Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a representative of non-metropolitan French literature. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties were dominating influences in his thought and work. Of semi-proletarian parents, early attached to intellectual circles of strongly revolutionary tendencies, with a deep interest in philosophy (only chance prevented him from pursuing a university career in that field), he came to France at the age of twenty-five.
The man and the times met: Camus joined the resistance movement during the occupation and after the liberation was a columnist for the newspaper Combat. But his journalistic activities had been chiefly a response to the demands of the time; in 1947 Camus retired from political journalism and, besides writing his fiction and essays, was very active in the theatre as producer and playwright (e.g., Caligula, 1944). He also adapted plays by Calderon, Lope de Vega, Dino Buzzati, and Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun. His love for the theatre may be traced back to his membership in L’Equipe, an Algerian theatre group, whose “collective creation” Révolte dans les Asturies (1934) was banned for political reasons.
The essay Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus), 1942, expounds Camus’s notion of the absurd and of its acceptance with “the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement – and a conscious dissatisfaction”. Meursault, central character of L’Étranger (The Stranger), 1942, illustrates much of this essay: man as the nauseated victim of the absurd orthodoxy of habit, later – when the young killer faces execution – tempted by despair, hope, and salvation. Dr. Rieux of La Peste (The Plague), 1947, who tirelessly attends the plague-stricken citizens of Oran, enacts the revolt against a world of the absurd and of injustice, and confirms Camus’s words: “We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them”. Other well-known works of Camus are La Chute (The Fall), 1956, and L’Exil et le royaume (Exile and the Kingdom), 1957. His austere search for moral order found its aesthetic correlative in the classicism of his art. He was a stylist of great purity and intense concentration and rationality.
Albert Camus Quotes
In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.
Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.
An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.
Integrity has no need of rules.
Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.
I know of only one duty, and that is to love.
A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.
Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
In order to exist, man must rebel, but rebellion must respect the limits that it discovers in itself – limits where minds meet, and in meeting, begin to exist.
Martyrs, my friend, have to choose between being forgotten, mocked or used. As for being understood – never.
At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.
Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.
Basically, at the very bottom of life, which seduces us all, there is only absurdity, and more absurdity. And maybe that’s what gives us our joy for living, because the only thing that can defeat absurdity is lucidity.
All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door.
There is no love of life without despair of life.
Every great work makes the human face more admirable and richer, and that is its whole secret.
He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool.
The need to be right is the sign of a vulgar mind.
Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.
The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.
No matter what cause one defends, it will suffer permanent disgrace if one resorts to blind attacks on crowds of innocent people.
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.
In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.
But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?
Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.
To be happy we must not be too concerned with others.
No cause justifies the deaths of innocent people.
I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.
I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live as if there isn’t and to die to find out that there is.
Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears.
Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.
The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
We continue to shape our personality all our life. If we knew ourselves perfectly, we should die.
Stupidity has a knack of getting its way.
Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.
We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking. In that race which daily hastens us towards death, the body maintains its irreparable lead.
The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.
Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that somewhere, in some way, you are justified.
To know oneself, one should assert oneself.
Every revolutionary ends up either by becoming an oppressor or a heretic.
Real nobility is based on scorn, courage, and profound indifference.
Truth, like light, blinds. Falsehood, on the contrary, is a beautiful twilight that enhances every object.
The only real progress lies in learning to be wrong all alone.
Why should it be essential to love rarely in order to love much?
We are all special cases.
It is not your paintings I like, it is your painting.
A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.
To abandon oneself to principles is really to die – and to die for an impossible love which is the contrary of love.
Note, besides, that it is no more immoral to directly rob citizens than to slip indirect taxes into the price of goods that they cannot do without.
As a remedy to life in society I would suggest the big city. Nowadays, it is the only desert within our means.
Alas, after a certain age every man is responsible for his face.
Working conditions for me have always been those of the monastic life: solitude and frugality. Except for frugality, they are contrary to my nature, so much so that work is a violence I do to myself.
One leader, one people, signifies one master and millions of slaves.
Ah, mon cher, for anyone who is alone, without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful.
Lying is not only saying what isn’t true. It is also, in fact especially, saying more than is true and, in the case of the human heart, saying more than one feels. We all do it, every day, to make life simpler.
Only a philosophy of eternity, in the world today, could justify non-violence.
I draw from the Absurd three consequences: my revolt, my liberty, my passion.
It is necessary to fall in love… if only to provide an alibi for all the random despair you are going to feel anyway.
The world is never quiet, even its silence eternally resounds with the same notes, in vibrations which escape our ears. As for those that we perceive, they carry sounds to us, occasionally a chord, never a melody.
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
What is a rebel? A man who says no: but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation.
Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.
There is in me an anarchy and frightful disorder. Creating makes me die a thousand deaths, because it means making order, and my entire being rebels against order. But without it I would die, scattered to the winds.
Against eternal injustice, man must assert justice, and to protest against the universe of grief, he must create happiness.
Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.
You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.
To correct a natural indifference I was placed half-way between misery and the sun. Misery kept me from believing that all was well under the sun, and the sun taught me that history wasn’t everything.
At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.
Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.
The modern mind is in complete disarray. Knowledge has stretched itself to the point where neither the world nor our intelligence can find any foot-hold. It is a fact that we are suffering from nihilism.
It is a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money.
Every man needs slaves like he needs clean air. To rule is to breathe, is it not? And even the most disenfranchised get to breathe. The lowest on the social scale have their spouses or their children.
Your successes and happiness are forgiven you only if you generously consent to share them.
The real passion of the twentieth century is servitude.
We always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love – first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage.
The role of the intellectual cannot be to excuse the violence of one side and condemn that of the other.
We rarely confide in those who are better than we are.
Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity.
The desire for possession is insatiable, to such a point that it can survive even love itself. To love, therefore, is to sterilize the person one loves.
Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself.
For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.
All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.
Charm is a way of getting the answer ‘Yes’ without asking a clear question.
Friendship often ends in love, but love in friendship – never.
To be famous, in fact, one has only to kill one’s landlady.
The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment, it is all that links them together.
To insure the adoration of a theorem for any length of time, faith is not enough, a police force is needed as well.
How hard, how bitter it is to become a man!
I am not made for politics because I am incapable of wanting or accepting the death of the adversary.
I was born poor and without religion, under a happy sky, feeling harmony, not hostility, in nature. I began not by feeling torn, but in plenitude.
Heroism is accessible. Happiness is more difficult.
The only really committed artist is he who, without refusing to take part in the combat, at least refuses to join the regular armies and remains a freelance.
Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.
Don’t wait for the last judgment – it takes place every day.
In order to speak about all and to all, one has to speak of what all know and of the reality common to us all. The sea, rains, necessity, desire, the struggle against death… these are things that unite us all.
After all manner of professors have done their best for us, the place we are to get knowledge is in books. The true university of these days is a collection of books.
Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators.
I have never been able to renounce the light, the pleasure of being, and the freedom in which I grew up.
Men are convinced of your arguments, your sincerity, and the seriousness of your efforts only by your death.
How can sincerity be a condition of friendship? A taste for truth at any cost is a passion which spares nothing.
Culture: the cry of men in face of their destiny.
By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more.
Methods of thought which claim to give the lead to our world in the name of revolution have become, in reality, ideologies of consent and not of rebellion.
Man wants to live, but it is useless to hope that this desire will dictate all his actions.
We call first truths those we discover after all the others.
We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives… inside ourselves.
You have to be very rich or very poor to live without a trade.
A taste for truth at any cost is a passion which spares nothing.
In order to exist just once in the world, it is necessary never again to exist.
When you have really exhausted an experience you always reverence and love it.
I grew up with the sea, and poverty for me was sumptuous; then I lost the sea and found all luxuries gray and poverty unbearable.
A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.
Without freedom, no art; art lives only on the restraints it imposes on itself, and dies of all others.
Man is an idea, and a precious small idea once he turns his back on love.
Don’t believe your friends when they ask you to be honest with them. All they really want is to be maintained in the good opinion they have of themselves.
What the world requires of the Christians is that they should continue to be Christians.
Men are never really willing to die except for the sake of freedom: therefore they do not believe in dying completely.
There will be no lasting peace either in the heart of individuals or in social customs until death is outlawed.
It is normal to give away a little of one’s life in order not to lose it all.
Those who weep for the happy periods which they encounter in history acknowledge what they want; not the alleviation but the silencing of misery.
After all, every murderer when he kills runs the risk of the most dreadful of deaths, whereas those who kill him risk nothing except promotion.
The myth of unlimited production brings war in its train as inevitably as clouds announce a storm.
The society based on production is only productive, not creative.
Retaliation is related to nature and instinct, not to law. Law, by definition, cannot obey the same rules as nature.
Virtue cannot separate itself from reality without becoming a principle of evil.
All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the State.
We turn toward God only to obtain the impossible.
There is the good and the bad, the great and the low, the just and the unjust. I swear to you that all that will never change.
The day when I am no more than a writer I shall cease to be a writer.
Every man, and for stronger reasons, every artist, wants to be recognized. So do I.
To govern means to pillage, as everyone knows.
Every time somebody speaks of my honesty, there is someone who quivers inside me.
Violence is both unavoidable and unjustifiable.
Every artist preserves deep within him a single source from which, throughout his lifetime, he draws what he is, and what he says. When the source dries up, the work withers and crumbles.
Conscious of not being able to separate myself from my time, I have decided to become part of it.