A Determined Soul

Selections from Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”

Everything considered, a determined soul will always manage. (41)
 
To a man devoid of blinders, there is no finer sight than that of the intelligence at grips with a reality that transcends it. (55)
 
At any streetcorner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face. As it is, in its distressing nudity, in its light without effulgence, it is elusive. But that very difficulty deserves reflection. It is probably true that a man remains forever unknown to us and that there is in him something irreducible that escapes us. But practically I know men and recognize them by their behavior, by the totality of their deeds, by the consequences caused in life by their presence. Likewise, all those irrational feelings which offer no purchase to analysis. I can define them practically, appreciate them practically, by gathering together the sum of their consequences in the domain of the intelligence, by seizing and noting all their aspects, by outlining their universe. (10–11)
 
And you give me the choice between a description that is sure but that teaches me nothing and hypotheses that claim to teach me but that are not sure. (20)
 
I said that the world was absurd, but I was too hasty. This world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment it is all that links them together. It binds them one to the other as only hatred can weld two creatures together. (21)
 
The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world. This must not be forgotten. This must be clung to because the whole consequence of a life can depend on it. The irrational, the human nostalgia, and the absurd that is born of their encounter — these are the three characters in the drama that must necessarily end with all the logic of which an existence is capable. (28)

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Justin O’Brien (trans.), Random House, New York, NY, 1991. Originally published in France as Le Mythe de Sisyphe by Librairie Gallimard, 1942. First published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.

Notes

I started out trying to read this as philosophy, but the strain of doing that was making me ill, so I had to switch over and read it as a novel, a stream of consciousness narrative of a man fighting his way through a storm of mental impressions.

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