Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Albert Camus (November 7, 1913January 4, 1960) was an Algerian-born French author, philosopher, and journalist who won the Nobel prize in 1957. He is often associated with existentialism, but Camus refused this label. On the other hand, as he wrote in his essay The Rebel, his whole life was devoted to opposing the philosophy of nihilism.

Camus preferred preferred persons over ideas, and thus preferred to be known as a man and a thinker, rather than as a member of a school or ideology.

MaryAnne Cohen who studied his works in college, shared the following quote from Camus' "The Plague" after reading my post entitled "Spitting int he Wind."

MaryAnne says: " I don't collect quotes but have always loved this one. It is a bit convoluted, I suspect because translated from the French, but the ideas come through."

"None the less, he knew the tale he had to tell could not be one of
final victory. It could only be the record of what had had to be done,
and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight
against terror and its relentless onslaughts, despite their personal
afflictions, by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow
down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers."
Albert Camus
Final victory! Nothing ambiguous about that. In a never-ending fight, victory is what has to be done and done again and again...refusing to bow down.

I have not read "The Plague" but reading about it, it seems Camus' concepts of the reality of impending death and suffering, are very comparable to Buddhist beleifs.

Thank you MaryAnne for this final word on dealing with the difficult struggles in our lives, that at times seem impossible. Resigning to the impossibility can so easily makes it so.


Anonymous said...

Oh my, I can't be said to have studied Camus, just read a few of his books and wrote a term paper 40 years ago!:-) It was a comparsison of the ideas in the essay "Myth of Sisyphus" and "the novel "The Plague."

To get the whole concept you really do have to read the book, there is so much more there about religions vs. rational thought, the insidious nature of evil, the tragedy of life lived conscious that death is at the end. It is a beautiful many-layered allegory, although quite a depressing story.

Camus was an atheist, I don't know that he had any relation to Buddhist thought, except maybe the idea of living in the moment as it is all we have.

Camus' point was that there was no "final victory" and never can be. Humans must try to do good, to be healers again and again because it is the way to be fully human and moral, not because there is any hope of "winning". Camus was not a nihilist like Sartre, but he certainly took a dim view of human nature in some ways. His hope and beauty was in the natural world he knew, the bright Algerian sea and harsh, clarifying sun on sand.

One of the reasons I generally do not like quotes taken out of context is that it is too easy to trivialize and simplify ideas and concepts that are multifaceted and complex and can only be seen as such in context of the whole.

AdoptAuthor said...

Thanks again. I guess I did misinterpret the quote.

I did not mean to suggest that he had studied Buddhism, but possibly came to some very same conclusion on his own - as many others have. Being in the moment is VERY Buddhist - the present is all we have. And th concept of suffering as opposed to actual pain is very Buddhist. One is unavoidable (shit happens); the amount we CHOSE to suffer as a result is optional and in our own control - albeit often difficlt to control.

As for Camus' religious beliefs, this is what Wikkipedia states:

"On the subject of his belief or not in God, he writes in the third volume of his notebooks: "I do not believe in God and I am not an atheist."

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