This work of literature was originally written in French and published in 1942 under the title Le Mythe de Sisyphe (The Myth of Sisyphus). It was written as a personal analysis of the author in the face of some life circumstances such as suicide and religion as well as freedom of thought.
This literary work is a philosophical essay. This type of writing is a prose written text that focuses on evaluating and / or analyzing a particular topic from a philosophical point of view. Essays are responsible for presenting personal arguments for or against an idea or thesis.
This work is named after a character from Greek mythology, Sisyphus. According to the Greeks, Sisyphus was an extremely cunning character, this made the gods angry with him. As a consequence of his cunning, the gods punished him by taking his sight and making him push a rock up a hill, so that when it fell into the void, the journey had to start again.
The relation of The Myth of Sisyphus with Camus’s essay is that the author focuses on showing the absurd man that even being aware of the uselessness of his life, he continues on his way without changing anything about it.
The central concern of The Myth of Sisyphus is what Camus calls “the absurd.” The author about the conflict between what we want from the universe compared to what we find in it. We will never find in life itself the meaning we want to find. Either we will discover that meaning through a leap of faith, by pinning our hopes on a God beyond this world, or we will conclude that life is meaningless.
The myth of Sisyphus begins when the author asks himself if the affirmation that life has no meaning necessarily leads one to the conclusion of taking life. If the meaning of life does not exist, would this mean that it is not worth continuing to live? If that were the case, we would have no choice but to take a leap of faith or commit suicide, Camus says. Camus is interested in looking for a third possibility: that we can accept and live in a world without meaning or purpose.
The essay states that the absurd is an irreconcilable contradiction, therefore, any attempt to reconcile it will simply be a mere attempt to escape it. Therefore, to face this absurdity will be to fight against it. The author claims that some existentialist philosophers and phenomenologists confront this contradiction of the absurd, only to then try to escape it. Existentialists find no meaning or order in existence and then try to find some kind of transcendence or meaning in this lack of meaning.
Learning to live with the absurd according to the author, is a matter of facing the fundamental contradiction as well as maintaining constant awareness about it. Facing the absurd does not imply suicide, but, on the contrary, allows us to live life to the fullest.
Camus identifies three characteristics of absurd life: revolt (we must not accept any response or reconciliation in our struggle), freedom (we are absolutely free to think and behave as we choose) and passion (we must pursue a life of rich and diverse experiences).
Camus gives four examples of absurd life: the seducer, who pursues the passions of the moment; the actor, who compresses the passions of hundreds of lives in a theatrical career; the conqueror or rebel, whose political struggle focuses his energies; and the artist, who creates entire worlds. Absurd art does not try to explain experience, it simply describes it. It presents a certain vision of the world that deals with particular issues instead of pointing to universal themes.
The essay ends by discussing the Greek myth of the character of Sisyphus. This mythological character was punished by rolling a rock up a mountain only to roll down upon reaching the top for all eternity. For Camus, Sisyphus is the ideal representation of the hero of the absurd, so his punishment is a faithful sample of the human condition. This character must fight forever without any hope of success. By accepting that there is nothing more in your life than that absurd eternal fight, you can even find some happiness in this fight.
Camus appends to his essay a discussion of the works of Franz Kafka. Finally he concludes that Kafka is an existentialist who, like Kierkegaard, chooses to take a leap of faith rather than accept his absurd condition. However, Camus admires Kafka for expressing humanity’s absurd situation so perfectly.
One of the main themes of this essay studies the relationship between absurdity and suicide. This is done by questioning the degree to which suicide is presented as a solution to the absurd. The principle can be established that for a man who does not cheat, what he believes to be true must determine his action.
The belief in the absurdity of existence must dictate its behavior. It is legitimate to ask, clearly and without false pathos, if a conclusion of this importance requires leaving an incomprehensible condition as quickly as possible.
The regularity of an impulse or a repulsion in a soul is found again in the habits of doing or thinking, it is reproduced in consequences of which the soul itself knows nothing.
It teaches that a man defines himself both by his fantasy and by his sincere impulses. Therefore, there is a lower key of feelings, inaccessible in the heart but partially revealed by the acts they involve and the mental attitudes they assume.
- “All great actions and all great thoughts have ridiculous reasoning. Great works are often born around a corner or on the doorstep of a restaurant. And the same absurdity. The absurd world draws its nobility, more than any other, from this miserable birth.
- “The genius: the intelligence that knows its borders.”
- “All passion specialists tell us: there is no eternal love if it is not disappointed. There is no passion without a fight. ”