“The Literature of the Absurd” is a mirrored image on distinguished authors within the Absurdist custom — Beckett, Camus and past — and the methods through which their writings can intertwine with life in typically shocking methods.
My dad and mom acquired the identify “Doran” from an enormous guide of child names with storks carrying infants and kittens in baskets on its cowl. Once I was younger, they advised me it meant “reward.” Later, once I tried to independently validate this by way of a Google search of my very own, I discovered that, though that is the Greek which means, in Irish, the identify means “exile,” or “stranger.” As I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate it’s this final which means that I discover most true to myself.
The Stranger (L’Étranger in French), Albert Camus’ first novel, is a few man named Meursault. It begins with the loss of life of his mom. He reacts coolly. “Maman died at the moment. Or yesterday possibly, I don’t know,” he callously states within the well-known opening line. This eliminated, disconnected perspective stays unchanged all through many of the novel. When Meursault’s buddy Raymond requests that he write an indignant letter to Raymond’s girlfriend about her dishonest, Meursault does so as a result of “I didn’t have any purpose to not please him.” When his lover Marie asks him if he loves her, he responds that “it didn’t imply something however that I didn’t assume so.” When he’s provided a promotion at work and an opportunity to maneuver from Algiers to Paris, he tells his boss that “folks by no means change their lives, that in any case one life was nearly as good as one other,” and refuses. This perspective finally culminates within the pivotal second of the guide — when Meursault, after taking pictures a person who threatens him, fires 4 extra occasions into the physique for no obvious purpose.
There have been occasions once I, too, felt eliminated, disconnected from the world. I first heard of Camus throughout my junior 12 months of highschool. I don’t keep in mind how. I discovered largely on-line about his philosophy of absurdism, which posits that human life and existence are inherently meaningless, and that the frequent wrestle to discover a larger which means to life inevitably leads man into battle with the universe — an existential wrestle which he phrases “the absurd.”
Though an individual can dwell for an indefinite period of time with out the conclusion of the absurd, naively going about their days pondering there may be some inherent which means imbued in existence, Camus proposes solely three options one can select upon reaching consciousness of the absurd. One, to commit suicide and escape existence. Two, to show to some larger energy like God, who can grant life some which means. Camus, who had lived by way of the horrors of World Conflict II as a member of the French Resistance, may by no means settle for this, calling it in impact “philosophical suicide.” The third answer, and the one proper one based on Camus, is to just accept the absurd, however to proceed to rail towards it anyway. Solely by actively revolting towards the absurd and persevering with to wrestle regardless of it could possibly one actually discover which means in life: not from the universe, or from the next energy, however within the act of wrestle itself.
Across the time I first found Camus’ philosophy, I had simply entered right into a relationship that may drive me right into a protracted, self-destructive downward spiral. Whereas all the things appeared fantastic at first between me and my associate, earlier than lengthy we had been at one another’s throats consistently, every of us appearing out our insecurities and accusing the opposite of not caring sufficient, of not doing all the things proper to keep away from stepping on one another’s unseen traps and triggers. It was my first relationship, and whereas I clung desperately to the hope that one way or the other, issues may sometime enhance between us, that risk appeared to slide additional out of attain every day.
In Camus’ philosophy, hope represents the final word pitfall. The important thing, he argues, to accepting the absurd and having the ability to insurgent towards it, is to first abandon hope. So long as you hope that issues may one way or the other get higher — whether or not or not it’s by way of some exterior salvation or your individual actions — you’ll by no means be capable to change into actually blissful. You’ll by no means be capable to create your individual which means within the wrestle towards the absurd.
This proposition appeared ridiculous to me. Abandon hope? Hope appeared to be the one factor maintaining me going. I couldn’t dwell with this relationship because it at the moment was, however I couldn’t dwell with out it both. If I gave up and ended issues between us, I feared I’d find yourself adrift, regretting my determination, eternally worrying I had thrown away my finest probability of discovering actual happiness in my life, even when I wasn’t blissful in the mean time.
The Stranger is a narrative about hope, although I didn’t fairly understand this the primary time I learn it. To me it was only a story — an fascinating one, actually, and one which I used to be positive was layered with philosophical complexities that I wasn’t absolutely comprehending, however nonetheless a narrative nonetheless. Though I empathized on the time with the sensation of being disconnected from the world, of being unable to see past my very own slim insecurities and sometimes falling into durations of deep despair through which it appeared nothing concrete mattered, and though I admired Meursault for his capability to disconnect so totally and to stay true to this manner of being, I used to be lacking the purpose. It wasn’t till a pair months later — an eternity, when in comparison with my painful, tumultuous relationship which had lasted solely six months — once I learn Camus’ first and most well-known essay, The Delusion of Sisyphus, that I started to know.
The Delusion of Sisyphus is Camus’ most full, literary exposition of his philosophy. Camus begins with the placing declaration: “There may be however one actually critical philosophical drawback, and that’s suicide.” He goes on to arrange the absurd drawback of existence, its potential options and advocates for his answer of accepting and rebelling towards the absurd. He goes additional, offering examples of the existence lived by individuals who have change into the “absurd man,” who’ve chosen to just accept and embrace the absurd and reside most absolutely for it: the Don Juan, who throws himself consistently into new relationships with the identical vigor and intent every time regardless of understanding they are going to fail; the Actor, who lives a thousand lives by way of the stage; the Conqueror, who lives true to his beliefs even at the price of these round him.
Though “Stranger” will not be one in all Camus’ archetypal absurd characters, Meursault is a person who learns to desert hope and dwell with out. Within the novel’s remaining few pages, its philosophical climax, Meursault confronts a chaplain who comes to go to him as he awaits execution for his killing of the person earlier. The priest exhorts him to show to God in his remaining hour, to free himself from the burden of sin, to imagine in the opportunity of a unique and higher life after loss of life. Meursault initially responds with a attribute chilly aloofness, however because the priest continues to push him to embrace God he finally snaps, grabbing the person’s collar and screaming on the priest that he’s “positive about me, about all the things, surer than he may ever be, positive of my life and positive of the loss of life I had ready for me.” On the very finish of the novel, within the remaining few traces, Meursault displays that “blind rage had washed me clear,” and at last feels able to open himself to and settle for the “mild indifference of the world.” It’s on this second that Meursault most absolutely turns into Camus’ absurd man, rejecting the opportunity of the next energy past what he will be bodily positive of on this world, and selecting as an alternative to embrace that surety and loss of life to dwell his final moments most absolutely.
Meursault may abandon hope and dwell for the second within the face of sure loss of life. Might I do the identical within the face of a damaged relationship? I actually struggled to hold out any decisive motion. That relationship lasted one other 4 months, turning into ever extra frayed, fragmented by a number of breakups and reconciliations, encumbered by an ever-expanding mass of tangled misunderstandings and snarled conflicts that may be dragged up from the mud in each new argument. However I not less than discovered a strategy to dwell my life regardless of this. When conflicts flared up like wildfire and I felt fully overwhelmed, paralyzed by a worry that I wouldn’t be capable to preserve the connection from going up in flames, I assumed concerning the absurd, and about hope, and reminded myself I didn’t want it. That data stored me grounded. I may cope with issues within the second. There was no want to consider the long run, or what may lie in retailer for me or my associate. So long as I may simply get by way of this subsequent day, that was sufficient, needed to be sufficient.
Years later, I nonetheless don’t faux to completely perceive The Stranger. It’s a guide that has been analyzed lots of and hundreds of occasions, stuffed with nuances which are nonetheless being mentioned and debated. Whereas Meursault most clearly embraces and rebels towards the absurdity of the world after his confrontation with the priest on the finish of the novel, as an example, I can’t fairly work out why he appears to care so little about his circumstances previous to this revelation — has he already accepted the absurd and deserted hope? Does his chilly, callous nature make his absurd transformation extra seemingly or believable? Does Camus imply for him to be a mannequin for our personal habits? Meursault’s character has been topic to limitless evaluation, and can proceed to be for hundreds of years to come back. On the finish of the day, I really feel content material that I’m able to see a chunk of myself in Meursault, whether or not that be extra in his character initially of his journey or on the finish.
Camus ends The Delusion of Sisyphus with a musing that, regardless of his everlasting, hopeless toil, and certainly maybe due to it, “one should think about Sisyphus blissful.” Maybe we are able to additionally think about Meursault blissful. And maybe, in doing so, I can discover happiness myself.