A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning
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Exploring themes that preoccupied Albert Camus--absurdity, silence, revolt, fidelity, and moderation--Robert Zaretsky portrays a moralist who refused to be fooled by the nobler names we assign to our actions, and who pushed himself, and those about him, to challenge the status quo. For Camus, rebellion against injustice is the human condition.
growing self-awareness once he is imprisoned and tried for the murder of the Arab. He grows more reflective, but the reflection is provided by a society that shuns him: he is an outsider who has forfeited his right to live among men and women. The prosecuting magistrate, who had peered into Meursault’s soul, announces to a stunned jury that he had “found nothing human.”71 Indeed, it was as if a glass partition had been thrown between the magistrate and Meursault. In the seclusion of his prison
entire atelier went under? “A man doesn’t change trades when he’s taken the trouble to learn one, and a difficult one, demanding a long apprenticeship.” Giving up his trade was unthinkable, but so too was resigning himself to an inadequate paycheck and knowing his labor was undervalued. In so unforgiving a situation, “it was difficult to close your mouth.”36 Yet, by the time he reaches the workshop, this is precisely what Yvars and his fellow workers will do. As he lifts his stiff body off the
are we to find meaning? What must we do if meaning is not to be found? Can we live our lives without the reassurance, once provided by religion, of transcendental justifications for the world and its denizens? The question, Camus concludes, is “to find out if it is possible to live without appeal.”13 As a literary and philosophical quarry, the absurd first appears in Camus’ journal in May 1936, the same month he defended his dissertation on the subject of neo-Platonism at the University of
bureaucracies. Camus was intensely preoccupied by these same tendencies in American culture and politics. His voice, along with that of François Mauriac, was the only one in the French press to recoil at the news of Hiroshima. In an editorial published in the short space between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Camus announced that the “civilization of the machine has just achieved its ultimate degree of savagery.” Rather than celebrating this event, which smacked of “indecency,” Camus
disguises, which they have donned to escape the attention of the czarist police. When Dora tells Kaliayev that his gentlemanly attire suits him, Kaliayev, laughing, returns the compliment, telling Dora how pretty she is in her “fancy dress.” But she refuses the compliment: after all, the two friends are planning the assassination of the Grand Duke, an act that will lead to their own deaths. Yet Kaliayev will have none of it: “Dora, there’s always such a sad look in your eyes. But you should be