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The Myth of Sisyphus : And Other Essays Mass Market Paperback – 1955

4.2 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Later Printing edition (1955)
  • ASIN: B001QDH8UK
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,738,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on October 2, 2000
Format: 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?
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Format: Paperback
Sartre said this book should be read as you read The Stranger, and I have found that advice to be valuable to my students. My kids are always a bit bewildered about the scene where Mersault kills the Arab, but when they read, "The greatest good is the greatest consciousness," they begin to see why the Stranger was so strange. And when he "awakens" just before dawn of the day he is to die, and the students read, "You must live your life as if you have been condemned to die and sun is beginning to rise," they begin to understand. The title essay for the book argues what I think is the final argument in the Ontological question raised by the Greeks: Since life is absurd, where the meanings should be is a vacuum, and we desperately want meaning when we recognize our necessary death, then we are free to make our own meanings, and it is the making of meaning that is the point of living; that is, the growth of individual consciousness. Camus, then, is the great optimist in a time of great pessimism.
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I agree with the reviewer below who points out that this collection, especially the title essay, is a great companion for reading The Stranger. My AP English students loved The Stranger, but they got a much clearer idea of what Camus' brand of existentialism was after reading this essay. It sounds like a bizarre concept, but Camus regarded Sisyphus as a hero because every single time he toiled to push the rock up the mountain, there is one brief moment when he reaches the top that he is CONSCIOUS of his task, and in this brief glance downwards, Camus feels that Sisyphus experiences a small degree of something close to hope. This realization defeats the gods who sentenced him because he finds consolation in his struggle. For Camus, it is the struggle that must occupy us. The difference between Sisyphus and a factory worker is that Sisyphus experiences the freedom to think and process what he doing. For Camus, this level of consciousness can free any of us from our everyday lives.
This collection is a must to get a better understanding of The Stranger and other Camus novels and ideas.
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The Myth of Sysiphus deals with what Camus calls the most important question a philosopher can ask: "is life worth living?" The possitive answer is to continue living, while the negative is to take one's own life. Camus discusses the relation of the "absurd world" to a person's decision to live. He also describes, in some legnth, what he means by the term "absurd world." Basically, he's talking about the world as having no meaning by itself. Man attempts to give meaning to the patterns, and chaos that he sees. So, the absurd is humankind attempting to relate to, and explain an inexplicable existence.
He says that a person (at least those who are willing to think about their world) will inevitably be faced with a situation in which the world seems to become meaningless. This is what brings up the inevitable question... "is life worth living?" Camus comes up with his own answer to this question.
This isn't as accessable as his fictional pieces ( e.g. The Stranger, or the Plague), however, it does give you excellent insight into the philosophies that run throughout his other Novels. So, if you are already a Camus reader, I would highly suggest reading The Myth of Sysiphus --and then reading his other works again. However, if you haven't been exposed to him yet, I would recomend starting with The Stranger before reading this.
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