today. Seeing that all of these essays are from the 1930's through 1950's, this was a healthy reminder that no generic social complaint is really all that new: - "They say I'm active. But being active is still wasting one's time, if in doing one loses oneself." Reminded me of a popular NYT oped from a ~5 years ago. - "What I wish for now is no longer happiness but simply awareness" reminded me of something you can hear from modern day philosopher, Bill Murray. - "...if I hear of another that he despises intelligence, I realize that he cannot bear his doubts" sounds like a constantly appearing complaint against the anti-intellectualism movement of today's politics (too many references to bother picking one) - "Today, mankind needs and cares only for technology" - In reflection on nuclear armament... "We, who have thrown both universe and mind out of orbit, find such threats amusing. In a drunken sky we ignite the suns that suit us." -"For if there is a sin against life, it lies perhaps less in despairing of it than in hoping for another life and evading the implacable grandeur of the one we have." I suppose this is evergreen thinking, but feels very pinterest-y. I'm sure I saw something like it on a dorm room wall in college... - And the best of all: "A writer writes to a great extent to be read... Yet more and more... he writes in order to obtain that final consecration which consists of not being read. In fact, from the moment he can provide the material for a feature article in the popular press, there is every possibiliyt that he will be known to a fairly large number of people who will never read his works because they will be content to know his name and to read what other people wreite about him. From that point on he will be known (and forgotten) not for what he is, but according to the image a hurried journalist has given of him... Praise be, then, to a society that teaches us so cheaply, every day, by its very homage, that the gretness it honors is worthless."
There is a great song by Jonathan Larson in tick tick BOOM that asks the question of whether you will choose to live your life with fear or love. Aside from their great scores and humor, this is why Broadway musicals are so popular – they lead us to a seemingly obvious path to attempt. Philosophy, on the other hand, has the potential to stymie us in our decisions as likely as it is to help us journey forward. Camus would have us consider a life path based on either optimism or love. Not as obvious a choice there. And regardless, Camus and other “great” philosophers are unlikely to help us get there in an reasonable amount of time, certainly not in an evening, or week, or the months it took to fully digest the volume Albert Camus Lyrical and Critical Essays .
Having read The Stranger years ago, and having being told by a teacher Camus was a genius, I had read it more to understand enough to meet the teachers expectations (i.e. pass the test), and both enjoyed it and had no reason to doubt their estimation of Camus. Now, reading his essays, I can appreciate his often brilliant writing while realizing that his philosophies and view points are not ones that I would align with my life ethos. He was a misogynist, a Francophile to an unbelievable amount, and had an ego that was so shockingly large I’m astounded that the interviewers could fit in the same room with both him and it in order to conduct the question and answer session.
However, he is a great philosopher-writer, even if I would personally deem him not a very good man. So here are a few pieces of what you can expect if you delve into the waters of his essays, which are not as warm and welcoming as the beaches of Algiers:
“For every man has a deep instinct that is neither for destruction nor creation. Simply the longing to resemble nothing.”
“Suddenly he realizes that tomorrow will be the same, and, after tomorrow, all the other days. And he is crushed by the irreparable discovery. Its ideas like this that kill one.”
“For there is only misfortune in not being loved; there is misery in not loving. All of us, today, are dying of this misery. This is because blood and hatred lay bare the heart itself; the long demand for justice exhausts even the love that gave it birth. In the clamor we live in, love is impossible and justice is not enough.”
“Someone who insists on always being right will always feel alone against everyone else; it is impossible to live with others and be right at the same time.”
The most obvious question about this classic volume of essays is: "Who is it for?" It is made up of numerous small texts: three collections of prose essays, many book reviews, letters, and interviews. This makes it fairly clear that, as a product, is targeted towards people already familiar with Camus. This volume fills in gaps, and provides context and clarity. For example, there are many subtle and nuanced reflections on Camus' notion of 'the Absurd' without any theoretical details - it is assumed that the reader is already familiar with the concept. The texts contained in this book are enriching, and help us to deepen our already existing understanding of Camus' writings and philosophy. This is the goal of 'Lyrical and Critical Essays'.
But that in itself is a shame. There is more in this volume than what is useful to the Camus scholar. The prose collections, particularly Nuptials, are excellent on their own merits. They offer some of Camus' most expressive and vivid writing, and include meditations on the sensuousness of nature that are unmatched. Camus' naturalism in these essays evokes an expressive and vivid passion that puts the reader back in touch with the world and reaches out beyond the absurd condition of the individual in its relationship to the world, which is perhaps the most prominent common theme in Camus' narrative novels. These prose essays aim at an entirely different target than the novels and use different means to reach them while still sitting comfortably within Camus' style. Ellen Conroy Kennedy's translation is particularly valuable in this aspect, as it carries the complex and Romantic richness of Camus' descriptive voice while preserving the structural twists of Modernist stream-of-consciousness. Such a feat of translation is impressive, given that French has a tolerance for run-on sentences and compound phrases that English does not.
Though as a volume this book is most valuable to Camus' established fans, there are many elements which should appeal to anyone looking for 20th Century Romantic prose. Personally, the lyrical essays in this volume are my favourite Camus writings so far. There is a secure balance between pessimism and optimism, a meditative reflection on the historical context of looming and passing war, and a delicate fusion of Romantic and Modernist techniques. It's a rare and brilliant style, particularly amongst today's literature.
This collection has a "show" and "tell" quality to it, in that, the "Lyrical" essays are mostly filled with descriptive impressions Camus makes as he observes and responds to the world while the "Critical" essays are more associated with his need to express his compulsion to tether his ideas down and attempt to refine and articulate his own arguments, even as he subsumes another's work.
I prefer the latter to the former.
While there is great beauty in how Camus sees the world and his impressions of his environment, we as readers, also are aware of a man who does not yet know himself or how he thinks. Yes, it's interesting to see how a person, such as Camus, looks at the world which would later inform how he responds to the world, but this is also a Camus that I was not aware of -- one who leans more into bigotry, bitterness, over-sensitivity, self-pitying, prejudicial and one who is invariably looking at the world through eyes of unacknowledged privilege. Yet these are the grains that will eventually lead to the man; it's just these lyrical essays only offer the one side, the unacknowledged or unaware side of Camus -- which is fine, but grating to plow through before his more revelatory contemplation.
Camus' critical essays are far better: not only do they often -- not always -- recognise his own limitations, it is made very clear in almost every essay in this section that he is desperately trying to work out his own ideas through understanding others. Reading a man's acknowledgement of his own ignorance, his identifying with others, his rejection of certain principles even when he, as yet, cannot articulate his own ideas clearly, is tremendously gratifying. Thought is trying; it requires patience even when your own flawed and limited brain does not yet have the language to adequately express it: Camus' critical essays offer this for his readers.
So despite the lyrical essays' limitations, once I finished the critical essays, I saw how necessary they were; for it is important to show a man, flawed, a man who responds to the world by reacting to it, for a man to be shown as so tragically ordinary first, to show we, all of us, may be capable of envisioning a world in which we feel some semblance of identity and purpose even in the face of such absurdity. This world may be absurd to Camus, but he is nevertheless charmed by it.
I was telling myself that I could live and die reading only Camus. I don't know if this is true, but here are some favorite quotes:
"The people I have loved have always been better and greater than I. Poverty as I knew it taught me not resentment but a certain fidelity and silent tenacity." (10)
"If solitude exists, and I don't know if it does, one should certainly have the right to dream of it occasionally as paradise." (13)
"I know that I am wrong, that we cannot give ourselves completely. Otherwise, we could not create. But there are no limits to loving, and what does it matter to me if I hold things badly if I can embrace everything?" (57)
"I can say and in a moment I shall say that what counts is to be human and simple. No, what counts is to be true, and then everything fits in, humanity and simplicity. When am I truer than when I am the world? My cup brims over before I have time to desire. Eternity is there and I was hoping for it. What I wish for now is no longer happiness but simply awareness." (60-61)
"For me it is enough to live with my whole body and bear witness with my whole heart." (70)
"Sometimes, at night, I would sleep open-eyed beneath a sky flowing with stars. I was alive at those moments." (163)
"The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning. This is a truth nearly all great minds have taken as their starting point..." (201)
"At the center of my work there is an invincible sun." (352) [interview]
"The fact remains that writing while others are gagged or imprisoned is a delicate undertaking. So as not to fall short, either in one direction or in the other, we have to remember that the writer lives for his work and fights for liberties." (358) [interview]
I won't pretend to be any kind of expert on philosophical works, nor the majority of the people discussed in Camus' critical essays. There is a beauty to his prose, though, that I think anybody can appreciate. This has been my introduction to one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century, and I was not at all disappointed. This is, as far as I can tell, a stunning translation from the French, and the careful tone of Camus does carry through to the English reader.
Reading his descriptions of nature and the lives of the impoverished were my favorite parts of the collection; it's when the ardor in his heart is most clearly conveyed, and his mask of austerity comes down for a brief period of time. Reading could be tricky at times, and I frequently had to re-read entire paragraphs to attempt to understand what he was trying to say, but that didn't detract from the magic of the experience to me. Coming at Camus from the perspective of the novice, it's clear he was a master of the craft, and I'm only sorry to not have anything more poignant or impactful to say; simply, that few writers have inspired in me such a clear image of their surroundings.