Camus' Imperial Vision


Although the young Camus celebrated his godlike difference, Anthony Rizzuto reveals here that this leading existentialist gradually embraced the community of man.

In the early Camus (La Morte heureuse, Caligula, L'Etranger), Rizzuto identifies an imperial vision that requires utter detachment. It presumes the "ability to be reborn... purely out of one's will." Body and mind must be separated, memory stifled. In Le Mythe de Sisyphe the Camus hero evolves from a detached intellectual to a man of action. Camus urges commitment, argues against suicide. Yet the imperial vision persists; the protagonist is an actor-hero who creates himself, who shows himself not as he is but as he would be.

The plague, a mad moral equivalent to the Nazi invasion, forms human ties in La Peste. Camus preaches solidarity, shifts focus from the self to the group. Dr. Rieux, the protagonist, reflects Camus' new sense of commitment: he is not an elitist actor-hero but a man among equals. With L'Homme révolté, Camus affirms human nature and, for the first time, acknowledges the past: "The suppression of the past, whether historical or psychological, engenders not an emancipated future but a bloody fiction… Every modern revolution has… contributed to the further enslavement of man."

Camus' last novel, La Chute, satirizes both Sartre and his own earlier work. Here Camus attacks the concept of monologue, calling instead for dialogue- a democratic exchange of ideas. He also recants his ridicule of the Socratic dictum, "Know thyself." And reversing his earlier position, Camus concludes that the "division of sensation and intellect spawns cultural barbarism." No longer an aloof god, Camus has become a man.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Carbondale, IL
Publication year:
  • 1981


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