Albert Camus and the Concept of the Absurd (Example of the Myth of Sisyphus)June 26, 2021
Born to a French family in Mondovi, Algeria, Albert Camus (1913-60) left an important mark as a philosophical novelist and essayist.
At the age of seventeen, he was diagnosed with cancer and his sporting career on the Algiers University football team ended. Due to illness, he also had to continue his education life part-time and worked in small jobs such as private tutoring.
During the Second World War he participated in the anti-German resistance in Paris. Among his most famous writings are his novel “The Foreigner” (written in 1940 and published in 1942) and his book-length essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” (written in 1941 and published in 1943). Both works examine the concept of the absurd.
Sisyphus is a king in Greek mythology who was condemned to roll a large boulder forever to the highest point of a hill. As you take the rock to the top, it rolls down again, and Sisyphus has to start all over again. Albert Camus saw a parallel between Sisyphus and the workers of his time, who spent time doing “the same jobs” every day.
During the war, he was the editor of an underground newspaper, Combat, as part of his role in the resistance. Camus became editor of the newspaper in 1943 and reported that the struggle was over when the Allies liberated Paris. Except for Camus, only a couple of editors publicly expressed their opposition to the US dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 8, 1945. Camus resigned two years later because he thought the paper had become too commercial.
It was then that he met Jean-Paul Sartre. The two became regulars at the Cafe de Flore on the Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris, where they had conversations on politics and existentialism. Camus made frequent trips to the United States, where he lectured on French thought. At the same time, he harshly criticized Communist ideology, which led him to part ways with Sartre. In the 1950s, it focused on human rights. He protested the Soviet repression in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, as an indomitable pacifist, he expressed his views against the death penalty all over the world. In 1957, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature not for his novel “The Fall”, which was published in the same year, but for his articles against the death penalty included in his essay “Reflexions Sur La Guillotine” (On the Guillotine).
Camus died on January 4, 1960 in a car accident. The train ticket in his pocket is thought to indicate that he first planned to travel by train and later changed his mind. Oddly enough, Camus said earlier in his life that the most absurd form of death would be a car accident.
Camus describes absurdity as both a human condition and “a pervasive sensibility of our time”. While many of Camus’ works deal with the absurdity of human existence, “The Myth of Sisyphus” is perhaps his most direct approach to the concept of absurdity. It can also be defined as the confrontation between your absurd self—your craving for meaning, rationality, and justice—and “an indifferent, silent universe.” Sisyphus, who was condemned by the gods to the endless and futile task of rolling a rock up a mountain (which rolls back and forth again and again before reaching the top) is a reference to the human condition, an analogy: the person is trying to accomplish a task, whereas the effort he puts forth is tiring, laborious. and it is hopeless.
In an essay entitled “An Absurd Reasoning,” Camus wrote: “This divorce between man and his life, between the actor and his scene, is the very sense of absurdity.” But what Camus does with the absurd is what makes up the most interesting part of his philosophy. It is interesting to recognize and accept our human condition, but not to suggest anything to do with it. Camus did both.
Has existentialism extended beyond France in the twentieth century? Yes, existentialism has infiltrated American art forms in the twentieth century. A prime example is Herman Hesse’s popular 1928 novel Steppenwolf, based on the Kierkegaarchn Either — Or (1843). At the same time, Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation poets of the 1950s also adopted existential themes.
Camus advises you not to run from your condition as a human being. You should not commit suicide. Rather, you should embrace the absurd. He calls keeping the nonsense alive “an attitude of perpetual revolution”. He wrote: To live is to keep the absurd alive. To keep the absurd alive is, above all, to reflect on it. The absurd dies only when we turn away from it. Thus, one of the rare coherent philosophical positions is rebellion. It is a constant confrontation, an encounter between man and one’s own obscurity… It challenges the world anew at every passing moment.
Like the hero doctor in Camus’s novel The Plague, one must insist on the absurd and not give up. One must live with perseverance and courage, for there is only one true bud.