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Customer Review

516 of 529 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Struggle Is Enough, October 2, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (Paperback)
The collection of stories published as Le Mythe de Sisyphe in 1942 was the second of the absurds. The work has been cited by critics as refined and carefully crafted. The collection stands as more literature than philosophy. Camus spent at least five years writing and editing the work. The polish is clear with the very first sentence: "There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide."
According to Camus, suicide was a sign that one lacked the strength to face "nothing." Life is an adventure without final meaning, but still, in Camus' eyes, worth experiencing. Since there is nothing else, life should be lived to its fullest and we should derive meaning from our very existence. For Camus, people were what gave life meaning. However, in the moments following the realization that one will die, that one's descendants will die...in fact, that the earth will die, one senses a deep anxiety. And, as an atheist, Camus doubted meaning beyond this life.
"A world which can be explained, even through bad reasoning, is a familiar one. On the other hand, in a world suddenly devoid of illusion and light, man feels like a stranger." Isolated from any logic, without an easy explanation for why one exists, there occurs what some call "existential angst." While Camus did not use the phrase, it adequately describes the sensation. Even existentialists of faith struggle with creation, wondering why humanity exists when a Creator would not need mankind. Merely wanting to create something seems like a curious reason to create life. So, even for those of faith, the initial creation can be puzzling.
How does one exist without any given purpose or meaning? How does one develop meaning? Le Mythe de Sisyphe addresses this directly in the retelling of the famous tale. Considering the plight of Sisyphus, condemned to roll a stone up a mountain knowing the stone will roll down yet again, it is easy to declare his existence absurd and without hope. It would be easy to believe Sisyphus might prefer death. But in Camus' myth, he does not.
"Living the absurd...means a total lack of hope (which is not the same as despair), a permanent reflection (which is not the same as renunciation), and a conscious dissatisfaction (which is not the same as juvenile anxiety).
For Camus, Sisyphus is the ultimate absurd hero. He was sentenced for the crime of loving life too much; he defied the gods and fought death. The gods thought they found a perfect form of torture for Sisyphus. He would constantly hope for success, that the stone would remain at the top of the mountain. This, the gods thought, would forever frustrate him.
Yet, defying the gods yet again, Sisyphus is without hope. He abandons any illusion that he might succeed at the assigned task. Once he does so, Camus considers him a hero in the fullest sense of the word. Sisyphus begins to view his ability to do the task again and again--to endure the punishment--as a form of victory.
"The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. We have to imagine Sisyphus happy."
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 17, 2009 10:04:12 AM PDT
Shanghaied says:
Amazing review. I have added this book to my cart and can't wait to read it. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2011 12:49:00 AM PDT
M.D. says:
How dare they say not helpful!!!

Posted on Sep 4, 2012 4:43:43 AM PDT
Devi-Ant says:
Thank you! You should write your own book of essays (and get a commission from Amazon -- I too just purchased this based in no small part on your wonderful review...well that and a Woody Allen reference.) If you are a writer, I'd love to know where to find more. Kudos. And I concur with M.D.

Posted on Sep 4, 2012 4:37:59 PM PDT
J. Walters says:
Amazing review

Posted on Mar 13, 2013 6:13:08 PM PDT
"The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. We have to imagine Sisyphus happy."

of course he would have to.
but...someone else might just see it as a complete absurdity.

and the point is?

that either idea is valid.
and if one chooses suicide as the means to escape the absurdity and does so obviously with no fear than Camus as stated speaks only for himself and his conclusion(s) offers no insight beyond that of any one else.

Posted on Jul 27, 2015 3:49:49 AM PDT
E. Geier says:
Excellent review - thank you for writing this!
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