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The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays by…
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The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (original 1942; edition 1991)

by Albert Camus (Author), Justin O'Brien (Translator)

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4,76428982 (3.99)64
Member:TheCriticalTimes
Title:The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
Authors:Albert Camus (Author)
Other authors:Justin O'Brien (Translator)
Info:Vintage (1991), 212 pages
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The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays by Albert Camus (1942)

  1. 20
    The Fall by Albert Camus (WilfGehlen)
    WilfGehlen: The Fall brings to mind The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Coleridge--tales that attempt to imbue the innocent with the wisdom of experience.
  2. 22
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (WilfGehlen)
    WilfGehlen: Camus was greatly influenced by Melville and in The Myth of Sisyphus mentions Moby-Dick as a truly absurd work. Reading Moby-Dick with Camus' absurd in mind gives a deeper, and very different insight than provided by the usual emphasis on Ahab's quest for revenge.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
In this extended philosophical essay (not a fictional retelling of the myth of Sisyphus, as I had believed for some reason), Albert Camus addresses the "one truly serious philosophical problem": suicide (pg. 1), or, more specifically, why we don't all suicide in a world where we know (by any reasonable and logical metric) that there is no god and everything will turn to dust and suffering is plentiful in this short, thankless life we live. The title comes from the ancient Greek myth in which a man is condemned by the gods to thankless labour: rolling a boulder up a hill every day, only for it to tumble down before it reaches the top and he must begin again the next day.

It's all profound stuff – essential stuff – and Camus' responses to the philosophical dilemmas he identifies are sound and, often, inspiring. At first, I suspected the translation from the French was not particularly healthy because the prose is rather dense, but then philosophy does tend in that direction. When Camus has something important to say, the poetry of it usually comes across in English and this short little book is surprisingly quotable. Camus has good answers and ideas in response to the essential worry about life, even if his ideas are better served in his fiction (see The Plague). It must sound like heavy stuff, but The Myth of Sisyphus is uplifting at times and worth digging into. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Nov 13, 2017 |
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” This is the sentence Camus begins this essay with.
He ultimately refutes suicide as the right option in the face of the absurd. It's giving in to the absurd. It doesn't serve any purpose. Rather one must revolt against it by choosing to live.

Camus's absurd heroes hurl themselves into the absurd. They Create their own meaning in life by rebelling against absurd. In contrast, for kierkegaard to act upon the face of the absurd is to act upon faith. Now Camus considers this a philosophical suicide. For him, it is embracing the irrational. I’m not really sure about that, because for Kierkegaard, faith doesn’t preclude reason but it comes after that. Camus has a great mistrust of reason, but for him there is nothing beyond reason.

Now coming to the last part of Sisyphus.
If sisyphus's life is futile and hopeless, the rest of our lives are not any different either. All through our lives we engage in futile labour. We despair and suffer. But there can be no happiness without despair.

"One must imagine sisyphus happy".

This is the sentence the essay ends with. Sisyphus must be imagined to be happy because he chooses to be happy. Now Camus is very different to other existentialists. He is not really a philosopher. On one hand he places a lot of importance on human experience like Kierkegaard and Heidegger, but on the other hand he doesn’t give us any complete system of world-view like others. He doesn’t give us anything new, but he makes us see things in a different way. The absurd hero is happy because he chooses to be happy. So happiness here is a part of the absurdity.

( )
  kasyapa | Oct 9, 2017 |
a Big minus was that i have not read kafka, kierkegaard or dostoyevsky enough to fully absorb the references. However there were some great notions and remarks about life, the meaning and meaninglessness of it and a postmodern view into Eurpean (western) culture. ( )
  Kindnist85 | May 25, 2016 |
camus took the will to order
shoved it up the ass of time
he got shit from every quarter
learned to love it overtime

from the cafe he would venture
walking on the arm of death
risking our eternal censure
should it leave him out of breath

whether in extremes of passion
or asleep upon the edge
when he arrived... at the non-solution...
he would wear it like a badge
5 vote Crypto-Willobie | May 8, 2016 |
Despite not having read this b I'd been deploying it for years--at least the payoff line, "We must imagine Sisyphus happy"--for years, as wry humour and positive self-talk, so it's about time I got around to actually dipping in. The high concept here is that there is really only one philosophical problem--the "problem of suicide," whether to keep living in an absurd world--and that serves as a hook but it's really more of a red herring: Camus is trying to establish the way of being appropriate to absurdity, yes, but (it may not surprise you to hear) suicide was never really in the offing. It's more a variation on the old "happy pig/unhappy philosopher" thought experiment, except in Camus's estimation neither the pig nor the philosopher is really happy, and the first thing you gotta do, right now buddy, is let go of the idea that happiness was ever on the table.

But then how do we imagine Sisyphus that way? Fundamental here (which means "fundamental to the nature of human being" as well as "fundamental to this essay") is the distinction between the absurd and the irrational--absurdity is not the foot in hand, talking to my wall, or the bacchanal or the berserker, far from that, reason is central, we might say or at least I will say absurdity is the state of being a rational being in an irrational world. It is, of course, as a rational being, entirely unmeet (not absurd, not absurd) in such a setting to think or behave rationally, in the sense of the deductive thinker: the only thinking with integrity is not unifying, making an explanation, but the opposite--phenomenology, the description that brings the world to life. Above all, thought is nostalgia, a (lovely, vile) savouring of one's experience and situated knowledge--the garden of the mind that blossoms with sterile blooms. "Man is always a prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot free himself from them. One has to pay something. A man who has become conscious of the absurd is forever bound to it. A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future. That is natural. But it is just as natural that he should strive to escape the universe of which he is the creator.
"

That sounds nihilistic. And/but, Camus says, "I must admit that that struggle implies a total absence of hope (which has nothing to do with despair), a continual rejection (which must not be confused with renunciation), and a conscious dissatisfaction (which must not be compared to immature unrest)."

It's an anti-mysticism, a choice, perpetually made and made again, by the lucid mind not to look for occultic patterns in illucid being, but to roll with it regardless, to embrace the being-in-time–out-of-joint, while retaining one's lucidity. "'The only true solution,' he writes, quoting the Russian existentialist Chestov, 'is precisely where human judgment sees no solution. Otherwise, what need would we have of God? We turn toward God only to obtain the impossible. As for the possible, men suffice.' The intoxication of the irrational and the vocation of rapture turn a lucid mind away from the absurd. To Chestov reason is useless but there is something beyond reason. To an absurd mind reason is useless and there is nothing beyond reason."

The important thing is not to be cured or to circumvent this impasse, a kind of special pleading and cowardly--but to live with one's ailments.

And this is where Camus speaks to me. Most of the time, I just feel good. There's a kind of intense emotional storm or bombardment, a distress-in-my-direction, that can wear me down very quickly (if you're taking notes and want to know my weak points), but on the whole the fact that so much beauty can exist amidst so much pain just seems so self-evidently to make this "human Being" something irreducibly glorious. The existential smile, "raindrops keep falling on my head." I come across probably distracted/pushy/didactic (all at the same time!?!?!?) in these LibraryThing reviews because I'm trying to get a couple of thoughts down in the interstices between all the other things, but IRL a little gallows humour, a little hanging together because tomorrow we hang separately, is it man, the most noble and terrible beauty in the world, for me. Suicide is what I think of when I think of wanting to be cured--when it hurts too much. I imagine somehow waking up dead but still having the ability to shape what happens next, guide my legacy through ghostly text messages, see the thorny knots dissolve and everybody finally agree with me. That's a fantasy, and generally speaking an unappealing one (excepting a few moments). For some it’s the opposite, the escape or self-removal in the face of no cure—but isn’t that still the ultimate cure?

"The absurd is sin without God." Forget your perfect harmony. There is a crack in everything, and Camus would see it as an insult to the apotheosis of bravery when all is darkest that sits at the core of his philosophy to follow that up with L. Cohen's next line, "that's how the light gets in," but I think people who see it that way are in some large portion the people to whom ideas like this will appeal. It's a spectrum, I guess, of people who continue without hope, from those who get a kind of grim satisfaction out of being the last one standing to those who are happy to just weep for the beauty of this fallen world for threescore years and ten and call that a life (something amazing in that ability to keep feeling, that gets us back to mysticism in a pole-sitter kind of way) to the ones who just take thrive and wiggle their eyebrows in the face of the sin-without-God Kafkaesque. Camus sits somewhere somewhat toward the crunchier extreme of that spectrum (as do most of his readers, I'd imagine, knowing the strength of that saturnine streak in my weird and difficult species--although see also the deeply trashy other essays included in my copy of this book, where he mostly dehumanizes the Algerian Arabs in the service of glorifying the tan smooth bodies and hormones and empty heads--as he sees it--of the young pieds-noirs, inheritors of the sun, evoking a kind of sanguine animal wellbeing that is more like where I sort of see myself, on the brighter side), and would never make a statement like Cohen's. But then again, here he is on despair—“everything considered, a determined soul will always manage.” ( )
6 vote MeditationesMartini | May 8, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Albert Camusprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lionni, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Brien, JustinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, JamesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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O my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible.--Pindar, Pythian iii
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for Pascal Pia
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There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.
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Alt det som får mennesket til å arbeide og uroe seg, benytter seg av håpet. Den eneste tanke som ikke er løgnaktig, er altså en ufruktbar tanke.
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One of the most influential works of this century, this is a crucial exposition of existentialist thought. Influenced by works such as Don Juan and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide: the question of living or not living in an absurd universe devoid of order or meaning. With lyric eloquence, Camus posits a way out of despair, reaffirming the value of personal existence, and the possibility of life lived with dignity and authenticity.--From publisher description.… (more)

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