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Lyrical and Critical Essays

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  870 ratings  ·  58 reviews
"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 Amer
Paperback, 365 pages
Published September 12th 1970 by Vintage (first published October 28th 1968)
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Rakhi Dalal
Nov 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rakhi by: Jeremy Davies
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 be ...more
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rowena by: Anthony
Shelves: essays, philosophy, camus

“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 essa
Kathryn Bashaar
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
nora walid
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
and I quote from Camus with total agreement: "There is more love in these awkward pages than in all those that have followed."
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
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
Oct 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
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 b ...more
Carole B
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Stephen Tuck
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 yea
Nicole Fegan
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
i want to live inside of albert camus’s lyrical essays. at the heart of the world’s most famous absurdist is a man who loves life endlessly and just wants to swim in the algerian sea.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Favorite book ever read, can't even begin to explain.
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, essays
Socrates' dream of knowledge: know what you do not know. Acknowledge your ignorance and search for beauty. Reach for the greatness of classical Greece.
Rahul  Adusumilli
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
Rob Marchant
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Why live, if we’re going to die?

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
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 i
Roger DeBlanck
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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 w ...more
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: albert-camus
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 woul ...more
Fraser Kinnear
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 m ...more
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 ass ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
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 o
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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. Otherw
Mark Mulvey
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
"What I do have, which always comes to me without my asking for it, I can’t seem to keep. Less from extravagance, I think, than from another kind of parsimony: I cling like a miser to the freedom that disappears as soon as there is an excess of things. [...] For me, the greatest luxury has always coincided with a certain barrenness.”

“It’s not conceit that makes me greet compliments with that stupid, ungrateful look I know so well, but (along with the profound indifference that haunts me like a n
C. J.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked the first part of the book i.e. `Lyrical Essays` because of the poetic, lyrical prose but I had difficulty understanding the philosophy discussed in these first essays. The second part of the book , namely, `Critical Essays` I would have understood better perhaps, if I had actually read the works being discussed, although the essays were well written and potentially very interesting.
I hope to revisit this book, especially the `Lyrical Essays`, which I read through once, but I feel I need
Christopher O
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
in Between Yes and No: “When everything’s over, the thirst for life is gone. Is this what’s called happiness? As we skirt along these memories, we clothe everything in the same quiet garb, and death looks like a backdrop whose colors have faded. We turn back into ourselves. We feel our distress and like ourselves the better for it. Yes, perhaps that’s what happiness is, the self-pitying awareness of our unhappiness.”
Juan Ríos
Nov 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful insights of a life lived as he would have said " to the point of tears". In his lyrics Camus writes from the heart, illustrating those moments that took his breath away, moments full of awe and embedded in eternity - in his memories, in his writing -. Loved his observations about love, pain, transcendence, meaning of life and a life worth living.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic, kindle, e
camus is simply amazing. his lyrical essays are A+++++. skipped the critical ones because i dont understand shit, but i KNOW that theyre amazing anyways.
Ian Miller
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Some of most beautiful writing ever is in this book
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
The short stories were so and so, but I thoroughly enjoyed the critical essays on Sartre, Melville and Faulkner as well as the diary notes.
Feb 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It is time for new readers to come to this book. I would
still like to be one of them, just as I would like to go back
to that evening when, after opening this little volume in
the street, I closed it again as soon as I had read the first
lines, hugged it tight against me, and ran up to my room to
devour it without witnesses. (Camus, On Jean Greniers Les Iles)

How Camus felt about Les Iles, I had felt about his Resistance, Rebellion and Death. And now, this book. Rarely, have I enjoyed just savo
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Albert Camus for the win. Always. Will recommend.
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in Camus, the lyric essay, and writing on nature and philosophy.
Recommended to Kirsten by: Elizabeth
This book is split into two sections of essays. The lyrical essays in the first section are probably of more interest to the general reader, since the critical essays are often in response to other works of French literature (not having read all of them, it's a bit harder to follow Camus's arguments). The very last section contains some interviews with him, where he emphatically denies being a nihilist.

What was unexpected for me is that the lyrical essays are almost all nature essays in some re
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Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a representative of non-metropolitan French literature. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest in philosophy (only chance prevented him from pursuing a university care ...more

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