Review of The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus

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The Myth of Sisyphus was published in 1942, shortly after Camus’ other work, The Stranger. It is an essay based on the question of whether life has a meaning; notoriously, the book starts with this line, ‘’There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide’’. Thereafter, Camus proclaims life’s meaninglessness and introduces us to the concept of the absurd; a paradoxical concept each one of us encounters at some point in our lives. The entire essay revolves around this vital issue and how by becoming an ‘absurd-man’ one can be capable of surmounting it. In the days he published his work, Camus was commonly labelled as an ‘existentialist’ (probably because of his friendship with Sartre), but this wasn’t the case. His philosophy of the absurd compels the individual to accept the meaninglessness of life (here comes the misconception of construing existentialism as a modified version of nihilism), instead of encouraging the individual to embroider their life with their own meaning, like an existentialist would.

While reading the essay, it is extremely easy to spot its continental nature; florid language and the profusion of metaphors are generators which at times, bring this essay to life. Hence, before approaching this book, one should acclimatise themselves to this style of writing, as for a casual reader who hasn’t read any continental works before, The Myth Of Sisyphus will come out as unfathomable and mundane. Personally, I have read a few continental works before (including Sartre’s Nausea) and found this to be a difficult read regardless.

In comparison to The Stranger, the main difference lies within the style of writing, because the books imply the same idea: that life is absurd; in The Stranger, the character faces a realization of this at the very end, whereas in The Myth of Sisyphus, the problem is pointed out immediately by the author. However, for any avid reader who wants to start reading Camus and perhaps learn about his philosophical outlook, The Stranger is the best place to embark on this uneasy venture.

 

 

A short work competent of remoulding one’s life perspective forever

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Review of The Outsider by Albert Camus

The Outsider is a piece of philosophical literature published by a French philosopher, Albert Camus, in 1942. It’s a story about a bizarre man, Meursault, whose mother died; however, the man doesn’t remember the exact date of this tragic event, he famously proclaims at the beginning of the novel: ‘My mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know’

This particular quote encompasses phenomenally the apathetic tone that is sustained by the character throughout the entire novel; his disinterest; his way of seeing everything as ‘normal’ and his ineptitude to ennoble anything with real importance – because do those things matter after all? Clearly, Camus is secretly hurling the burden of existentialist perception at our backs and allowing us to realise the effect by repeatedly have the protagonist point out the pointless and neutral nature of everything.

Continuing with the plot, Meursault spends his time casually: meeting new people, going swimming, and dating with his former colleague. All done straight after his mother’s death. Nevertheless, one time the world goes against his apparent callousness when he shoots an Arab listlessly, perhaps to know how it feels to shoot with a gun, thereby he is put on a trial and a debate over an execution proceeds…

As a piece of existential work, I think that The Outsider is an integral piece of work, for it demonstrates Camus’ view on the absurdity of the universe and existence (especially at the end), which is a challenge as it is difficult to abbreviate such a viewpoint within a rudimentary (by ‘rudimentary’ I mean that despite the simplicity of the events the character went through, the writer still managed to convey his ideas effectively) plot. In a general viewpoint on The Outsider, I admire it as well, because of the contrast established by Meursault as a protagonist; we wouldn’t normally expect a book to be based on a psyche of a callous and disinterested man, would we? Hence, in the world of literature, this book does indeed, sparkle as an outsider.

In terms of its length, however, I didn’t like the shortness of the book; Camus missed the chance of presenting other philosophical perspectives via other, complex characters, that could perhaps counteract the philosophy of the absurd. I think that if Camus did implement other, complex viewpoints, the work would reach a larger audience. Christianity was played by several characters, but I think that it bequeathed the audience with a shallow image of this religion.

As expected, Meursault did make me think about the point behind my everyday actions and the awards and conclusions I’m – at times mindlessly – pursuing. On the positive note, the book in overall made me interested in existentialist books, thus why immediately after finishing this, I’ve started reading Sartre’s (a French existentialist philosopher who shared a friendship with Camus) Nausea. Of course, later on, I shall read another classic by Camus: The Plague.

To give a short, one-lined recommendation of this book:

A manifestation of a complex philosophy, seemingly concealed by a simple plot. Remarkable