The Myth of Sisyphus

by

Albert Camus

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Albert Camus Character Analysis

Camus is the author of The Myth of Sisyphus and most of the book is written directly from his perspective as an address to his reader. The book sets out his theory of the Absurd, which he also explores in his novels. In essence, Camus believes that mankind longs for knowledge, reason and logic, while the world refuses to answer that longing—this conflict is the Absurd. Camus wants to find a way of living in full view of the absurd—otherwise, he wonders if suicide is the only valid response. Though Camus frequently reminds the reader that he is not a philosopher, The Myth of Sisyphus reads like philosophy. The philosophers he chooses to respond to are those he would have studied at university. Ultimately, Camus believes that an “absurd life” is possible—individuals should not reject the absurd, but bring into their daily existence. This, in essence, means living in the moment and living for a greater “quantity” of experience, rather than “quality.”

Albert Camus Quotes in The Myth of Sisyphus

The The Myth of Sisyphus quotes below are all either spoken by Albert Camus or refer to Albert Camus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Myth of Sisyphus published in 1991.
1. Absurdity and Suicide Quotes

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest—whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Does the Absurd dictate death? This problem must be given priority over others, outside all methods of thought and all exercises of the disinterested mind. Shades of meaning, contradictions, the psychology that an "objective" mind can always introduce into all problems have no place in this pursuit and this passion. It calls simply for an unjust—in other words, logical—thought. That is not easy. It is always easy to be logical. It is almost impossible to be logical to the bitter end.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
2. Absurd Walls Quotes

It happens that the stage sets collapse. Rising, street-car, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, street-car, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm—this path is easily followed most of the time. But one day the "why" arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 12-13
Explanation and Analysis:

A step lower and strangeness creeps in: perceiving that the world is "dense," sensing to what a degree a stone is foreign and irreducible to us, with what intensity nature or a landscape can negate us. At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise. The primitive hostility of the world rises up to face us across millennia.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

This world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment it is all that links them together. It binds them one to the other as only hatred can weld two creatures together.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 21
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3. Philosophical Suicide Quotes

Kierkegaard wants to be cured. To be cured is his frenzied wish, and it runs throughout his whole journal. The entire effort of his intelligence is to escape the antinomy of the human condition. An all the more desperate effort since he intermittently perceives its vanity when he speaks of himself, as if neither fear of God nor piety were capable of bringing him to peace. Thus it is that, through a strained subterfuge, he gives the irrational the appearance and God the attributes of the absurd: unjust, incoherent, and incomprehensible. Intelligence alone in him strives to stifle the underlying demands of the human heart. Since nothing is proved, everything can he proved.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker), Soren Kierkegaard
Page Number: 39
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4. Absurd Freedom Quotes

But at the same time the absurd man realizes that hitherto he was bound to that postulate of freedom on the illusion of which he was living. In a certain sense, that hampered him. To the extent to which he imagined a purpose to his life, he adapted himself to the demands of a purpose to be achieved and became the slave of his liberty. Thus I could not act otherwise than as the father (or the engineer or the leader of a nation, or the post-office sub-clerk) that I am preparing to be. I think I can choose to be that rather than something else. I think so unconsciously, to be sure. But at the same time I strengthen my postulate with the beliefs of those around me, with the presumptions of my human environment (others are so sure of being free, and that cheerful mood is so contagious!). However far one may remain from any presumption, moral or social, one is partly influenced by them and even, for the best among them (there are good and bad presumptions), one adapts one' s life to them. Thus the absurd man realizes that he was not really free.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 57-58
Explanation and Analysis:

Knowing whether or not one can live without appeal is all that interests me. I do not want to get out of my depth. This aspect of life being given me, can I adapt myself to it? Now, faced with this particular concern, belief in the absurd is tantamount to substituting the quantity of experiences for the quality. If I convince myself that this life has no other aspect than that of the absurd, if I feel that its whole equilibrium depends on that perpetual opposition between my conscious revolt and the darkness in which it struggles, if I admit that my freedom has no meaning except in relation to its limited fate, then I must say that what counts is not the best living but the most living.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 60-61
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5. The Absurd Man Quotes

What, in fact, is the absurd man? He who, without negating it, does nothing for the eternal. Not that nostalgia is foreign to him. But he prefers his courage and his reasoning. The first teaches him to live without appeal and to get along with what he has; the second informs him of his limits. Assured of his temporally limited freedom, of his revolt devoid of future, and of his mortal consciousness, he lives out his adventure within the span of his lifetime. That is his field, that is his action, which he shields from any judgment but his own. A greater life cannot mean for him another life. That would be unfair. I am not even speaking here of that paltry eternity that is called posterity.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 66
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6. Don Juanism Quotes

If it were sufficient to love, things would be too easy. The more one loves, the stronger the absurd grows. It is not through lack of love that Don Juan goes from woman to woman. It is ridiculous to represent him as a mystic in quest of total love. But it is indeed because he loves them with the same passion and each time with his whole self that he must repeat his gift and his profound quest. Whence each woman hopes to give him what no one has ever given him. Each time they are utterly wrong and merely manage to make him feel the need of that repetition. “At last,” exclaims one of them, “I have given you love.” Can we be surprised that Don Juan laughs at this? “At last? No,” he says, “but once more.” Why should it be essential to love rarely in order to love much?

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker), Don Juan (speaker)
Page Number: 69
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8. Conquest Quotes

“There is but one luxury for them—that of human relations. How can one fail to realize that in this vulnerable universe everything that is human and solely human assumes a more vivid meaning? Taut faces, threatened fraternity, such strong and chaste friendship among men—these are the true riches because they are transitory.”

Related Characters: The Conqueror (speaker), Albert Camus
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

Let me repeat that these images do not propose moral codes and involve no judgments: they are sketches. They merely represent a style of life. The lover, the actor, or the adventurer plays the absurd. But equally well, if he wishes, the chaste man, the civil servant, or the president of the Republic. It is enough to know and to mask nothing.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker), Don Juan, The Actor, The Conqueror
Page Number: 90-91
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9. Philosophy and Fiction Quotes

Creating is living doubly […] Creation is the great mime.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

The great novelists are philosophical novelists—that is, the contrary of thesis-writers. For instance, Balzac, Sade, Melville, Stendhal, Dostoevsky, Proust, Malraux, Kafka, to cite but a few.

But in fact the preference they have shown for writing in images rather than in reasoned arguments is revelatory of a certain thought that is common to them all, convinced of the uselessness of any principle of explanation and sure of the educative message of perceptible appearance. They consider the work of art both as an end and a beginning. It is the outcome of an often unexpressed philosophy, its illustration and its consummation. But it is complete only through the implications of that philosophy.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
10. Kirilov Quotes

All of Dostoevsky’s heroes question themselves as to the meaning of life. In this they are modern: they do not fear ridicule. What distinguishes modern sensibility from classical sensibility is that the latter thrives on moral problems and the former on metaphysical problems. In Dostoevsky’s novels the question is propounded with such intensity that it can only invite extreme solutions. Existence is illusory or it is eternal. If Dostoevsky were satisfied with this inquiry, he would be a philosopher. But he illustrates the consequences that such intellectual pastimes may have in a man’s life, and in this regard he is an artist.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker), Kirilov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Page Number: 104
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11. Ephemeral Creation Quotes

Any thought that abandons unity glorifies diversity. And diversity is the home of art. The only thought to liberate the mind is that which leaves it alone, certain of its limits and of its impending end. No doctrine tempts it. It awaits the ripening of the work and of life. Detached from it, the work will once more give a barely muffled voice to a soul forever freed from hope. Or it will give voice to nothing if the creator, tired of his activity, intends to turn away. That is equivalent.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker)
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
12. The Myth of Sisyphus Quotes

To the celestial thunderbolts he preferred the benediction of water. He was punished for this in the underworld. Homer tells us also that Sisyphus had put Death in chains. Pluto could not endure the sight of his deserted, silent empire. He dispatched the god of war, who liberated Death from the hands of her conqueror.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker), Sisyphus, Pluto
Related Symbols: Sisyphus’ Rock
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

Sisyphus woke up in the underworld. And there, annoyed by an obedience so contrary to human love, he obtained from Pluto permission to return to earth in order to chastise his wife. But when he had seen again the face of this world, enjoyed water and sun, warm stones and the sea, he no longer wanted to go back to the infernal darkness. Recalls, signs of anger, warnings were of no avail. Many years more he lived facing the curve of the gulf, the sparkling sea, and the smiles of earth. A decree of the gods was necessary. Mercury came and seized the impudent man by the collar and, snatching him from his joys, led him forcibly back to the underworld, where his rock was ready for him.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker), Sisyphus, Pluto
Related Symbols: Sisyphus’ Rock
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Related Characters: Albert Camus (speaker), Sisyphus
Related Symbols: Sisyphus’ Rock
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
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Albert Camus Character Timeline in The Myth of Sisyphus

The timeline below shows where the character Albert Camus appears in The Myth of Sisyphus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. An Absurd Reasoning: Absurdity and Suicide
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Camus states that there is one philosophical problem that takes precedence over all others: suicide. Suicide... (full context)
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Camus speaks of the difficulty of truly understanding the act of suicide. While for some the... (full context)
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Suicide, says Camus, is an admission that life is “not worth the trouble.” Much of living is done... (full context)
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Camus argues that it is too simplistic to think that there are only two answers to... (full context)
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The most common way of “eluding” the absurd, says Camus, is through “hope”—hope that something better is on the way in the future. Camus sees... (full context)
2. An Absurd Reasoning: Absurd Walls
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Camus begins this section by talking about feelings. “Great feelings,” he says, constitute “their own universe”... (full context)
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Camus outlines how the feeling of absurdity can crop up at any time in life, “when... (full context)
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Furthermore, says Camus, most people’s lives are “unillustrious” and carried onward by a sense of the future—people use... (full context)
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For Camus, nature only serves to make the problem of the absurd worse. Its “beauty” contains something... (full context)
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Even people’s gestures, says Camus, can bring about an awareness of the absurd, their “mechanical aspect” creating a “meaningless pantomime.” (full context)
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Camus states that “there is no experience of death,” because people can only experience what comes... (full context)
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These previous encounters with absurd occur on the plane of “experience,” says Camus. He turns his attention to the “plane of the intelligence.” The mind, he says, has... (full context)
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Camus takes the view that people can only truly know their immediate sensory world: the rest... (full context)
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For Camus, then, the intellect can only confirm that “this world is absurd.” The many attempts of... (full context)
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Camus touches on previous thinkers who have tried to acknowledge the irrationality of life. Writers like... (full context)
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Camus says Chestov noted that “the most universal rationalism always stumbles on the irrational of human... (full context)
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...the world in its diversity and deny the transcendent power of the reason.” This, says Camus, made thinking about “learning all over again” to experience sensory input. Camus in part admires... (full context)
3. An Absurd Reasoning: Philosophical Suicide
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Camus further develops the idea of the absurd, describing it as the disconnect between “an action... (full context)
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For Camus, the absurd is the only knowable fact of life. Any response to life, therefore, must... (full context)
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Camus says that anyone who “becomes conscious of the absurd is for ever bound to it”... (full context)
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Camus starts with Karl Jaspers, who he says tries to solve the absurd by employing an... (full context)
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Camus moves on to Lev Chestov. Chestov, claims Camus, equates the absurd with God; man is... (full context)
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Camus says that his criticism of Chestov is even more relevant to the work of Soren... (full context)
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Moving on to phenomenologists like Husserl, Camus claims that this branch of philosophy initially chimes with the acknowledgment of the absurd because... (full context)
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But Husserl treats these encounters with the world as being “essences,” leading to what Camus calls “an abstract polytheism.” Phenomenologists imply that “everything is privileged”; Camus feels this creates a... (full context)
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All of the above philosophies fail, in Camus’ opinion, because they see the absurd as something that needs to be solved. Camus’ point... (full context)
4. An Absurd Reasoning: Absurd Freedom
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Camus reiterates that there are only two “certainties” in life: “my appetite for the absolute and... (full context)
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Camus returns to the issue of suicide, stating that the problem has now been “reversed.” Living... (full context)
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Camus believes this “revolt” of living with the absurd restores “majesty” and “value” to life. The... (full context)
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Camus examines the notion of “freedom” in relation to the absurd. Before a man confronts the... (full context)
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For Camus, the false idea of freedom that makes people “choose” what they want to be in... (full context)
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Camus perceives that living with the absurd necessitates a shift in an individual’s attitude towards their... (full context)
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Camus argues that the absurd man sees life as “the present and the succession of presents,”... (full context)
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Ultimately, Camus sees three consequences of the absurd: “my revolt, my freedom and my passion.” By applying... (full context)
5. The Absurd Man
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In this section, Camus tries to move towards a more practical understanding of how to live with the absurd.... (full context)
6. The Absurd Man: Don Juanism
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Camus’ first example of the absurd man is Don Juan, an infamous seducer of women. For... (full context)
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Some people think Don Juan is a melancholy character, but Camus disagrees. There are two reasons people are melancholy: “they don’t know or they hope.” Don... (full context)
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Camus dismisses criticisms of Don Juan that he uses the same “speeches” on “all women.” What... (full context)
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Camus admits that there is something “selfish” about Don Juan, but rejects that this is a... (full context)
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Though there are people that would like to punish Don Juan for his behavior, Camus insists that Don Juan simply lives outside of society’s normal moral codes. This means that... (full context)
7. The Absurd Man: Drama
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Camus’ next example of a life lived with the absurd, rather than in effort to reject... (full context)
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The stage actor, says Camus, has only “three hours” and a relatively small amount of space to live out other... (full context)
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Actors, says Camus, use their body like a sculptor’s tool. He is speaking especially of “great drama” like... (full context)
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Camus examines how the Church has, over the years, opposed the practice of acting. The Christian... (full context)
8. The Absurd Man: Conquest
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In this section, Camus holds up the conqueror as an example of the absurd life. At some point in... (full context)
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Camus concludes this section by reminding the reader that Don Juan, the actor and the conqueror... (full context)
9. Absurd Creation: Philosophy and Fiction
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Camus reserves an entire section to examine the relationship between the creative act and the absurd... (full context)
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Creating, says Camus, is a kind of “living doubly,” in which the creator attempts to re-create their reality... (full context)
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Camus wonders if it is possible to create “an absurd work of art.” A good artist... (full context)
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Camus praises the art that works to reflect just a part of the human experience, instead... (full context)
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To think, says Camus, is either to create a world or limit the one being lived in. Even philosophers... (full context)
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Camus believes that the novel has taken “the lead” over “poetry and the essay,” representing a... (full context)
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These writers, says Camus, demonstrate a rejection of “any principle of explanation” and instead use “images” as their way... (full context)
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Camus asks whether, in accepting a life “without appeal,” an individual can then agree to “work... (full context)
10. Absurd Creation: Kirilov
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In Dostoevsky’s novels, Camus detects evidence of an absurd sensibility. The Russian author’s books argue that “existence is illusory... (full context)
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Camus examines one particular character from one of Dostoevsky’s novels, The Possessed. This man, Kirilov, feels... (full context)
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Camus believes that Kirilov’s suicide constitutes him taking on the role of God himself, a logic... (full context)
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Camus supposes that “probably no one so much as Dostoevsky has managed to give the absurd... (full context)
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Camus concludes that Dostoevsky is more of an “existential novelist” than an absurd one. But the... (full context)
11. Absurd Creation: Ephemeral Creation
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Camus notes how hope “cannot be eluded for ever” and was capable of besetting even someone... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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Camus stresses that, in his ideas about creativity and the absurd, he is not calling for... (full context)
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Camus reminds the reader that “none of all this has any real meaning.” Knowing this should... (full context)
12. The Myth of Sisyphus
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In this section, Camus recounts the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is a mortal condemned by the gods to roll... (full context)
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For Camus, Sisyphus is the “absurd hero,” both through his “passions” and his “torture.” He exerted his... (full context)
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Camus is particularly interested in the “pause” when Sisyphus has to go back down to the... (full context)
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Camus likens Sisyphus’ fate to “the workman of today” repeating the “same tasks” every time he... (full context)
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Happiness and the absurd are “inseparable,” states Camus. Like Kirilov, Oedipus concludes that “all is well,” a remark that Camus says “echoes in... (full context)
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Camus says, “I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain!” Like Oedipus and Kirilov, Sisyphus... (full context)