Camus: A Critical Examination

Camus: A Critical Examination

Camus: A Critical Examination

Camus: A Critical Examination

Excerpt

Nothing authorizes me to pass judgment upon an epoch with which I feel in complete solidarity. I judge it from within, blending myself with it. But I reserve the right, henceforth, to say what I know about myself and about others on the sole condition that by so doing I do not add to the unbearable suffering of the world, but only in order to locate, among the obscure walls against which we are blindly stumbling, the still invisible places where doors may open (A/11, 83).

Few writers have achieved greater public recognition than Albert Camus. Honored with the Nobel Prize for "his important literary production, which with clearsighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times," his works have fascinated the literate public from the moment of their emergence during the Second World War. Camus has been at the center of the passionate controversies that have rocked the modern world: from existential anxiety in the face of the death of God, and the absurdity of human existence, through practical struggles around capital punishment, social injustice, and national liberation, to growing concerns about torture and systemic violations of human rights.

Numerous and extensive as have been the treatments of his work, whether in the popular press or in academic periodicals, few have adequately appreciated its cultural significance. Small wonder that academics often treat his work as if it were simply the product of a previous era. I believe that judgment is deeply flawed, and that Camus's work remains of vital interest to a civilization now struggling to come to terms with a scientific and technological vision deeply at odds with the religious perspective from which its cultural meanings have historically derived. What is more, I intend to show that his analyses offer constructive suggestions for the dilemmas of our age and that we neglect them at our peril.

Such reflection gains increased urgency in an era in which world wars and mass genocide threaten to be surpassed by nuclear annihilation--a capacity that few now doubt is within our collective power. Addressing our civilization at its metaphysical and mythic roots, Camus seeks to diagnose those interior forces seemingly propelling us toward destruction: to explore their inner logic in order to suggest the preconditions of, and the practical steps . . .

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