The Myth of Sisyphus

by

Albert Camus

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Myth of Sisyphus can help.

The Myth of Sisyphus: 11. Ephemeral Creation Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Camus notes how hope “cannot be eluded for ever” and was capable of besetting even someone as skilled at rendering the absurd as Dostoevsky. But, says Camus, “one recognizes one’s course by discovering the paths that stray from it.” That is, even works that fail to be absurd can still be illustrative. Camus cites Moby Dick as a genuinely absurd work.
Camus flips his earlier statement on its head: whereas most people turn to hope in order to “elude” the absurd, Camus sees hope itself as the thing that needs to be “eluded.” Unfortunately, Camus does not go into any further detail about why Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ is a successfully absurd novel.
Themes
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
The absurd artist must remain vigilant about the ultimate meaninglessness of their work, and “must give the void its colours.” Creation, says Camus, is the “most effective” way of maintaining awareness of the absurd.
Creation actively serves the creator by helping them to keep the absurd in full view. This is a reversal of the way art is usually thought about as being created for an audience—here, it is as much for the artist themselves.
Themes
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Philosophy and Art Theme Icon
Camus stresses that, in his ideas about creativity and the absurd, he is not calling for the “illustration of a thesis.” He doesn’t want to read “the thesis-novel,” in which a novelist sets out to prove some truth they “feel sure of possessing.” Instead, artists should make work that “abandons unity” and “glorifies diversity.”
Camus wants art to be concerned with describing experience in all its forms without feeling the need to dictate a central message. This heightens the sense of absence created by the lack of discussion in this book about any of woman’s experience, as opposed to man.
Themes
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Masculinity Theme Icon
Philosophy and Art Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Camus reminds the reader that “none of all this has any real meaning.” Knowing this should give the artist “more freedom in the realization” of their work, says Camus. Man should not be “bound” by the “illusion of another world,” but should fill his life with the “difficult wisdom” of the absurd and the “ephemeral passion” of responding to it.
Like the absurd individual more generally, the artist is afforded freedom by their close relationship with the absurd. It helps them to resist illusions and embrace the ephemeral nature of life—and to reflect that ephemerality in their work.
Themes
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Philosophy and Art Theme Icon
Get the entire The Myth of Sisyphus LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Myth of Sisyphus PDF