The Myth of Sisyphus


Albert Camus

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Kirilov is a character that Camus discusses in the ‘Absurd Creation’ chapter. He comes from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s book The Possessed (also translated as Demons or The Devils). Camus praises Dostoevksy for the character, who seems to embody elements of the absurd in his daily life. Like Camus, Kirilov is only interested in dealing with certainties (and then proceeding wherever the consequences might lead). For Kirilov, for the world to have meaning depends on their being a God. But he can’t bring himself to believe in God, and therefore decides that, in terms of having control over his own will, he is essentially his own god. Kirilov commits what Camus calls “logical suicide” because he wants to demonstrate his own “freedom” (which he feels will benefit others too). His final words before shooting himself are “all is well”—these neatly sum up the approach Camus believes is necessary in the face of the absurd: to accept it and live with it.

Kirilov Quotes in The Myth of Sisyphus

The The Myth of Sisyphus quotes below are all either spoken by Kirilov or refer to Kirilov. 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:
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Myth of Sisyphus published in 1991.
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
Explanation and Analysis:
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Kirilov Character Timeline in The Myth of Sisyphus

The timeline below shows where the character Kirilov appears in The Myth of Sisyphus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
10. Absurd Creation: Kirilov
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Philosophy and Art Theme Icon
Camus examines one particular character from one of Dostoevsky’s novels, The Possessed. This man, Kirilov, feels that in order for existence to make sense, God “is necessary.” Despite this, he... (full context)
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Philosophy and Art Theme Icon
Camus believes that Kirilov’s suicide constitutes him taking on the role of God himself, a logic that he admits... (full context)
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Philosophy and Art Theme Icon
...would not “provide a reply” to the absurd, but simply show its existence. Dostoevsky answered Kirilov’s dilemma by behaving as if “existence is illusory and it is eternal.” For Camus, only... (full context)
12. The Myth of Sisyphus
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Humankind and the Natural World Theme Icon
Happiness and the absurd are “inseparable,” states Camus. Like Kirilov, Oedipus concludes that “all is well,” a remark that Camus says “echoes in the wild... (full context)
Absurdism and Meaning Theme Icon
Camus says, “I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain!” Like Oedipus and Kirilov, Sisyphus “concludes that all is well.” Sisyphus knows “each atom of that stone, each mineral... (full context)