Camus at 100: Rock On!


Interesting piece in the LA Times about the 100th birthday of Albert Camus. Here's a snippet:

Camus is famous for two works that plumb absurdity. In "The Stranger," Meursault senselessly kills a man — an act the absurdity of which is revealed only when others demand in vain a reason. "The Myth of Sisyphus," in turn, considers the punishment meted out to the mythical king of Corinth, condemned to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a mountainside, only to watch it roll back down. Both heroes overcome their absurd fate by embracing it, by making it their own. We must, Camus concluded, imagine them happy.

But by the time the books were published in occupied France, Camus was no longer happy with their conclusions. The absurd, he scrawled in his journal, "teaches nothing." Instead of looking to ourselves for answers, as do his heroes, we must look to others. We are, Camus recognized, condemned to live together in this silent world. Our deepest impulse, once we realize the silence will never end, is to refuse this state of affairs. To shout "no" to the world as it is, to shout "yes" to the world as it should be.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Veronique de Rugy.

If you ever dug Camus (or still do), I highly recommend George Cotkin's Existential America (2003). From a review:

"To be existential," writes Cotkin, "is to wrestle most fully with the jagged awareness of one's own finitude, with the thunderbolt fact that my death will be my own, experienced by no one else….To be existential is to recognize, in the face of all these somber truths clutched close to our own sense of being, that we must act."

Cotkin's most original insight is something that escaped Camus and the others: "Existentialism, American style…jibes well with American antinomianism, that willingness of the lonely individual to rebel against entrenched authority in the name of his or her most intense beliefs. Antinomianism, like existentialism, challenges easy certitude, entrenched religion, and moribund political assumptions."