The Thought and Art of Albert Camus

By Thomas Hanna | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE LITERATURE OF THE ABSURD

ALL of the novels and plays of Albert Camus are more or less direct dramatic expressions of his philosophical temper. It is wisest here if we emphasize the "less." Although we may find direct support for Camus' philosophy in his literary works, this, of course, does not mean that all of the ideas within his literary works find direct support in his philosophy. It is elementary to draw a line between the controlled, logical movement of a philosophical essay and the unpredictable, irrational, and hard to control movement of a human drama. Even so, Camus, like his talented countrymen, Jean-Paul Sartre and Gabriel Marcel, suffers misunderstanding at the hands of those who know only his literary productions and are content to infer from this the philosophical position. This fallacy of inferring the whole from the part has been the bane of contemporary French philosophy, but is the risk which any philosopher must run if he is to be a literary figure. Both Camus and Sartre (and Marcel in a lesser way) have found wide acclaim as novelists, and it is as such that they are known by their widest public. And it seems that the judgment of this public has been primarily founded on the ideas that they have gleaned from the reading of a few plays and novels. It is highly probable that the mountain of books, articles, and pamphlets that have been published attacking Sartre have been, for the most part, composed without a reading of Sartre L'Etre et le Néant. But Sartre's excellence as novelist and playwright and the seven-hundred page bulk of his ontological essay make such an outcome inevitable. Moreover,

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