Short summary - The Myth of Sisyphus - Albert Camus

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Myth of Sisyphus
Albert Camus

VERY BRIEF: There is no rationality, faith and hope for the future in the world. But a person trying to find the meaning of life has a choice - either voluntarily leave this world, or challenge the meaninglessness and absurdity.

Illustration by Olga Vdovina
An absurd reasoning
The book begins with a note that "the absurdity, which has so far been taken as a conclusion, is taken here as a starting point." The main question of any philosophy is the question of the meaning of life:
There is only one truly serious philosophical problem - the problem of suicide. To decide whether or not life is worth living is to answer a fundamental question of philosophy.
The suicide admits that "life is over, that it has become incomprehensible." But what is the basis of his choice? The decision to voluntarily leave this life ripens "in the silence of the heart." At the same time, external events are only an impetus, when "this little ... is enough for the bitterness and boredom that has accumulated in the heart of the suicide to burst out."
To understand what a person can choose in this situation, it is necessary to identify the factors pushing a person to this act. The indifference of the world, the consciousness of its mortality, the meaninglessness of life - all these are just ways of manifesting a sense of absurdity, among which, of course, boredom is the main one:
Getting up, trams, ... work, dinner, sleep; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday ... everything is in the same rhythm ... But one day the question "why?" It all starts with this bewildered boredom.
Faced with the surrounding world, the mind is powerless to find the truth in itself and in the world. This "clash between irrationality and a frenzied desire for clarity, whose call echoes in the very depths of the human soul" is the cause of absurdity. A person wants to be happy and find the meaning of life, but the world does not provide an answer to these questions. Man has a mind, the world is incomprehensible, and absurdity is the link between them. Denying the element of absurdity in life, a person does not solve the problem of meaning, but deprives himself of a reasonable choice. All thinkers jumped over the "absurd walls", proposing withdrawal to religion and hope for the future. The author calls this "philosophical suicide", since this approach does not solve the problem.
Faith in God does not give "eternal freedom", but a person can be free in his choices and actions. Accepting the absurd, a person does not believe and does not hope for the future. He becomes free in his desire to be, deciding not to live life better, but to experience as much as possible in it. The meaning of life is to consciously support the “life of the absurd”, and not to run away from it into suicide. Such a rebellion gives life a new meaning and beauty, since "there is no spectacle more beautiful than the struggle of the intellect with a reality that surpasses it."
An absurd person
What is a person who accepts an absurdity? An absurd person is characterized by the following signs:
Denial of absolute and moral values. This “does not mean that nothing is prohibited. The absurdity shows only the equivalence of the consequences of all actions. He does not recommend committing crimes (that would be childish), but reveals the uselessness of remorse. "
Courage to live in an absurd world in denial of suicide. An absurd person “enters this world with his rebellion, his clarity of vision. He forgot how to hope. The hell of the present has finally become his kingdom. "
Self-confidence, in which “he gives preference to his courage and his ability to judge. The first teaches him to lead a life that is not subject to appeal, to be content with what he has; the second gives him an idea of its limits. Confident in the finiteness of his freedom, the absence of a future in his rebellion and in the frailty of consciousness, he is ready to continue his deeds in the time that life has given him. "
Lack of religious faith and hope for the future, in which “an absurd person is ready to admit that there is only one morality that does not separate from God: this is a morality imposed on him from above. But an absurd person lives without this god. "
The author gives examples of various types of absurd people - these are Don Juan, Actor, Conqueror and Creator.
Don Juan gives love to all women, giving preference not to quality, but quantity.
He leaves the woman not at all because he no longer wants her. A beautiful woman is always desirable. But he wants another, and that is not the same.
Without hoping for anything, the seducer does not lose himself in the flow of changing women. He lives “here and now”: does it really matter what will happen after death if there are so many pleasures ahead?
The actor lives by his roles, "as if he is re-composing his characters."
He depicts them, sculpts, he flows into the forms created by his imagination and gives his living blood to the ghosts.
Heroes of different eras live in it. But death overtakes the actor and "nothing can compensate for those faces and centuries that he did not have time to embody on stage." The actor, like a traveler, walks along the road of time. The play performed on stage is a vivid illustration of the absurdity of life.
A conqueror is usually an adventurer. Being the master of his own destiny, he achieves everything in his life span. What is the point of hoping for a "memory in the hearts of descendants" if life is over? The Conqueror's goal is to gain successes in the present, since they are "transient, they contain the power and limits of the mind, that is, its effectiveness."
The conquerors are those who feel the strength for permanent life on these peaks, with full consciousness of their own greatness ... Conquerors are capable of at most.
All characters are united by signs of absurd thinking: awareness,and denial of hopes for the future.
Absurd creativity An absurd
person must be a creative person. Only creativity, expressing true freedom, can overcome the absurd. The Creator clearly understands that he is mortal and that his creations are inevitably doomed to oblivion. An artist, for example, simply depicts what he sees and experiences. He does not seek to explain the world, knowing "that creativity has no future, that your work will sooner or later be destroyed, and believe in the depths of his soul that all this is no less important than construction for centuries - such is the hard wisdom of absurd thinking." Creativity is a rare opportunity to reconcile your consciousness with the absurdity of the surrounding reality. The Creator gives shape to his destiny.
The entire work ofpermeated with the problem of absurdity Dostoevsky is. His novels vividly depict the attitude of an absurd person. The writer managed to show “all the torture of the absurd world”, but the Russian genius could not find a way out of the absurd impasse. Appealing to God, Dostoevsky only poses the problem of the absurd, but does not solve it. He tries to give an answer, but "the absurd work, on the contrary, does not give an answer." Absurd creativity is "rebellion, freedom and diversity."
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The Myth of Sisyphus The
book ends with an etude about the brightest absurd rebel in the history of mankind. This is Sisyphus, who "the gods sentenced to lift a huge stone to the top of the mountain, from where this block invariably rolled down." The hero of the myth is punished for his earthly passions and love of life. It is known that "there is no punishment worse than useless and hopeless work," but the hero despises the lot that fell to him. His life is filled with a new meaning, in which consciousness conquers fate, turning suffering into joy. The torment experienced by Sisyphus under the weight of a stone is a rebellion against the absurd world.
The existence of modern man is similar to the fate of Sisyphus - it is in many ways absurd, filled with boredom and meaninglessness. But a person can find the meaning of life by rejecting suicide. The feeling of absurdity arising from the realization of the absurd will allow him to reevaluate his destiny and become free.
Sisyphus teaches the highest fidelity, which rejects the gods and moves stones ... One struggle for the top is enough to fill the heart of a person. Sisyphus should be imagined as happy.