Albert Camus: A Study of His Work

Albert Camus: A Study of His Work

Albert Camus: A Study of His Work

Albert Camus: A Study of His Work

Excerpt

It was with the publication, in 1942, of L'Étranger and Le Mythe de Sisyphe , thatAlbert Camus changed quite suddenly from a little-known provincial essayist into one of the best-known French literary figures. This success is easily accounted for. His automatic assumption that life had no meaning, his denunciation of hope, his determined refusal of any comforting transcendence exactly fitted the mood of the time. Cataclysmic defeat had drifted into the monotony of occupation, the prospect of liberation seemed almost infinitely distant, and a philosophical view of the universe in which all paths to the future were rigorously closed and all optimism suppressed, corresponded exactly to the historical situation of the French people. L'Étranger (The Outsider) conveyed the atmosphere of the time before the philosophical essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus) offered an analysis of it and suggested a provisional attitude to be adopted. Both novel and essay had their origin in Camus's own personal thoughts and experiences, and the aptness with which they expressed the mood of 1942 was coincidence rather than deliberate intention on his part.

Meursault, the central figure of The Outsider , is characterized by his complete indifference to everything except immediate physical sensations. He receives the news of his mother's death merely with faint annoyance at having to ask for two days' leave of absence from the office where he works. At her funeral he has no sadness or regret, and feels only the physical inconveniences of watching over her body and following the hearse to the cemetery under the burning sun. He notes automatically and objectively everything which strikes his eye: the bright new screws in the walnut-stained coffin, the colours of the nurse's clothes, the large stomachs of the old ladies who had been his mother's closest friends, the whiteness of the roots in her grave. The day after the funeral he goes swimming, meets a girl whom he knows vaguely, takes her to see a Fernandel film and goes to . . .

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