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