Albert Camus was a French philosopher, author, dramatist, and journalist. He was the recipient of the 1957 Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44, the second-youngest recipient in history. His works include The Stranger, The Plague, The Myth of Sisyphus, The Fall, and The Rebel.
The Rebel is Camus’ ‘attempt to understand the time I live in’ and a brilliant essay on the nature of human revolt. Published in 1951, it makes a daring critique of communism – how it had gone wrong behind the Iron Curtain and the resulting totalitarian regimes. It questions two events held sacred by the left wing – the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917 – that had resulted, he believed, in terrorism as a political instrument. In this towering intellectual document, Camus argues that hope for the future lies in revolt, which unlike revolution is a spontaneous response to injustice and a chance to achieve change without giving up collective and intellectual freedom.
Meursault will not pretend. After the death of his mother, everyone is shocked when he shows no sadness. And when he commits a random act of violence in Algiers, society is baffled. Why would this seemingly law-abiding bachelor do such a thing? And why does he show no remorse even when it could save his life? His refusal to satisfy the feelings of others only increases his guilt in the eyes of the law. Soon Meursault discovers that he is being tried not simply for his crime, but for his lack of emotion – a reaction that condemns him for being an outsider. For Meursault, this is an insult to his reason and a betrayal of his hopes; for Camus it encapsulates the absurdity of life.
Jean-Baptiste Clamence is a soul in turmoil. Over several drunken nights in an Amsterdam bar, he regales a chance acquaintance with his story. From this successful former lawyer and seemingly model citizen a compelling, self-loathing catalogue of guilt, hypocrisy and alienation pours forth. The Fall (1956) is a brilliant portrayal of a man who has glimpsed the hollowness of his existence. But beyond depicting one man’s disillusionment, Camus’s novel exposes the universal human condition and its absurdities – for our innocence that, once lost, can never be recaptured..
The First Man
The unfinished manuscript of The First Man was discovered in the wreckage of a car accident in which Camus died in 1960. Although it was not published for over thirty years, it was an instant bestseller when it finally appeared in 1994. The ‘first man’ is Jacques Cormery, whose poverty-stricken childhood in Algiers is made bearable by his love for his silent and illiterate mother, and by the teacher who transforms his view of the world. The most autobiographical of Camus’s novels, it gives profound insights into his life, and the powerful themes underlying his work.
The Fastidious Assassins
A daring critique of communism and how it had gone wrong behind the Iron Curtain, Camus’ essay examines the revolutions in France and Russia, and argues that since they were both guilty of producing tyranny and corruption, hope for the future lies only in revolt without revolution.
Exile and the Kingdom
The stories of Exile and the Kingdom explore the dilemma of being an outsider – even in one’s own country – and of allegiance. With intense power and lyricism, Camus evokes beautiful but harsh landscapes, whether the shimmering deserts of his native Algeria or the wild, mysterious jungles of Brazil.
Here a Frenchwoman is gradually seduced by the sheer difference of North Africa, a mutilated renegade is driven mad by the cruelty of his own people, and a barrel-maker watches the slow decline of his craft. A kindly teacher must choose between the law and a life, while a modest painter is out of his depth in the hypocrisy of the art world, and a French engineer discovers a new sense of belonging in a distant land.
Caligula and Other Plays
Caligula reveals some aspects of the existential notion of ‘the absurd’ by portraying an emperor so mighty and so desperate in his search for freedom that he inevitably destroys gods, men and himself. The dramatic impetus of Cross Purpose, however, comes from the tension between consent to and refusal of man’s absurdity; it is the tragedy of a man who returns home to his mother and sister without revealing his identity to them. By the time of The Just and The Possessed, refusal and rebellion have taken over, and in these overtly political plays (the latter based on Dostoyevsky’s The Devils) Camus dramatizes action and revolt in the name of liberty.
A Happy Death
Is it possible to die a happy death ? This is the central question of Camus’s astonishing early novel, published posthumously and greeted as a major literary event. It tells the story of a young Algerian, Mersault, who defies society’s rules by committing a murder and escaping punishment, then experimenting with different ways of life and finally dying a happy man. In many ways A Happy Death is a fascinating first sketch for The Outsider, but it can also be seen as a candid self-portrait, drawing on Camus’s memories of his youth, travels and early relationships. It is infused with lyrical descriptions of the sun-drenched Algiers of his childhood – the place where, eventually, Mersault is able to find peace and die ‘without anger, without hatred, without regret’.
‘To create today is to create dangerously’
Camus argues passionately that the artist has a responsibility to challenge, provoke and speak up for those who cannot in this powerful speech, accompanied here by two others.
Translated from the French by Justin O’Brien (Translator).
The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected Essays
The Plague–written in 1947 and still profoundly relevant–is a riveting tale of horror, survival, and resilience in the face of a devastating epidemic. The Fall (1956), which takes the form of an astonishing confession by a French lawyer in a seedy Amsterdam bar, is a haunting parable of modern conscience in the face of evil. The six stories of Exile and the Kingdom (1957) represent Camus at the height of his narrative powers, masterfully depicting his characters–from a renegade missionary to an adulterous wife –at decisive moments of revelation. Set beside their fictional counterparts, Camus’s famous essays “The Myth of Sisyphus” and “Reflections on the Guillotine” are all the more powerful and philosophically daring, confirming his towering place in twentieth-century thought.
The Myth of Sisyphus
Inspired by the myth of a man condemned to ceaselessly push a rock up a mountain and watch it roll back to the valley below, The Myth of Sisyphus transformed twentieth-century philosophy with its impassioned argument for the value of life in a world without religious meaning.
Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves – and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives – and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.
The Myth of Sisyphus
In this profound and moving philosophical statement, Camus poses the fundamental question: is life worth living? If human existence holds no significance, what can keep us from suicide? As Camus argues, if there is no God to give meaning to our lives, humans must take on that purpose themselves. This is our ‘absurd’ task, like Sisyphus forever rolling his rock up a hill, as the inevitability of death constantly overshadows us. Written during the bleakest days of the Second World War, The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe) argues for an acceptance of reality that encompasses revolt, passion and, above all, liberty.
Speaking Out: Lectures and Speeches 1937-58
This definitive new collection of Albert Camus’ public speeches and lectures gives a compelling insight into one of the twentieth century’s most enduring writers. From a pre-war speech on the politics of the Mediterranean – delivered when he was just twenty-two – to his impassioned Nobel Prize acceptance lectures and several pieces appearing in English for the first time, Speaking Out shows Camus’ clarity and subtlety of thought, his ‘stubborn humanism’ and his unerring commitment to freedom and justice.
The Stranger also published in English as The Outsider, is a 1942 novella by French author Albert Camus. Its theme and outlook are often cited as examples of Camus’ philosophy, absurdism, coupled with existentialism; though Camus personally rejected the latter lab
Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.”
This volume contains some of Camus’ most intimate writing, as he reflects on his identity and childhood in Algeria and celebrates the beauty of the Mediterranean. The Wrong Side and the Right Side, Camus’ first book and most openly autobiographical work, describes his early years in a working-class neighbourhood in Algiers and includes memorable portraits of his mother, grandmother and uncle. Nuptials rejoices in the sun, landscape and sea, and the physical and spiritual freedom they offer to even the poorest. And in Summer Camus evocatively depicts the sunlit cities of Algiers and Oran.