Barnes (Washington Square, 1993);, ed.
We can compare hisconclusion with Pyrrho’s skepticism and Descartes’smethodical doubt. First of all, like Pyrrho, Camus has solved hispressing existential issue, namely, avoiding despair, by a kind ofresolution entailed in accepting our mortality and ultimateignorance. But there are two critical differences with Pyrrho:for Camus we never can abandon the desire to know, and realizing thisleads to a quickening of our life-impulses. This last point was alreadycontained in Nuptials, but here is expanded to linkconsciousness with happiness. For Camus, happiness includesliving intensely and sensuously in the present coupled withSisyphus’s tragic, lucid, and defiant consciousness, his sense oflimits, his bitterness, his determination to keep on, and his refusalof any form of consolation.
Rorty (California, 1988);Alfred R.
Camus’s hostility to Communism had its personal, political, andphilosophical reasons. These certainly reached back to his expulsionfrom the Communist Party in the mid-1930s for refusing to adhere toits Popular Front strategy of playing down French colonialism inAlgeria in order to win support from the white working class. Then,making no mention of Marxism, iseloquently silent on its claims to present a coherent understanding ofhuman history and a meaningful path to the future. His mutuallyrespectful relations with Communists during the Resistance and theimmediate postwar period turned bitter after he was attacked in theCommunist press and repaid the attack in a series of newspaperarticles in 1946 entitled “Neither Victims norExecutioners” (Aronson, 2004, 66-93).
This leads to one of the most interesting and perplexing aspects ofCamus’s thought: his determination to criticize attitudes that hefinds to be natural and inevitable. The possibility of suicide hauntshumans, as does the fact that we seek an impossible order and anunachievable permanence. Camus never directly attacks existentialistwriters, but largely confines himself to describing their inability toremain consistent with their initial insight. Similarly, he is clearthroughout The Rebel that the metaphysical need that leads toCommunism’s terror and Gulag is universal: he describes it and itsconsequences so that we can better resist it in ourselves as well asothers. His reflexive anti-Communism notwithstanding, an underlyingsympathy unites Camus to those revolutionaries he opposes, because hefreely acknowledges that he and they share the same starting points,outlook, stresses, temptations, and pitfalls. Although in politicalargument he frequently took refuge in a tone of moral superiority,Camus makes clear through his skepticism that those he disagrees withare no less and no more than fellow creatures who give in to the samefundamental drive to escape the absurdity that we all share.
Mele, (Oxford, 1992); andAnnette Barnes, (Cambridge, 1998).
Camus’s anti-Nazi commitment and newspaper experience led to himsucceeding Pia in March 1944 as editor of , the mainunderground newspaper of the non-Communist left. However, after theLiberation the question of violence continued to occupy him bothpolitically and philosophically. His allegory of the war years, , depicts a nonviolent resistance to an unexplainedpestilence, and in 1945 his was one of the few voices raised inprotest against the American use of nuclear weapons to defeat Japan(Aronson 2004, 61-63). After the Liberation he opposed the deathpenalty for collaborators, turned against Marxism and Communism forembracing revolution, rejected the looming cold war and itsthreatening violence, and then in The Rebel began to spellout his deeper understanding of violence.
Delaney, (Notre Dame, 1977); and, ed.
If historically “murder is the problem today” (,5), the encounter with absurdity tells us that the same is truephilosophically. Having ruled out suicide, what is there to say aboutmurder?
DeVries and Tim Triplett (Hackett, 2000).
After the start of World War II, Camus became editor of and opposed French entry into the war. Thespectacle of Camus and his mentor Pascal Pia running their left-wingdaily into the ground because they rejected the urgency of fightingNazism is one of the most striking but least commented-on periods ofhis life. Misunderstanding Nazism at the beginning of the war, headvocated negotiations with Hitler that would in part reverse thehumiliations of the Treaty of Versailles. His pacifism was in keepingwith a time-honored French tradition, and Camus reported for militaryservice out of solidarity with those young men, like his brother, whohad become soldiers. Intending to serve loyally and to advocate anegotiated peace in the barracks, he was angered that his tuberculosisdisqualified him (Lottman, 201–31; Aronson 2004,25–28).
Kirkham, (Bradford, 1995);, ed.
This meditation on absurdity and suicide follows closely on thepublication of Camus’s first novel, , whichalso centered on individual experience and revolves around itsprotagonist’s senseless murder of an Arab on a beach in Algiers andconcludes with his execution by guillotine. And it is often forgottenthat this absurdist novelist and philosopher was also a politicalactivist—he had been a member of the Algerian branch of theFrench Communist Party in the mid-1930s and was organizer of anAlgiers theater company that performed avant-garde and politicalplays—as well as a crusading journalist. From October 1938 untilJanuary 1940 he worked on and a sisternewspaper. In June 1939 he wrote a series of reports on famine andpoverty in the mountainous coastal region of Kabylie, among the firstdetailed articles ever written by a European Algerian describing thewretched living conditions of the native population.