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1. The Plague
2. The Stranger (Everyman's Library)
3. The Plague, The Fall, Exile and
4. The Fall
5. The Stranger
6. L'Etranger (Collection Folio,
7. The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other
8. The First Man
9. The Stranger
10. Notebooks, 1951-1959: Volume III,
11. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in
12. The Outsider (Penguin Modern Classics)
13. Lyrical and Critical Essays
14. Happy Death
15. Resistance, Rebellion, and Death:
16. Albert Camus: A Life
17. The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics)
18. Albert Camus's The Stranger (Bloom's
19. Albert Camus the Algerian: Colonialism,
20. La Peste

1. The Plague
by Albert Camus, Stuart Gilbert
Paperback: 320 Pages (1991-05-07)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$6.44
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679720219
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
A haunting tale of human resilience in the face of unrelieved horror, Camus' novel about a bubonic plague ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature.Amazon.com Review
The Nobel prize-winning Albert Camus, who died in 1960, couldnot have known how grimly current his existentialist novel of epidemicand death would remain. Set in Algeria, in northern Africa, ThePlague is a powerful study of human life and its meaning in theface of a deadly virus that sweeps dispassionately through the city,taking a vast percentage of the population with it. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (170)

5-0 out of 5 stars Simultaneous dehumanization and collective identity
"The Plague" by Albert Camus tells the tale of an Algerian city struck by the bubonic plague.Over time the city devolves and hope gives way to despair.Camus uses an impartial narrator to tell the story of many different characters who all react differently to the plague.

Like Camus' nonfictional work he consistently asks interesting questions with no apparent answers.When the doctor, Rieux, is asked why he helps the city even though his work increases his chance of death he cannot readily give an answer.According to Rieux the reason is because it is his job.As the plague lingers the doctor develops a stronger bond with the people."The Plague" has many interesting characters and is an enticing book but Camus typically leaves the question of "why" a character acts unresolved.

Like the works of Kafka "The Plague" is open to different interpretations.Most likely it is an allegory about French resistance to Nazi occupation with the underlying assumption of Absurdism.This creates a compelling novel but a weak philosophical discourse.

5-0 out of 5 stars Infectious
Set in the Algerian town of Oran, 'The Plague' is superficially an account of an infectious outbreak within the city and of the subsequent response of the townspeople as they each accept the reality of the plague in their own way. The setting and conditions then parallel other 'plagues' of the author's time (and ours, of course) - from abstractions such as ideology, to manifest afflictions such as the fascist occupation of France during World War II.However, because of the amoral and faceless nature of this particular sickness, Camus is able to strip his narrative of useless recriminations and distractions, and instead portray in a rather clinical way the town's response.These reactions vary wildly, yet Camus makes little in the way of value judgments.Although there are characters who, to my mind, act courageously and are self-sacrificing, the author refuses to acknowledge them as heroes, and in the same way stops short of calling those who have taken advantage of the situation for personal gain villains.But Camus is not so detached as to render his story emotionless - instead, it reads as much as I would expect it to, with the narrator sounding exhausted after his ordeal, and realizing that the labels we may feel are handy shortcuts to describe reality before experiencing an extreme trial are generally useless to us once we've emerged onto the other side.

This is, I think, Camus greatest accomplishment within this novel - or at least, the aspect that resonated deepest with me.I thought Camus' ability to condense these thoughts into a coherent narrative was particularly mesmerizing.So much so that it overshadows the importance of any literary flaws I felt it had - there are definitely worthy criticisms of 'The Plague' - they were just not sufficient to detract from the primary themes.

The plague that visits the town may be effective as a way of illustrating the arbitrariness of life (or its absurdity), and also act as an uncannily apt allegory for the Nazi occupation of Paris, yet I marveled most over Camus' ability to overcome the temptation of writers (and societies) to romanticize grave events like the one in this novel.To often, for the sake of entertainment, or because of previously held beliefs, stories of hardship often have a manipulative emotional appeal, as if the author is trying to rally me into a certain way of thinking by overemphasizing the 'good' and the 'bad' aspects.No writer can completely escape himself enough to achieve pure objectivity, and Camus doesn't either - there are plenty of ideas here he is trying to put across.But he escapes blatant contrivances, and examines human behavior under extreme circumstances, arriving at conclusions I assume he developed while actually experiencing similar conditions - as a member of the resistance during World War II.In this way, the exhausted truths that the main character, Dr. Rieux, comes to terms with by the end of the plague feel verified.

One of the central questions Camus deals with in the novel is the obligation of people in such circumstances in the absence of any higher law - whether that is a supernatural law or an abstraction created by man.Without a 'right' or 'wrong', why continue to fight against the disease, the plague - in the face of life's ultimate absurdity, why struggle?Readers will have to determine for themselves if Camus answers this question to their satisfaction - much like the ideas I found within 'The Stranger', there are many of his conclusions that I have trouble reconciling.But unlike his previous book, the 'truths' Camus has tried to present in 'The Plague' sound less like a man who is trying to convince himself as well as his audience, and more like someone who has quietly listed his observations and left the rest to the reader.

I think it is unfortunate that 'The Stranger' receives more notoriety than 'The Plague', but it probably has much to do with the pacing, and Camus' tendency in his second novel to sound rather dry and clinical.I think there is a purpose behind that style, or at least it seemed to dovetail quite well with his objectives, but for someone reading simply for the story, I have a feeling they would think it drags.I also felt as if Camus made a special effort in the narrative to hold up dogmatic religion as useless.This is the only section of the book where I thought Camus failed - not so much because I agree or disagree, but because I felt as though he was simply too obvious.These points subtract little from the book's overall effectiveness though.After 'The Stranger', I was nearly convinced I'd read all of Camus that was necessary for me - what a shame it would have been to stop there!I found 'The Plague' extremely thought-provoking, and very influential at this time of my life - and one of the handful of post-war novels I've read that I feel I'd have been poorer for missing.Hats off!

1-0 out of 5 stars Detached and clinical
This book has no emotion, depth or human insight. It reads like a clinical analysis. Boring and disappointing as was the Stranger.

5-0 out of 5 stars From solitude to solidarity
When I first read THE PLAGUE 35-40 years ago, I sure did miss a lot.Now, re-reading it as part of my ongoing survey of Camus's writings, I conclude that it is a great novel - one that by itself would justify the award of the Nobel Prize to its author.A rich and multi-faceted work, it is difficult to characterize, in part because, as noted by Margaret Gray, it oscillates "between event and abstraction, literal and figurative meaning, chronicle and allegory."

The surface tale is of an epidemic of the plague (first bubonic, then also pneumonic) in the Algerian city of Oran in the early 1940's.It dealt horrific deaths to thousands; it brought about the quarantine of the city and the isolation of its residents from the rest of humanity; it deprived the beleaguered inhabitants of hope and a future and gradually enveloped their lives with an oppressive existential miasma.But led by a few resolute souls some of the inhabitants banded together and fought back, not with expectations of eventual victory, but because it was the only decent, the only logical, thing to do.

THE PLAGUE was published in 1947, and the obvious "real-world" analog to the fictional pestilence of Oran was the Nazi occupation of France of 1941-1945.But it would be a mistake to think of THE PLAGUE simply as some sort of allegory of the Nazi Occupation.For Camus, "the plague" is not an isolated phenomenon.It is an existential condition that is ever-recurring, even ever-present.Near the end of the novel, an old man, commenting on the epidemic, says, "But what does that mean--`plague'?Just life, no more than that."Earlier in the novel, two of its "heroes" (although both would disavow the term) - Dr. Bernard Rieux and Jean Tarrou (who both can readily be seen as alter egos of Camus himself) - are having a philosophical discussion about what to do in a world without God, a world "shaped by death". Tarrou observes to the physician Rieux, who doggedly is working around the clock to tend to plague victims, "your victories will never be lasting."(Rieux responds, "Yes, I know that.But it's no reason for giving up the struggle." Arguably, that is the moral of the novel.)

At bottom, THE PLAGUE is a philosophical novel.I personally am finding Camus's philosophy much more comprehensible, and acceptable, as expressed in a literary fashion in his novels than as articulated in his more overtly philosophical non-fiction essays or works, such as "The Myth of Sisyphus" or "The Rebel".(This brings to mind the observation - by whom, I forget - to the effect that Sartre had a much greater aptitude for formal philosophy than for literature, whereas with Camus the opposite was true.)In addition to the overarching discussion of pestilence as a metaphor for the human condition, there also are numerous philosophical side-bars.One of the most impassioned and effective has to do with the death penalty; Camus is unequivocally opposed - just two years after he had argued publicly for execution of the worst of the collaborators.Another is this extract:

"On the whole, men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point.But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness."

I have minor quibbles with the novel.Especially in contrast to "The Stranger" (published in 1942), which was a work of rare economy and concision, THE PLAGUE is rather expansive, at times even wordy (or windy).I am inclined to think that Camus was a tad pretentious in dividing the work into five parts, emulating or evoking the five acts of classical tragedy.And as a matter of personal philosophical outlook, I disagree with Camus when he implies that life itself is an oppression or pestilence.But those quibbles really are nit-picks.

A final word of advice:For those who have never read THE PLAGUE, or have not read it in quite a while, I strongly urge first reading "The Stranger" (which can be done in just a few hours).Both novels raise the dilemma of how man goes on in the modern post-Nietzschean world without God.In "The Stranger", the solution is found within the individual, in the context of solitude.In THE PLAGUE -- five years later and after Camus's involvement with the Resistance - the solution is found through interpersonal involvement and love, in the context of human solidarity.Camus himself, in a letter to Roland Barthes, characterized the evolution between the two novels as one from solitude to solidarity.

3-0 out of 5 stars Good moments throughout.
I wasn't blown away by The Plague.The characters were well developed and the story was overall interesting.The book sometimes lost my interest making it difficult to read.I would have to put the book down at times to be able to continue reading through it. Camus likes to use the same types of symbols and themes in all his novels, making it somewhat difficult for someone who is just reading one of his books to understand what everything means without looking into it.I did enjoy Dr. Rieux as a main character, his perspective on things made the novel very interesting.

While I thought that the story was interesting at times, other times it got quite boring and was difficult to read.This book could do a better job of telling more interesting tales within the city of Oran while still getting the overall message across.That is why this book received three stars out of five instead of receiving more. ... Read more

2. The Stranger (Everyman's Library)
by Albert Camus
Hardcover: 160 Pages (1993-02-23)
list price: US$18.00 -- used & new: US$8.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679420266
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Introduction by Peter Dunwoody; Translation by Matthew WardAmazon.com Review
The Stranger is not merely one of the most widely read novels of the20th century, but one of the books likely to outlive it. Written in 1946,Camus's compelling and troubling tale of a disaffected, apparently amoralyoung man has earned a durable popularity (and remains a staple of U.S.high school literature courses) in part because it reveals so vividly theanxieties of its time. Alienation, the fear of anonymity, spiritualdoubt--all could have been given a purely modern inflection in the hands ofa lesser talent than Camus, who won the Nobel Prize in 1957 and was notedfor his existentialist aesthetic. The remarkable trick of TheStranger, however, is that it's not mired in period philosophy.

The plot is simple. A young Algerian, Meursault, afflicted with a sort ofaimless inertia, becomes embroiled in the petty intrigues of a local pimpand, somewhat inexplicably, ends up killing a man. Once he's imprisoned andeventually brought to trial, his crime, it becomes apparent, is not so much the arguably defensible murder he has committed as it is his deficient character. The trial's proceedings are absurd, a parsing of incidentaltrivialities--that Meursault, for instance, seemed unmoved by his own mother's death andthen attended a comic movie the evening after her funeral are twoostensibly damning facts--so that the eventual sentence the jury issues isboth ridiculous and inevitable.

Meursault remains a cipher nearly to the story's end--dispassionate, clinical,disengaged from his own emotions. "She wanted to know if I loved her," hesays of his girlfriend. "I answered the same way I had the last time, thatit didn't mean anything but that I probably didn't." There's a latentominousness in such observations, a sense that devotion is nothing morethan self-delusion. It's undoubtedly true that Meursault exhibits anextreme of resignation; however, his confrontation with "the gentleindifference of the world" remains as compelling as it was when Camus firstrecounted it. --Ben Guterson ... Read more

Customer Reviews (557)

5-0 out of 5 stars Perfect condition
The book came in a reasonable amount of time, in perfect condition and no issues. I will use this seller again!

3-0 out of 5 stars falling bolders
this is a book i haven't read and probably won't but, currently,i am reading The Plague.

i admit to having a preference for primary sources rather than books about books.

5-0 out of 5 stars A first person look into the mind of a sociopath
On the surface 'The Stranger' is the story of Meursault, who after attending his mother's funeral embarks on a series of events that ultimately lead to murder.

The genius of this book is the first person narrative, offering a 'personal diary' of the character, a man struggling with a disconnect from society. He encounters people and situations that should inspire feelings in him but he recognizes they do not. Much like Nabokov's Humbert in 'Lolita,' the madman begins to convince his reader that he deserves sympathy, only to demonstrate to you yet again why he does not.

At 117 pages it may be tempting to devour this book in one sitting, but I think it is well worth the time to comb these pages meticulously. The psychological depth of Camus' work truly lends itself to patience.

I would strongly recommend this literary classic.You might also check out Arthur Koestler's 'Darkness at Noon,' a lesser known novel of a former revolutionary leader caught up in Stalin's purges. Its insights into the mind of a condemned man are also astounding.

4-0 out of 5 stars To stay, or to make a move--it came to much the same.

I first read The Stranger (Albert Camus: L'Étranger) in French Literature class in school. I recently re-read it in English, specifically the first (and it would appear from much feedback, the best) English translation, by Stuart Gilbert (The Stranger). The quotations I have chosen below, and for the title above, are from that edition. This is a fairly important point; see Postscript at bottom.

"Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure."

I found myself appreciating the book--for that matter, even Meursault's viewpoint on the world--much more now than I did as a teenager. Perhaps one needs a few years' worth of frustration (at bosses, and government, even traffic!) to get in the proper mood. Camus succeeds at asking, even in translated form, classic existentialist questions such as What are we doing with our lives? and Does anything really matter? The book could have easily been titled, "L'Ennui."

"I learned that even after a single day's experience of the outside world a man could easily live a hundred years in prison."

At just 150 pages, The Stranger moves along quickly. You could finish this in one evening's sitting, but the unease it leaves you with would last much longer. I recommend this short course in the Absurd, especially if you read it once (and moved on promptly) when you were young.

"I decided that if ever I got out of jail, I'd attend every execution that took place."

Not an uplifting book, this. Still glad to have rediscovered it. We'll see how I feel in another twenty years! On my way out to view the guillotine, let me add that I never realized how closely Seinfeld's Finale was based on the trial in Part Two here.

"Is my client on trial for having buried his mother, or for killing a man?"

Postscript: Amazon has combined the product listings so everything is listed together regardless of translation. Know that there are three English versions: Stuart Gilbert's classic from 1946, Joseph Laredo's little-known effort from the early 80s, and Matthew Ward's more recent Americanized version. Be careful and purchase the one you want.

3-0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm...
OK, i will make two reviews of this book and you can choose the one that best suits you:

- THE POLITICALLY CORRECT REVIEW: Albert Camus develops his philosophy in a story where the absurd and the quest for existentialism merge. Meursault, the main character, kills an Arab in a confusing situation and ends up being judged by this crime. The absurdity of human life, the arbitrariness of justice and the importance of phisical experiences are depicted in an exquisite yet profound way.

- THE ALTERNATIVE REVIEW: don't expect any intrigue or suspense from this pretty dull book. Mersault, the main character, is a man who doesn't really know what to do with his life and kills an Arab in a beach because the sun was annoying him (this is what "the absurd" is all about). The so-called arbitrariness of justice is nothing but a proper trial. Only in the last chapter did I find some interesting thoughts but I could have saved my time and read just that. Surely won't change your life...

I have mixed feelings, I couldn't decide for one of both reviews. ... Read more

3. The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected Essays (Everyman's Library)
by Albert Camus
Hardcover: 696 Pages (2004-08-17)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$14.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400042550
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

From one of the most brilliant and influential thinkers of the twentieth century–two novels, six short stories, and a pair of essays in a single volume. In both his essays and his fiction, Albert Camus (1913—1960) de-ployed his lyric eloquence in defense against despair, providing an affirmation of the brave assertion of humanity in the face of a universe devoid of order or meaning.

The Plague–written in 1947 and still profoundly relevant–is a riveting tale of horror, survival, and resilience in the face of a devastating epidemic. The Fall (1956), which takes the form of an astonishing confession by a French lawyer in a seedy Amsterdam bar, is a haunting parable of modern conscience in the face of evil. The six stories of Exile and the Kingdom (1957) represent Camus at the height of his narrative powers, masterfully depicting his characters–from a renegade missionary to an adulterous wife –at decisive moments of revelation. Set beside their fictional counterparts, Camus’s famous essays “The Myth of Sisyphus” and “Reflections on the Guillotine” are all the more powerful and philosophically daring, confirming his towering place in twentieth-century thought. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great collection, a must have!
Great value!It's a heavy read, but everyone should read Camus at least once in their lives. :)

5-0 out of 5 stars Moving, Thought-Provoking, and Genius
I had read Camus's "The Stranger" and was taken aback by the wonderful understanding he had of the human mind. I needed to read more, and in this handsome book was a great feast for the mind. It is not meant to be read all at once, I found it helpful to read another book inbetween the full-length novels within the collection.
There has been no singular work that has moved me as much as the "The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected Essays", it goes beyond existentialism and his philosophy. It delves into the very mind, that which makes us human. The stories are not lost through their translation from French, the characters are the people you see in the streets, but they are put under the eye of a profound intellectual. It is more than worth the price, and the time spent reading the words is time well spent. His contribution to modern philosophy and existentialism is unchallenged, but he is also an amazing author and voice. The Plague may be the highlight of the book, but one will not lose enthusiasm reading that which follows.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Albert Camus Anthology
If you're a fan of existentialism or just great literature then this is the book for you.Just by buying this set you're already saving money and the hardcover makes it great for book shelf eye candy.If you want to read what each section is about then just read the next review but if you're reading this, take into consideration that Camus wasn't awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for nothing.He was deeply involved in the struggles for Algerian freedom and you can tell from his novels that he is consciensly involved with the questions of the absurd and the freedom of man in a messed up world.These books and essays will make you think and start to ask yourself questions.

5-0 out of 5 stars Love, Exile, and Suffering Illuminated by Life around Death
What is the meaning of life? For many, that question is an abstraction except in the context of being aware of losing some of the joys of life, or life itself. In The Plague, Camus creates a timeless tale of humans caught in the jaws of implacable death, in this case a huge outbreak of bubonic plague in Oran, Algeria on the north African coast. With the possibility of dying so close, each character comes to see his or her life differently. In a sense, we each get a glimpse of what we, too, may think about life in the last hours and days before our own deaths. The Plague will leave you with a sense of death as real rather than as an abstraction. Then by reflecting in the mirror of that death, you can see life more clearly.

For example, what role would you take if bubonic plague were to be unleashed in your community? Would you flee? Would you help relieve the suffering? Would you become a profiteer? Would you help maintain order? Would you withdraw or seek out others? These are all important questions for helping you understand yourself that this powerful novel will raise for you.

The book is described as objectively as possible by a narrator, who is one of the key figures in the drama. That literary device allows each of us to insert ourselves into the situation.

Let me explain the main themes. Love is expressed in many ways. There is the love of men and women for each other. Dr. Rieux's wife is ill, and has just left for treatment at a sanitarium. Rambert, a journalist on temporary assignment, is separated from his live-in girl friend in Paris. Dr. Rieux's mother comes to stay with him during his mother's absence, so there is also love of parent and child. The magistrate also loses his son to the plague after a desperate battle. Separations occur because of the quarantine on Oran, which causes love to be tested. What is love without the other person being present? The characters find that their memories soon become abstractions. But they reach out to establish new love with each other. Tarrou, who is also caught in Oran, decides or organize a volunteer corps to help with the sick and dead. Rambert decides to stay in Oran to help after having arranged to escape the quarantine. The survivors find succor in increasing closeness with each other. Rieux and Tarrou become close, almost like brothers. Even Rieux's patients become people with whom he develops an emotional bond, even though the waves of death become an abstraction as he can do little to avert them. The priest figure also helps to explore the notion of love for God and God's love for us. The exile theme is reinforced by the quarantine. People cannot leave Oran. The disease itself causes that exile to become worse. If someone in your household becomes ill, each well person has to be quarantined. So you may be living in a tent in the soccer stadium wondering what is happening to the rest of your family. Cottard is a criminal who is on the run from the authorities. He is in despair as the plague begins, and tries to kill himself. The distractions of the plague keep the authorities from troubling him, so the period of the plague is an exile from his criminal past.

Suffering is easy to explain. Bubonic plague came in two forms in the book. Both brought painful and rapid death, with few reprieves. There is high fever, painful swelling or difficulty in breathing, and enormous pain. Those who tend the suffering also suffer, from the enormous workloads, the sense of futility, and the fear that they, too, will be next.

Camus does a nice job of pointing out that these themes also recur in everyday life. We just don't see them very clearly. The people in Oran live in an ugly city that deliberately built itself away from the beauty of the ocean on a sun-scorched plateau plagued by winds. They take little time to enjoy each other or the ocean, because they are caught up with making money. Commerce is their passion. So they cut themselves off from love, in an exile of spirit, which causes them to shrivel and suffer emotionally even before the plague comes. Tarrou also describes is own sense of the plague in everyday life when he discovers that his father is a prosecuting attorney who helps bring criminals to the justice of a firing squad. Even that faint connection of not trying to stop the legal killing causes Tarrou to feel like he carries the plague within him.

The book is masterful in its use of metaphor. In the beginning, dying rats and small animals presage the plague attacking humans. At the end, their return presages the return of normal life to Oran. The scenes alternate between illuminating the main themes in the context of the physical plague and the emotional plague. Religion is used as a bridge between the two, raising the fundamental question about what God's purpose is in unleashing the plague. The priest is fully tested in his love of God through this development, which is one of the most moving parts of the book.

I have read the book both in French and in English, and found this translation to be a perfectly appropriate one. There are few nuances that you will miss by reading this in English. Obviously, if you read French well, you should read the book in its original form.

This book is an excellent example of why Albert Camus was named a Nobel Laureate in Literature.

After you read this great novel, I encourage you to consider the subject of complacency. That's the author's ultimate target. Where are you complacent in ways that cost you love, closeness with others, and happiness? What else is complacency costing you? How can you help others learn to overcome complacency in loving, happy ways without the spectre of death to help you? ... Read more

4. The Fall
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 160 Pages (1991-05-07)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$7.07
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679720227
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Elegantly styled, Camus' profoundly disturbing novel of a Parisian lawyer's confessions is a searing study of modern amorality. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (105)

3-0 out of 5 stars Lost In The Fog
At one point in "The Fall" we join our narrator and his companion as they float along Amsterdam's Zuider Zee. We are assured the boat is going at top speed, though with surroundings blotted out by dimness and fog, it's hard to tell.

"We are steaming along without any landmark; we can't gauge our speed," the narrator says. "We are making progress and yet nothing is changing. It's not navigation but dreaming."

It's the best summary I can offer for the experience of reading this Albert Camus novel, first published in 1956. It's a novel in the same way Plato's Allegory of the Cave can be called a short story. Consisting of one person talking over a period of days about his life in general and a sense of cosmic disconnectedness, "The Fall" is largely free of incident the same way the narrator's Zuider Zee lacks perceptible landmarks. Camus's bold approach is helped immensely by the narrative voice of wry confidence Camus affects. Yet some readers, like me, will be left feeling adrift.

There are really only two characters in the book, with me (or you) the reader apparently being one. The other, who identifies himself as Jean-Baptiste Clamence (later we learn he originally went by another name he never reveals), is a sly, effusive fellow who supplies the whole narrative in what amounts to a transcript of sorts recorded over a five-day period. Jean-Baptiste has some secrets he wants to reveal, in his own roundabout way, connected to a philosophy of general bleakness fueled by guilt-induced self-loathing he feels has universal application.

"A liking for truth at any cost is a passion that spares nothing and that nothing resists," Camus writes in Clamence's voice. "It's a vice, at times a comfort, or a selfishness. Therefore, if you are in that situation, don't hesitate: promise to tell the truth and then lie as best you can. You will satisfy their hidden desire and doubly prove your affection."

Aphoristic ideas like this run thick and fast throughout the book. It's a short read, and the chapters do build up as Clamence unpeels his inner onion bit by bit, yet the overall effect is less immersive than diverting. Like "The Stranger", another Camus novel of greater reputation, "The Fall" has a distinctive voice that pulls you in, yet "The Stranger" is grounded by a real story, and a protagonist you felt you knew. Not knowing very much about Clamence seems the point of "The Fall" as much as anything else.

Camus is described as an existentialist by some, and indeed a sense of eternal aloneness permeates "The Fall". But Camus seems bleaker here than any existentialist. If Jean-Paul Sartre famously claimed "hell is other people", "The Fall" more than suggests hell is just you alone, too. At the same time, there's a strong Christian subtext running through the narrative. The narrator speaks of the Christ story in particular with evident tenderness that seem to belie his claims of unbelief. He speaks of his sense of guilt as tied into the Christian concept of original sin, and in one bracing anecdote, suggests Christ Himself partook of this pain despite Scriptural claims to the contrary.

Camus is never boring here, just hard to grab onto. I think this was intentional on his part, but it doesn't make him easier to read. "The Fall" is for readers with an open mind, though without a clear plot or point, it's hard to recommend. I think Camus might have said the same of life.

3-0 out of 5 stars Good, Not Great; Bad, Not Terrible
A remarkable achievement!Never has there been, never will there ever be again a narrator so abstruse, so annoying.A remarkable achievement!Never will there be another character a reader can empathize with better than "you"; like "you," you return every time Jean-Baptise asks, willing to receive more verbal lashings.Ah.Why so sour?Is three stars not a decent score?It is, sure it is.The reason, though, I gave such a high score has nothing to do with content and everything to do with structure.The technical skill this book displays is an enviable literary feat.I cannot say more about it, though, for fear of revealing something.But there is so much to analyze, too much to analyze.It is the problem with THE FALL.More on this in a few sentences, monsieur.

No, this is not a narrative--a story--it is an essay masked as one.Beautiful, disarming descriptions and statements lie in nearly every page of this book, but never does drama make an appearance.Never is there a sustained tension that keeps us invested.The ideas, the ideas are important, not the characters.Fine, an intellectual novel.But a good one?I would argue it isn't, THE FALL.Too many times were ideas, even exact phrases, repeated.For such a short length, this work, it does it too often.Of course, that is not bad in itself; it may even significantly add to the theme in some works.But not in this one.Much of the novel feels as if additional words were added only to make it all more confounding.

What it does say, it says brilliantly--again, an enviable literary feat.But how depressing and unsolvable the problem it poses!Humans to me, ladies and gentlemen, are not what they are to Jean-Baptise.For the many pages he had to convince me of my supposed role, he did not do an adequate job.Since there is only a semblance of plot, the size of the book does not feel justified.It is a mental exercise for sure, however.To anybody interested in exploring dark ideas, THE FALL is good, not great.For those in need of a story, THE FALL is bad, not terrible.

3-0 out of 5 stars "God is not needed to create guilt or to punish.Our fellow men suffice, aided by ourselves."
Written in 1955-56, THE FALL is the last of Albert Camus's three finished novels.To me, it is the least satisfying.To the extent that I can get a purchase on the novel (which, at 147 pages, might be thought to be a novella), it is cheerless and cynical.

THE FALL is presented in the form of a monologue by a middle-aged Frenchman and former lawyer, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, who has exiled himself to drab and dreary Amsterdam.He holds court in a seedy sailors' bar in a red-light district.At the beginning of the novel, he buttonholes an anonymous patron of the bar who happens also to be French.The entire novel consists of Clamence's side of a very one-sided conversation that extends over six episodes.(One wonders why the anonymous interlocutor keeps coming back for more.)At first, Clamence tends to portray himself in a relatively favorable light, but as the novel progresses the boasting turns to self-condemnation and the monologue becomes an extended confession of cowardice, shamming, and selfishness.Moreover, it appears that Clamence does not see himself to be appreciably worse (more self-centered and amoral) than the vast majority of contemporary Europeans.

As told by Clamence, the central event of his life was a night in Paris as he walked to his home on the Left Bank by way of the Pont Royal.On the bridge he passed a slim young woman leaning over the railing and staring at the river.About fifty yards beyond, he heard the sound of a body striking the water and then cries, drifting downstream.He paused, but in the end did nothing, not even inform the police.A few years later, on another evening as he again walked up the quays of the Left Bank, he heard behind him, as if from the river, a "good, hearty, almost friendly laugh".That was the first of many instances where Clamence found himself pursued by a mocking yet good-natured laugh, so many that it becomes a theme of the novel.

On one level, the novel can be understood as a very personal confession of Albert Camus.In 1954, Camus's wife Francine twice attempted suicide.When, in early 1956, Camus showed Francine parts of the book, she told him, "You're always pleading the causes of all sorts of people, but do you ever hear the screams of people who are trying to reach you?"Clamence ignored the screams of the suicide and Camus knew that he had selfishly turned away from the cries for help from his wife . . . and probably others as well.Clamence is suave and charming and sexually promiscuous with women; so was Camus.(Indeed, Camus's inveterate philandering likely was the prime cause underlying Francine's suicide attempts.)There are several other notable correspondences between Clamence and Camus.To be sure, there are some biographical discrepancies too.Still, I sense it is Camus as much as Clamence who says, near the end of the novel, "Ah, mon cher, we are odd, wretched creatures, and if we merely look back over our lives, there's no lack of occasions to amaze and horrify ourselves."

Nonetheless, Camus undoubtedly was trying to do more with THE FALL than publish a moderately veiled self-denunciation.There are numerous religious elements:the novel's title, Clamence's given name ("Jean-Baptiste"), a stolen panel from a Van Eyck altarpiece popularly called "The Just Judges" which Clamence keeps in his bedroom, the sobriquet "the pope" that Clamence was given in WWII when interred in a prison camp, and many more.I frankly don't know what to make of them, especially since Camus was a steadfast atheist.There are also numerous allusions to other works of Western literature (for example, Dante's "Inferno") as well as what appear to be several allusions to "The Stranger".Again, I have no theories about what Camus was up to.And speaking of other authors, THE FALL reminds me of some of the works of Joseph Roth, though I doubt that Camus was familiar with any of Roth's writing.

I do agree with a statement on the back cover of my old Vintage paperback (priced at $1.65) that at least one of the novel's messages is that "no man is innocent and no man may therefore judge others from a standpoint of righteousness."Beyond that and the personal confession, I found the novel ambiguous and mildly disorienting.Perhaps my biggest problem with it is that I was unable to identify with, or feel much empathy for, Jean-Baptiste Clamence.He is more alien to my sensibilities than, say, Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov.Hard pressed though I am to explain why, THE FALL leaves me rather indifferent.Three-and-a-half stars.

4-0 out of 5 stars Ingenious Breast Beating and Philosophical Grandstanding
THE FALL is a three-part monologue by Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a retired lawyer and self-described judge-penitent. In the monologue's first part, Clamence is a narcissist wittily extolling his benevolence and generosity. In its second, he is consumed with self-hatred. In the third, Clamence examines his fall--that is, his shift from smug self-satisfaction to self-loathing. Why, he wants to tell us, did this transformation occur?

One night in Paris, the narcissistic Clamence is returning home after an evening with his mistress. As he crosses Pont Royal, he notices a young woman dressed in black leaning over the bridge. Hurrying on his way, Clamence walks only a short distance before he hears the sound of somebody jumping into the river. He pauses but does nothing. His self-loathing begins.

What point is Camus making? Clamence, a successful bourgeois gentleman, has failed to make good use his freedom--that is, to put himself at risk and perform an obvious and necessary good deed. This suggests that his benevolence is mere narcissism, not evidence of moral commitment to the good. In his breast-beating, he observes: "I didn't know that freedom is not a reward or a decoration that is celebrated with champagne. Nor yet a gift, a box of dainties designed to make you lick your chops. O, no! It's a chore, on the contrary, and a long-distance race, quite solitary and very exhausting."

While Camus certainly meant for this failure to act to have broad application, Clamence does live in the former Jewish quarter of Amsterdam... "or what was called so until our Hitlerian brethren spaced it a bit. What a clean-up! Seventy-five thousand Jews deported or assassinated..."

How successful is THE FALL? In the last year, I've read both THE STRANGER and THE PLAGUE. THE STRANGER, IMHO, is a brilliant and sometimes lyrical examination of what Camus deemed the absurd. Similarly, THE PLAGUE, while reading long, examines how people respond to unmitigated evil.

But THE FALL?For the most part, Clamence is either lauding his benevolence or beating his breast over his despicable nature. And while I could follow Clamence in his narcissistic phase, his period of self-flagellation seemed over the top. Then, the brilliant Camus follows the ironic and conflicted mind of his narrator into too many dark corners, simply because he can. But while his writing and philosophical deliberations in this phase may be logical, they don't create a real character, even if you're talking bipolar.

Certainly, Camus does tie everything together in the last few pages of THE FALL, where he writes about freedom and the absurd. But his themes don't seem to emerge naturally from this work, as does, say, the issue of evil, which rises with inexorable dominating menace in THE PLAGUE. And in that work, the many characters seem very real while helping Camus explore a rich philosophical issue. But THE FALL?There's too much crazy brilliance. It scatters the focus and buries his themes.

Still... recommended.

4-0 out of 5 stars Falling from Grace
The twist that the title implies is almost clever enough alone to make this book worth reading.Albert Camus's unique perpective seems to make the reader feel as though he were sitting at the sailors' bar with the main character as he tells the story.While the actual fall is predictable, the image of reality is still biting.

Our narrator seems to be the model citzen as he is charitable with time and money.He is more than willing to lend a guiding hand to a person with blindness crossing the street.But as the story develops, the facade crumbles.While not a criminal, the narrator's character is revealed to be less than flawless.In fact, apparent altruism gives way to the purest acts of selflessness disguised by self-deception.As the flaws of the human character are revisited, the theme of falling recurs to sense of finality to the story.

It is difficult to chose a favorite from the work of Camus.Though the writing in "The Fall" may be more refined as it comes later in his progression of work, it lacks some of the charm of his other famous works.In its own right, this is a lterary accomplishment. ... Read more

5. The Stranger
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 155 Pages (1946)
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Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd." First published in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward. ... Read more

6. L'Etranger (Collection Folio, 2) (French Edition)
by Albert Camus
Mass Market Paperback: 185 Pages (1990-10)
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Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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5-0 out of 5 stars "Playing the game"
In his Introduction to the first American edition of THE STRANGER (1955), Albert Camus summarized his novel in one sentence: "In our society, anybody who does not cry at his mother's funeral, risks to be sentenced to death".*) After publication in 1942 in France, the novel achieved notoriety and a kind of cult status for several generations of Camus readers, and was inspiration for philosophers and writers.Re-reading the novel now, forty years since first delving into Camus' writing, I find it as deeply affecting and thought provoking as then. With the hindsight of close to seventy years since it was written, THE STRANGER is not only a self-portrait of an "outsider", who appears to be drifting through life without aim or emotional depth.It is also a harsh critique of a society, reflected in the justice system, that is rigid and controlling and, by extension, overly judgemental towards anybody who is not "playing the game" or respecting "the mechanisms of society". Finally, it is also important to keep in mind that the novel was conceived during the devastating war in which Camus, although not in military service, was a politically highly active participant.

The novel opens with "Today, Maman is dead. Or maybe she died yesterday, I don't know". Meursault, the son and narrator of the story, travels to the nursing home for his mother's wake and funeral the next day. In short, simple sentences he describes the bare facts, the people he meets. Feelings? None, apparently. He doesn't even recall his mother's age.He returns home, meets a former colleague of his and embarks on an affair with her. Life returns to its habitual banality until he is approached by a neighbour for assistance with writing a letter.From then on events move towards a confrontation that leaves Meursault accused of a crime and leads to trial that, for him, takes place "outside of himself" but that, at the same time, brings him towards deeper reflection and new understanding of himself and the system that judges him.

Set in Algiers, the locale is of little importance, except for the vital role that desert sun, ocean and beach play in the protagonist's life. In its first part, the narrative appears at times superficial and naive and Meursault presents himself as an uninvolved and carefree young man who lives day by day. Nevertheless, the deeper underlying moral and existential questions that come to the fore in the second part may need this slow and detailed build-up developed in the first.

In the above mentioned introduction, Camus explained his book's underlying concern that he described to have been at odds with the perception of the readers of the day. Mersault was an "outsider" in the society where he lived who, at a more profound level, was condemned not for what he did, but for "speaking the truth". Was he judged for his criminal act or for the challenge challenge to society he embodied?In fact, during the court proceedings it emerges quickly that his lifestyle and behaviour was on trial.Meursault'scommentary and his effort to make sense of what he hears during the trial reads today more like a farce, despite its sombre description of the circumstances. At one point the defence counsel, in obvious frustration, shouts: "Here, this is the image of this trial. All is true and nothing is true!". The ultimate confusion is created when when he imitates and, unintentionally, caricaturizes his client in front of the jury. " My fate was being settled without anybody asking my opinion", Meursault concludes. His trial spins into a direction that has no longer anything to do with him.

What, in the end has made Meursault a "stranger"? In his musings, he states that he cannot express emotions toward others as they do. Yet, when asked whether he loves his mother, his repeated answer is: "yes, like everybody else". When accused of the crime, the expression of culpability and regret is alien to him and he states so truthfully: he does not feel guilt, only "ennui".What made him act out his crime? "The sun". Mersault is not an insensitive person, however, he does not have the "psyche of a criminal" as the prosecutor argues forcefully. Any emotions are indirectly expressed through a related physical activity: attraction to his girlfriend, assistance to his "buddy", his work ethics, caring for his neighbour. He is most explicit when describing his emotions when outside: walking along the beach with the desert sun burning his face, the hot sand under his bare feet, or when dipping into the refreshing ocean waves. The intensity of light of the desert sun is also playing games with his mind: distorting reality and blurring his vision. In his prison cell he seeks the sun... Meursault describes such sensations on that fateful day on the beach: "Sweat runs down my eyebrows and further down into the eyelids[...] My eyes were blinded behind a curtain of tears and salt [...]Everything starts to flicker..."Anybody who has enjoyed traveling in a desert, exposed to the elements will relate, at a minimum, to these sensations.

It may be stating the obvious that the way we experience and find expression for our emotions, how we define relationships or life's purpose are deeply personal. Some readers will relate to Meursault, others will find him as "strange" as his judge and jury did.Whatever tendency we lean towards, THE STRANGER is worth a thorough reflection and re-assessment.[Friederike Knabe]

*) Having read the novel in French, all quotes are my translation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Self-possession or Anomie?
I read this masterpiece in French, but would not insult the crystalline clarity of Camus' prose by attempting a review in the same tongue. Indeed, a review of such a classic is pointless; all that is possible is a personal reaction.

I found myself held in horrified fascination as Meursault sleepwalks through the burial of his mother, his job in Algiers, his girlfriend's embraces, and his neighbor's scheme to teach his own mistress a lesson, all under the heat of the desert sun. Even had I not known in advance, I could feel that something bad was about to happen, and it was almost a relief when it did. At least then there would be time to seek some meaning in such a barren life.

The meaning comes in the penultimate paragraph when Meursault rails at the priest who visits him in his condemned cell. In a long diatribe, filled with a passion that had been missing in the book so far, the young man proclaims that, compared to the uncertainties of religion, he at least has lived in the surety that the life he has lived from moment to moment has been his and his alone, and that the one validating certainty is the death that comes to us all. Dark though it may be, this comes across as a triumphant cry of self-possession. Camus has written that Meursault is the man who can only tell the truth, who has never mastered the little lies that the rest of us use daily to simplify our social lives. Unwilling to play the game, he remains the outsider, the Stranger. The last word in the book is "haine" -- the hatred he expects from those come to watch his execution; Meursault wears it as a medal of honor.

All the way through my reading, I felt my intellectual responses kicking in. The simple style of short declarative sentences, which I gather Camus based on American writers like Hemingway, also seemed to presage the obsessive detail of the nouveau roman. The succession of almost-random events looks forward to the theatre of the absurd. The many similarities to JMG Le Clézio's first novel, LE PROCÈS VERBAL, only underlined the fact that while the later author is full of emotion, Camus describes even love-making in a manner bleached of all emotive content.

But all this was a smokescreen to hide my sense of being there with Meursault and hating being there. I somehow missed reading Camus when my college friends were doing so in the late 1950s, so I am astonished to see how totally he captures the spirit of that time that was not even his own. Or perhaps it is a young man's thing, this living for the moment, making choices on a whim, and above all this inability to feel emotion. At any rate, I was there then, and Camus makes me live it all again. At the time, however, it was not self-possession but anomie. It sent me to mental hospital, but also made possible a long search for deeper meaning in how I lived. Camus' terrible masterpiece takes me right back, but at least now I can watch with the knowledge that death is NOT all there is to life.

3-0 out of 5 stars Fully refunded
The edition I received was different from the one I ordered, but the company fully refunded me.

4-0 out of 5 stars "Mieux vaut régner en enfer que servir au paradis"
Je trouve les histoires de Camus, à première vue, très semblables à celles de Kafka, bien que moins fantastiques: il s'agit d'habitude des personnages entourés de et assiégés par un monde étrange et hostile. Mais, après de la considération, une différence importante s'éclaircit de plus en plus.

Chez Kafka, un homme qui ne comprend guère ce qui se passe est détruit par les circonstances complètement bizarres et déraisonnables. Donc, Gregor Samsa se réveille un jour et découvre qu'il a le corps d'un insecte énorme. Évidemment, on ne peut surmonter une telle horreur, et nous n'osons condamner les gens qu'elle repousse, même sa famille. Plus nous nous rendons compte qu'il n'y a rien à faire pour Gregor, plus nous avons pitié de ceux autour de lui et que nous sommes forcément soulagés par sa mort. Sans doute, Kafka voulait que Gregor devînt une victime absolue, et quand le lecteur lui-même l'abandonne, c'est bien accompli.

Mais ce qui distingue une écriture de Camus telle que l'Étranger, c'est l'existence du choix. Aussitôt que l'on reconnaît l'existence du choix, il n'y a rien de plus important parce que le choix donne de la signification à la souffrance. C'est pourquoi Camus décrit Meursault dans l'Avant-propos comme étant une figure de 'Christ:' celui-ci a choisi sa douleur et, par conséquent, a changé le monde entier, en contraste avec Gregor Samsa, qui n'a pas d'occasion de choisir et dont la douleur ne signifie rien. Mais je crois que Meursault resemble moins à Christ qu'à Satan dans le Paradis Perdu: alors que Christ sert la volonté d'un autre, celle de Dieu, son adversaire est fidèle seulement à lui-même, à ce qui lui semble raisonnable d'un moment à l'autre. C'est la même fidélité qui guide Meursault. Tous les deux prennent leurs décisions et, sans s'excuser et sans se plaindre, veulent bien accepter leurs destins. À cause de cela, ils ne sont pas des victimes; au contraire, ils sont des héros.*

Donc, quelque étranger que lui soit l'ordre réligieux souverain de Milton, il reste chez Camus quelque chose de noble, même de moral qui ne se trouve pas dans l'univers de Kafka, où tout est simplement absurde. Parmi ces trois auteurs, qui vous plaira le plus dépend de comment vous voyez le monde vous-même.

*Milton croyait bien sûr que l'idée classique du héroïsme était inconciliable avec l'humilité chrétienne, et ainsi serait bien appropriée au séducteur de l'homme. Aujourd'hui, beaucoup de lecteurs le trouvent toujours attirant.

2-0 out of 5 stars Not Camus' Best
The language in this short novel is simple and engaging, and probably the best (if not only) reason to read this book, particularly for students of french such as myself.

Unfortunately the story is very contrived and unconvincing, despite Camus' apparent attempts to ground it in a believable, ordinary world. The problem (as I see it) is that Mersault is easily Camus' least interesting protagonist, and the entire story is told in first person from his perspective. Mersault feels nothing and thinks nothing throughout the narrative, so that the narration gives the reader an intimate view of... nothing. Admittedly, previous and subsequent authors have dealt quite thoroughly with the thoughts and feelings of human characters in somewhat analogous situations to that of Mersault. Perhaps Camus was consciously treading new ground by placing his protagonist in what would be trying and difficult situations if only he cared about anything, but he doesn't, so they aren't.

There is plenty of good Camus out there, particularly his short stories and plays, but this is not it. ... Read more

7. The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 224 Pages (1991-05-07)
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Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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2-0 out of 5 stars If there is meaning here, a lot of prerequisites are required...
...as they used to say when signing up for a college course. Reading this book was a slog, ten pages at a time, and the one saving grace is that I did not have to write a paper thereafter, carefully attuned to the professor's outlook, in which I proclaimed the transformational insights obtained from the assignment.

Albert Camus was an Algerian of French extraction; author of numerous solid novels including The Stranger (Everyman's Library) and The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected Essays (Everyman's Library); he played a prominent role in the French resistance during the Nazi occupation; was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957; and like many `pieds-noirs,' expressed and lived a life of ambivalence towards the natives, Arabs and Berbers, of Algeria.He died "early," in a car wreck, traveling along France's "mother road," the N6, the route from Paris to Provence. His untimely death has deprived us of the reflections, and possible revisions and clarifications that come with age, both on this book, as well as his relationship with his native land. While innovative and challenging at the time, many of the basic principals of his existentialist outlook have become widely accepted. Indeed, life might be "absurd", without an overall enclosed framework, and / or a relationship with God, but it is still worth living, both for the experiences obtained as well as the value of the struggle against the more unjust aspect of life. He opens the book by saying that the only true philosophical problem is the one of suicide, and he comes out against it; but he never addresses the issue of whether or not it is OK once the body wears out.

My problem with the book is not the core idea, but how it was expressed: the opacity of expression; the arcane allusions that simply do not convey unambiguous meaning, and the contradictory assertions. A few examples: "Through the Dostoevskian experiences of the condemned man, the exacerbated adventures of the Nietzchean mind, Hamlet's imprecations, or the bitter aristocracy of an Ibsen, he tracks down, illuminates, and magnifies the human revolt against the irremediable" (p 25).Quick, anyone who knows exactly what that means, raise their hand, and add a comment. Of course, the meaning of just this one sentence could be spun into a doctoral thesis of conjectures.Or, "...the act of eluding because it is both less and more than diversion in the Pascalian sense" (p 8). Lawdy, what would poor Blasé think about that?"The absurd creator does not prize his work. He could repudiate it. He does sometimes repudiate it. An Abyssinia suffices for this, as in the case of Rimbaud" (p 98). Did Rimbaud actually not prize his work? Did he go to Abyssinia to repudiate it? Or, "It is futile to be amazed by the apparent paradox that leads thought to its own negation by the opposite paths of humiliated reason and triumphal reason." What?! Or again, "The mind's first step is to distinguish what is true from what is false. However, as soon as thought reflects on itself, what it first discovers is a contradiction" (p 16).

At some level, you might suspect that Camus is "pulling our chain," just to see if we'll keep going along. "The novel has its logic, its reasoning, its intuition, and its postulates. It also has its requirements of clarity" (p 100). (Hum!, what about clarity in an essay as well?) And then a confession? "Let me repeat. None of all this has any real meaning" (p 117).

Camus ends with a small chapter that is actually focused on the myth of Sisyphus. That myth has always resonated with me, having worked in large bureaucratic organizations. I'd use it sardonically... are we really getting anywhere after all this effort? In reality, we actually did get somewhere, just much slower, and with much more friction than was necessary. In the first paragraph to this section, Camus says: "They (the gods) had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor." Stunningly, Camus concludes his thoughts with: "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy." Why, one asks? Shouldn't the struggle remain, against meaningless work? Shouldn't Sisyphus be seeking some other solution that blind acceptance to this horrible fate?

All things being equal, which they never are, I would have decided on a 3-star rating, with the rationale: Was it him, was it me? Maybe I just didn't get it. I had hoped for some salvation for my efforts in the short stores at the end, but was further disappointed. In "The Minotaur or The Stop in Oran," Camus discusses Algeria's "second city," and its relationship to Algiers, and primarily uses the mechanism of a boxing match. Oran was also the site of his book, The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected Essays (Everyman's Library). One of the most anomalous and under-reported events of the entire Second World War occurred in the Oran bay that Camus waxed lyrical about: the sinking of the French fleet, with the attendant deaths of almost 1300 French sailors, by the British navy, in 1940. Surely the story could have been re-worked, or this event should have merited a story unto itself by the most famous `pied-noir,' but there is nary a peep. A major opportunity lost.

But it is the story "The Summer in Algiers" that I found most disturbing. Alexis de Tocqueville is best known for his classic study of America, Democracy in America (Penguin Classics). He is less well-known for his support of the most brutal, racist and unjust colonial policies in Algeria. T.E. Lawrence is often cast as a romantic hero of World War I, but his writings too contain blatant racist assertions about the "Semitic people," which of course includes both Jews and Arabs.Camus on numerous occasions expressed empathy for the Algerian natives, but it was often framed in terms of condensation. This one story is filled with such. For example: "And this really depicts the childlike people of this region" (p 147). "I am well aware that such a race cannot be accepted by all. Here intelligence has no place as in Italy. This race is indifferent to the mind"(p 150). And further on, on the same page: "Yet here is a race without past, without tradition..." "This race, wholly cast into its present, lives without myths, without solace." Could it be from the uprooting of French colonial policies that de Tocqueville and others advocated? CouldIsabelle Eberhardt orJules Roy have written such sentences?

Can there be some explanation for the above quotes? It is hard to imagine, but I'd welcome the comments. Until then, 2-stars.

4-0 out of 5 stars Is it philosphy?or literature?Whichever, it is dated . . . yet worthwhile.
One of my reading projects for 2010 is to read all of the major works, in order of publication, of Albert Camus, as well as two or three biographical works and some secondary commentary.THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS almost stymied me near the very beginning of my trek."Le Mythe de Sisyphe" was first published in 1942, just a few months after the publication of "L'Etranger".The two works established Camus, a French Algerian of humble background and modest education, as a French intellectual of the first order.

I enjoyed re-reading "The Stranger".But reading SISYPHUS proved to be work, almost Sisyphean in nature.I tackled it and re-tackled it; I puzzled over it; and I came close to setting it aside, forever.When in college I majored in philosophy, and I have read in unedited form the major works of such philosophers as Kant, Husserl, and Wittgenstein.With each, I had to work at it, but eventually I understood (I think) much of it.But I no longer am as patient.Life itself is more important than the understanding - which, ironically, turns out to approximate the core of Camus's thought.

But to get close to the core of SISYPHUS I needed help, which came in the form of a 14-page essay by David Carroll, "Rethinking the Absurd: Le Mythe de Sisyphe", contained in "The Cambridge Companion to Camus".Carroll re-inforced what I had experienced in my initial effort to read SISYPHUS:"Le Mythe de Sisyphe may be the most historically dated of Albert Camus's major texts, the work * * * that might appear to have aged the least well and have the least to say to modern-day readers." Actually, I don't think SISYPHUS, properly understood, has little to say to modern-day readers, but it does take a very circuitous and difficult route to making its point(s).And its message is complicated by its vocabulary, which might seem straightforward, but ultimately Camus's use of words such as (as translated) "absurd" and "nostalgia" is rather opaque.To be frank:Camus's mind and way of expressing his thoughts are not those of a (non-French) philosopher.

I will risk the dreaded "spoiler" -- not that I expect many who read this review will actually read the book and find the experience spoiled.In SISYPHUS, Camus not only renounces belief systems - whether religious, political, or philosophical - but he also renounces suicide, which he sees as "repudiation" or surrender.Instead, the meaning of life is to be found in the doing, in defiance of the conditions of life.It is Sisyphus, ceaselessly struggling to push the rock uphill and then, once the forces of gravity overwhelm and the rock rolls back to the bottom of the valley, cheerfully going back to renew his effort.More broadly, it is living life to the fullest."For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life."Camus's epigraph to the book, from Pindar, is apt:"O my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible."

Along the way there are a number of notable aphorisms.For example:

*"[F]or a man who does not cheat, what he believes to be true must determine his action."

*"There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn."

*"The whole art of Kafka consists in forcing the reader to reread."

Finally, a personal note:The volume I read I bought in paperback around 1967 for $1.25.A large number of pages bore my ink underlinings and annotations from about forty years ago.(I no longer deface books in pen - just pencil. I believe that change in practice betokens, more than anything else, less confidence and certitude in my marginalia.)I was unable to recognize much about the person who first annotated the volume, although I would now say that he certainly was impressionable.

I have nagging doubts that SISYPHUS does not truly merit four stars, but while writing this review I have had an excellent bottle of wine and I am feeling generous.

1-0 out of 5 stars hard to follow
I loved the Stranger and the Fall, and so I bought this book. However, it is hard to follow and does not have good organization (arguments, conclusions, ...).

3-0 out of 5 stars An Insight into the Mind of the Atheist
Atheism, Randomness, and Nihilism:
When one finds himself in this world that we live, he asks what is it for? Why did it arise? What is the reasoning/meaning behind it? For the atheist who begins from a position of illogicality, namely that there is no God, then has the choice of continuing in the path of illogicality or he can choose to be logically consistent after his initial fallacy. If they choose the path of logic after the initial fallacy they arrive ultimately to the question; why does anything occur? They reply; out of nothing but randomness => A mere absurd chance event. There is no reason for the world to be as it is, it just turned out randomly to be so; it could have out of chance been otherwise. The very act of giving rise to this world was itself random, nothing but some freak meaningless event.

From this position the consistent atheistic thinker then reaches a point that ultimately life has no meaning as such, and therefore ultimately absurd and valueless. There arises a question for him: is this absurd and meaningless life worth living? Or is suicide a more `sane' option, i.e. is suicide more inline with atheistic thought? Hence Albert Camus - the Myth of Sisyphus => "there is only one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide".

So ultimately the atheistic becomes a radical pessimist, and even a nihilist, with no belief in any absolute truth or reality and therefore morality - he eventually becomes a Machiavellian (that is if he is a consistent thinker). He has no belief in ultimate meaning, unless he finds meaning in "meaninglessness", and in the "absurdity of existence." Whereas the Monotheist finds ultimate meaning and value in all things, the atheist finds meaninglessness and absurdity in all things.

However this is for the consistent atheistic thinker, it appears that most atheists are not consistent in their thinking. Such atheistic thinkers accept the initial illogicality; that of atheism itself, but then as they did from the beginning continue their path of illogicality and inconsistency. These thinkers instead of concluding the necessary conclusion which atheism inevitably brings (that of ultimate randomness and therefore the belief that if the world has any rationality then it is irrationally rational) bring inconstancy into their thinking by accepting such things as hope, meaning and purpose into their lives. These characteristics, which are ultimately theistic characteristics, can only be achieve by the atheist by inconsistency of logic and ultimately by self-deception.

It appears that this book by Albert Camus is insightful in bringing to light the thinking and mentality of a somewhat "consistent atheistic" thinker. In this sense (and perhaps only in this sense) this book deserves to be read.

3 stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars On Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus
The book's primary focus is The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus' explanation on his philosophy of the absurd--which begins with a meditation on Suicide, namely with the concept that, if the universe is devoid of order or meaning, is Life worth living?In this, he openly acknowledges many of his predecessors and contemporaries who have similarly faced this question.But, instead of taking the claim that meaningless life is not worth living, Camus responds with a unique take on the entire subject, by merely positing a way out of the despair by means of reaffirmation of the value of personal existence, through a life lived with dignity and authenticity.Truly an eye-opening and idealistic work, with many ideas that an open mind would find akin to the sweetest of treats. ... Read more

8. The First Man
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 336 Pages (1996-08-06)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$7.97
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Asin: 0679768165
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Camus tells the story of Jacques Cormery, a boy who lived a life much like his own. Camus summons up the sights, sounds and textures of a childhood circumscribed by poverty and a father's death yet redeemed by the austere beauty of Algeria and the boy's attachment to his nearly deaf-mute mother. Published thirty-five years after its discovery amid the wreckage of the car accident that killed Camus, The First Man is the brilliant consummation of the life and work of one of the 20th century's greatest novelists. Translated from the French by David Hapgood.

"The First Man is perhaps the most honest book Camus ever wrote, and the most sensual...Camus is...writing at the depth of his powers...It is a work of genius."--The New Yorker

"Fascinating...The First Man helps put all of Camus's work into a clearer perspective and brings into relief what separates him from the more militant literary personalities of his day...Camus's voice has never been more personal."--New York Times Book Review ... Read more

Customer Reviews (27)

5-0 out of 5 stars Unfinished Means Unfinished, Right?
It then mystifies me how some people here have chosen to review this Unfinished Work -- Poorly Edited, Redundant in Parts, etc -- exposing how silly and superficial their criticisms are of this Unfinished Work. I have yet to read this book, but plan to add it to my library very soon.And, my expectations differ from those of most I have seen expressed here -- with the exception of a few individuals, who have the maturity to accept it for what it is -- an Unfinished Work.

5-0 out of 5 stars sad to see it end.
I just finished this book, and can only voice my disappointment. Not that it was a bad book,It was great, but that It wasn't finished. I have read The Stranger, The plague, The myth of sysyphus, and the fall. This book really helped to understand Camus more. You can see how his life overflowed into his other works, and i only wish he could have finished. I have been a fan of his work ever since a high school literature teacher recommended the plague, after a heated discussion about the belief that we need God to be moral people. I couldn't believe the criticism I was getting for turning away from religion, especially from some very immoral characters. Camus has had a major influence on me ever since, and I am sad this book will never be finished.

4-0 out of 5 stars An Unfinished Novel Not As Good As His Other Works
As a point of reference, I have read most of Camus's major works. The present novel is a straightforward story and it is supposed to be partially biographical. It was published decades after Camus's death by his daughter. The work was unfinished and it was never edited by Camus. As such, it has a bit of a raw feel to the story and I thought it was not as good as his other works, all of which are all excellent.

It could have been a much better novel if he had finished the work. The work does not contain Camus's famous irony and references to the absurd that are found in other works, i.e.: unlike his other works, he does not delve into his ideas on the absurd, and the revolt against a world of the absurd and of injustice.

Albert Camus (1913 - 1960) was a French writer and philosopher. He is often associated with existentialism, but Camus rejected any ideological classification. Camus was a young recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature when he became the first African-born writer to receive the award in 1957. He died in a car crash only three years after receiving the award. He was a social activist and Communist, and fought with the French resistance in WWII. Later he rejected Communism. The present book is his last work and was never finished.

On January 4, 1960, at the age of forty-six, Camus was killed in a car accident outside Paris and the manuscript of The First Man was found at the crash scene. The protagonist is a man similar to Camus himself, Jacques Cormery, who grew up in Algiers. It is a novel about a young boy growing up and his interaction with his mother and grandmother. It is a story being told by an older Cormery, now 40 years old, who is visiting his older mother, now 72. Camus's technique is to use flashbacks of Cormery's childhood injected into the story during the visit by the 40 year old Cormery. In addition to the story of his youth from the era of WWI and post WWI, there are a number of comments on the struggle for power in Algeria and the attacks on the French in the 1950s.

This novel has just a neutral recommendation and it is not a good example of his work. It is different and perhaps Camus was taking a new path with his work, but as a novel as it stands it is flawed. The reader is left to wonder what Camus could have accomplished if he had lived. Having said that, the novel was unfinished, so The Stranger and perhaps The Fall remain as his best novels, followed by The Plague. Those works include his irony and philosophical views. Also, Camus has written some good drama and non-fiction. This leaves the present unfinished novel down near the bottom of his body of work.

4-0 out of 5 stars Incomplete autobiographical novel lacking a mythic dimension
The manuscript of this book was in the car with Camus when he had his fatal crash. His family held back publication for over thirty years. One reason was the incompleteness of the manuscript. A second was the hostile political atmosphere which had emerged in relation to Camus. Unlike Sartre Camus had refused to justify Soviet crimes. His position on Algeria which was a nuanced one , angered both sides.
The novel itself is closer to a memoir than anything else Camus has written. It lacks the kind of mythic and philosophical dimension of Camus most well- known works, "The Stranger" " The Plague " " The Fall" "The Myth of Sisyphus". it tells the story of a child whose father has been killed in the First World War, and who is raised by his mother and grandmother. It tells of a world of Algerian poverty .And it to tells of how the child finds a way out of this world through having been guided and helped by a beloved teacher. The teacher who Camus honored and remembered throughout his life saw the great ability in young Camus and developed this.
There are some outstanding passages in the book in which Camus shows the reflectiveness so central to his major works
" To begin with poor people's memory is less nourished than that of the rich : it has fewer landmarks in space because they seldom leave the place where they live, and fewer reference points in time throughout lives that are grey and featureles. Of course there is the memory of the heart that they say is the surest kind, but the heart wears out with sorrow and labour, it forgets sooner under the weight of fatigue. Remembrance of things past is just for the rich.For the poor it only marks faint trances on the path to death"

This work it seems does not rank with Camus' best work but does have importance in throwing additional light on the details of the life of one of the great writers and moralists of the twentieth century.

5-0 out of 5 stars incomplete, but great work
It is reallly not fair to rate a work that is not complete.As an artist, I know how horrifying it is to show unfinished works to anybody.It really is a violation.However, whether this is Camus's first draft or 2nd draft, the evidence is everywhere what kind of great book it would have been had he had a chance to edit it, re-structure and re-write it.It was a great learning experience for me to study what a potential masterpiece looks like in the early stage of its creation.

In this draft, it seems that he was just writing down everything that had come to his mind, the things that he remembered and thought could be part of the story.It's not edited or organized well, so there are some inconsistency, unfinished sentences, and confusions.The plot is not clear, you don't know where the story is going, and the structure is not solid.There are some parts that can be eliminated as well.
But the writing itself is still very strong and beautiful, and there is a lot of wisdom in it.I especially enjoyed the chapter "the school."In this chapter he talks about the school life of the protagonist and how the teacher M. Bernard taught the children with love and discipline, and how the children loved and adored him, despite the corporal punishment they received from him for misbehaving.It's the kind of teacher-student relationship you rarely see in today's society.Each episode is vivid, detailed, heart-warming, full of wisdom and love, and beautifully written.

At the end of the book, after the story ceases, there is a section called "Interleaves."It's a collection of notes and memos of Camus, bits and pieces of scenes or dialogues, thoughts and ideas, which didn't have a chance to take parts of the book.Obviously Camus was planning to use them.They suggest that had he lived to finish the work, it would have been a totally different story, or that the story would have developed and ended much differently.

While it is disrespectful to read an incompleted work, it would have been a great loss if I didn't read it.
Thus I shall give him bright shining 5 stars, and thank him for having written this story. ... Read more

9. The Stranger
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 164 Pages (2006-11-12)
list price: US$26.95 -- used & new: US$8.87
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Asin: 1406711284
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are now extremely scarce and increasingly expensive. Hesperides Press are republishing these classic works in affordable, high quality, modern editions, using the original text and artwork. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars "Maman died today."
At the beginning of the novel Meursault the main character - who lives in Algiers - gets a message from the home where his mother reside that she passed away. Meursault doesn't show any feeling at all. And during the voyage to that home, the wake and the funeral, and the voyage back home, it's as if his mother never existed or that she's a perfect stranger to him. He spends not a single thought about her.

It's a novel about the absurd and the meaningless but also about the indifference of an individual who lives alone, doesn't have any real friends, who knows no happiness and no grief, who really doesn't care about anything or anyone. Though he has a kind of sympathy for a few people he knows, it doesn't mean much because he's a stranger about social life. But he doesn't care about himself either and this is maybe the strangest thing in this novel. He refused an important promotion at his work. It made no difference once again.

When on a hot sunday afternoon he walks with a friend along the beach, two Arabs are walking toward them in a hostile manner. Meursault shoots one of them. "I don't know why I did it, it had no importance at all".
From now on his life will take dramatic changes...

4-0 out of 5 stars At the margins
The Stranger

Camus begins the story with Meursault, the narrator, stating: "Mother died today." It is a terrific opening line; a great line to get the reader's attention.

The plot is simple. Meursault, the main character who is also the narrator, is a Frenchman living in French Algiers. He attends his mother's funeral but he does not exhibit grief over the death of his mother. His actions and behavior show that he seemed unaffected by his mother's death, which of course was very disturbing to me as the reader. He carries on with his life as though nothing had happened. He narrates the uninteresting events in his daily life culminating in his senseless murder of an Arab man. The book is divided into Part One (before the murder) and Part Two (after the murder). Part One ends with a description of the murder, which to me, was the climax of the story. Part Two narrates the trial. Meursalt is condemned to die by guillotine.

After reading the novel, the interest, at least for me, is not so much the details of the plot but the personality of Meursault, the literary devices used by Camus to dramatize highpoints or turning points in the story, and of course Camus' philosophy that the world and society are essentially absurd and indifferent; life is meaningless; the randomness of violence and death. We are like ships tossed about in a stormy sea. Society does not care about you as a person and therefore, it is up to you as an individual to find meaning in life. But in the end what is the use? Does it really matter? Thinkers and philosophers refer to this way of thinking as existentialism. The novel is perceived a classic example of existentialism. Camus used the thoughts and the personality of the main character, Meursault, to illustrate and underline his existentialist philosophy.

Throughout, Meursault has only one episode of emotional outburst. In prison, while waiting for his execution, he became angry with his chaplain. I found the encounter between Meursault and the priest extremely fascinating though.I must confess that I found a bit of comedy in the conversation between the priest and Meursault, especially the part when the priest was hinting that Meursault might see a divine face on the prison walls of his room. Meursalt sarcastically thought to himself that all the time he was hoping to see the his girlfriend's face on the proson walls in vain.Because Meursault didn't believe in God, the priest of course was upset and when the priest said, "I shall pray for you", Meursault lost his temper. In the end, Meursault comes to terms with what he believes to be an indifferent universe and finds solace and happiness in accepting the this indifferent and absurd universe on its own terms.

Meursault is odd and certainly not a likeable character but the descriptive writing style of Camus is excellent. The book is a great read. It raises timeless questions about ethics, the meaning and direction of life and social justice. I would recommend it to everyone.

5-0 out of 5 stars I love this book
Somehow, despite majoring in French literature and getting a Ph.D. in French history, I missed this one until I decided to read it recently.Now I'm about to have a full-fledged Camus obsession because I've never met anyone who so well captures the absurdity of existence and the powerlessness of all of us before the inevitability of death.Also, it is such a fun read.It's unsettling, but also entertaining and the protagonist is extremely likable.I love Camus!

5-0 out of 5 stars An Autistic Anti-Hero
The plot of this novel means very little. The focus is really on the main character's arguably detached point of view, which personally, I found galling. His near-autistic lack of identification with anything--hence, I suppose, the title, makes one panicky by the book's end, as if one has just spent the day in a locked, sterile room with a dead man.

Ironically, it's his lack of any detectable neurosis that ultimately is so disturbing....he's TOO Zen for comfort...

It might help if he could muster sympathy for anyone, including the various victims of abuse that he encounters, or substantial feeling for the woman he is to marry, sadness at his mother's death, or empathy for the man he defensively (but pointlessly) shoots five times. The author seems to be making the point that he gets persecuted for not EXPRESSING emotion, but I as the reader was hard-pressed for proof that he FELT one.

This lack of empathy becomes contagious to the reader; by the time he is sentenced to die, it is impossible to feel sorry for him.It is almost, in fact, a pleasure--for it gives hope that he might yet "shatter the bell jar" and break through his wall of apathy. But no, all he feels is a vague sense of disappointment that he will no longer know the pleasures of freedom (although pleasure in this book is a relative term).When ultimately he finds something he can identify with, it is nothing less than the "benign indifference of the universe", something he can connect with at last, as he gazes into the night sky, awaiting his execution at dawn.

Galling but enthralling, "The Stranger" is a short and sweet read, deceptively simple, and despite itself, poignant. The protagonist's existential point of view--the axis on which "The Stranger" turns, will provide the reader with philosophical food for thought and--undoubtedly-- fodder for infinite debate. ... Read more

10. Notebooks, 1951-1959: Volume III, 1951-1959
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 288 Pages (2010-10-16)
list price: US$18.95 -- used & new: US$12.15
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Asin: 156663850X
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The first two volumes of his Notebooks began as simple instruments of his work; this final volume, recorded over the last nine years of his life, take on the characteristics of a more personal diary. Fearing that his memory was beginning to fail him, Camus noted here his reactions to the polemics stirred by The Rebel, his feelings about the Algerian War, his sojourns in Greece and Italy, thinly veiled observations on his wife and lovers, heartaches over his family, and anxiety over the Nobel Prize that he was awarded in 1957. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

2-0 out of 5 stars Sometimes Interesting
These journal entries are far more cursory and selective and the beautiful journals of Gide or Kafka, but there are still glimpses into Camus' creative process and literary interests which often go unnoticed by biographers. He was surprisingly preoccupied with Don Juan and the work of Pasternak, and his explicit anti-communism comes through here repeatedly. There are numerous rough passages which would later be reworked into 'The Fall,' as well as 'Exile and the Kingdom,' but for the most part these fragments are a bit cryptic and uninteresting.

2-0 out of 5 stars Interesting as a historical document
The entries vary. Some go on for several paragraphs, others (most) are short and frequently obscure. Still, there's enough, in his inimitable style, to make even his jottings interesting. The man played his cards close...and admits as much. Thus, the sordid bits are missing. Footnotes here and there help, but not much. His angst at being human does, as one might expect, come through. But if you're looking for insights into WHY, you'll be disappointed. (He DOES sprinkle the occasional aphorism.) Accolades are definitely due Mr. Ryan Bloom (translator). Worth a skim.

5-0 out of 5 stars Delicious as the earlier volumes
In his notebooks, Albert Camus is truthful, intelligent, articulate, and absolutely never dull. He was the rarest of beings, especially for a man; within Camus, mind-truths and body-truths remained wedded all his days, and nights. Including the contradictions--those are married, too. The guy is irresistible. This volume of his carnets is as delicious as the ones that came before. No matter what your mood--happy, sad, bored (which is probably the same as sad)--the jottings and drafts of Camus' pulsings and articulations will take you where you are, lift and turn you, will change your life.

5-0 out of 5 stars A 'must' for any college-level collection strong in Camus
College-level collections strong on Camus will find this a special acquisition presenting the notebooks withheld in France for some 29 years after his death, appearing for the first time in English. The first two volumes of his notebooks began simply but this concluding volume was written over the last nine years that he lived, and reads more intimately, like a diary. From his travels to his observations about life and politics, this concludes a fine expose of Camus' life and thoughts and is a 'must' for any college-level collection strong in Camus, particularly those who have his previous earlier notebooks.

5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read
Nice job fuzz, now you just need to translate Hunter S. Thompson's work into French! ... Read more

11. The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 320 Pages (1992-01-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$7.93
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Asin: 0679733841
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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By one of the most profoundly influential thinkers of our century, The Rebel is a classic essay on revolution. For Albert Camus, the urge to revolt is one of the "essential dimensions" of human nature, manifested in man's timeless Promethean struggle against the conditions of his existence, as well as the popular uprisings against established orders throughout history. And yet, with an eye toward the French Revolution and its regicides and deicides, he shows how inevitably the course of revolution leads to tyranny. As old regimes throughout the world collapse, The Rebel resonates as an ardent, eloquent, and supremely rational voice of conscience for our tumultuous times.

"The Rebel is a piece of reasoning in the great tradition of French logic....But what is so exhilarating about Camus's essay is that here is the voice of a man of unshakable decency." -- Atlantic

"Camus's book is one of the extremely few that express the contemporary hour...yet profoundly transcend it." -- New Republic

Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Translated from the French by Anthony Bower ... Read more

Customer Reviews (24)

4-0 out of 5 stars Camus - Rebel
Very Camus from start to finish. Not one of his 'easier' reads. If you are looking for something light...this is not it.A deep look into the mind of the late Albert Camus.Must read for a fan of Camus

5-0 out of 5 stars A work of genuis
I have never read a book by Camus I didn't like, and this series of essays on man's inclination if not inborne need to rebel is one more example how how Camus has cemented himself as one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century.
I only wish I had read this book when I was younger, I would have gained a better navigator for my own rebellious nature. Camus' research is provided in a series of essays that cover every major concept man has to rebel against. His examples are historic, unique, and facinating.

Camus' The Rebel has stood the test of time and will continue to educate, inspire and empower those who read his essay. This book influenced MLK who understood the spirit of rebellion and applied it's principles. Whether we talk Gandhi, Sade, Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Dean, Brando... the list goes on. With rebellion awareness is born. Read The Rebel and change your life... quit your job. End a dead-end relationship. Move on. Fight a law. Disagree with someone. Color outside the lines. Say no. Say no instead of yes. Start a revolution and change the world. Sedition is the way to a better existence.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Rebel meets every expectation set out by The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus
Camus' The Rebel is yet another brilliant outcry of the human conscience, the urge to revolt and man's timeless struggle against the conditions of his existence. Albert Camus is one of the most profoundly influential thinkers of this century. The Rebel is a definite must read for lovers of L'etranger and Myth of Sisyphus. Camus maintains his signature style of short, simple yet hard-hitting sentences that leave a lot to the imagination, thus giving the reader a chance to re-create their our vision. One of the best writers to come out of France, Camus' sharp eye toward the French Revolution shows how inevitably the course of revolution leads to tyranny. Much like his predecessors such as Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, Albert Camus writes with an unshakable decency and his work is eloquent and supremely rational.

5-0 out of 5 stars Camus eclipses nihilism and brings news of a new age!
I first became interested in Albert Camus after reading a quote from The Rebel online."I rebel, therefore we exist" was the quote, and I must admit that, after reading the book, there has never been anything truer written.When I was in a bookstore a few months ago I found a copy of The Rebel, which is apparently a rare sight these days, since The Rebel is often ignored.Camus is one of the most famous writers of the 20th century, so why would one of his masterpieces be ignored?

It has been ignored, from what I can gather, because it is a philosophical work in which Camus pulls no punches and examines thoroughly why the excessive crime and violence of our era exist.Camus explains how, in both philosophy and politics, the reigning attitude has been one of nihilism for the past two centuries.This nihilism, being necessarily without an aim, leads to dictatorship and gross amounts of suffering for humans, no matter what principles it claims on the surface.Camus systematically destroys those who have used the philosophies of Hegel, Nietzsche, Marx, surrealism, u.s.w., to justify their murderous plots.

Camus proposes that instead of nihilism and murder, we take to heart the ancient concepts of moderation and responsibility.Camus' destruction of modern governents and his proposals of these ancient ideas seem to have made this book unpopular.In this era of oppression, it is easy to ignore what offends us or makes us think.Camus gives the reader no choice.He must either raise a defiant fist to the giants of power, or he must give way to these minds that are utterly without scruples.I admire Camus deeply because of this--he has summed up the ideas I have been carrying around for years--but some will be deeply hurt by his comments.I leave you with a final thought: everyone is partly to blame for the state of the present and the future.You have the choice to make it either good or bad. ... Read more

12. The Outsider (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 128 Pages (2000-02-24)
list price: US$16.50 -- used & new: US$7.08
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Asin: 0141182504
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Meursault leads an apparently unremarkable bachelor life in Algiers until he commits a random act of violence. His lack of emotion and failure to show remorse only serve to increase his guilt in the eyes of the law, and challenges the fundamental values of society a set of rules so binding that any person breaking them is condemned as an outsider. For Meursault, this is an insult to his reason and a betrayal of his hopes; for Camus it encapsulates the absurdity of life. In "The Outsider" (1942), his classic existentialist novel, Camus explores the predicament of the individual who refuses to pretend and is prepared to face the indifference of the universe, courageously and alone. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (12)

4-0 out of 5 stars A primer on existential philosophy?
Meursault is a clerk in Algiers, an intentionally non-descript young man with no particularly interesting traits, characteristics, skills or habits. Now considered to be mandatory reading for those interested in notions of existential or nihilist philosophy, Albert Camus' "The Outsider" or "L'Étranger" is the story of Meursault's life. Or perhaps it might be more precise to suggest that it is the tale of Meursault's indifference to and virtually complete lack of participation in the events surrounding him - how, in a sense, he is almost an indifferent, meta-observer of his own diffident state of being.

As the story opens, Meursault is told of his mother's death and, although he grudgingly attends her funeral, he does not weep nor does he display any of the typical reactions or emotions that are expected of a person in his situation. In fact, instead of mourning, he engages in a casual sexual relationship with a former acquaintance that he enountered that day. A few days after the funeral, as a result of an almost absurd string of events and circumstances, Meursault shoots and kills a man. But rather than displaying any remorse or concern, we witness Meursault casually sit through his own trial and judgment with virtually complete detachment and indifference. Before his execution, a chaplain attempts to discuss matters of faith with him and turn him to God but, as with other events in his life, Meursault is disinterested and reconciled to the world's lack of interest in him and his fate as well.

In trying to make some sense of what I had read, I wanted to at least learn a little bit about existentialism. As I now undertand it, a central proposition of existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the actual life of the individual is what constitutes what could be called his or her "essence" instead of there being a predetermined essence that defines what it is to be a human. Thus, the human being creates his own values and determines a meaning to his life. Ergo, I am concluding this means that Meursault is the quintessential existentialist in that he had determined the steps of his own life, made his own choices and lived with them. Having done so, he was indifferent to others and their reactions to what he perceived as his own self-worth.

I can say that The Outsider was ... well, interesting. For my tastes, unfortunately, I'd also have to categorize it as very bleak and joyless and certainly far from compelling. Perhaps, as a reader, I'm a bit thick when it comes to thinking of matters philosophical. But it is what it is and perhaps that's why I don't jump up and down suggesting that this is a must read classic. Recommended for those that want to challenge themselves with what one might call a thinking man's classic.

Paul Weiss

3-0 out of 5 stars Also Known "The Stranger"
The Outsider/The Stranger is the story of young Mersault, a man, apparently devoid of emotions. The plot is simple. Mersault talks to us about his boring job, shows us that he doesn't love his girlfriend and doesn't grieve when he is told his mother just died in the home he sent her to a few years ago.

After the funeral service, he meets a young lady that used to work with him. They watch a movie, go to the beach and meet again the next day. He is invited to a weekend's getaway to the beach with his girlfriend and neighbor, and there he unintentionally gets involved in his neighbor's problem with two men. He kills one of them after the problem is semi resolved and gets sent to prison.

The second part of the book deals with his trial, and with his apathetic nature which leaves lawyers at ends about how to defend him. He doesn't try to defend himself, he admits he killed the man. He says it was a mistake. They dwell on the fact that he did not grieve for his mother. He reasons his existence, and while you follow what he is saying, you can't fully justify his killing the man, him condemning himself like that.

I don't know if I completely got Mersault. Most probably I didn't. But to me, he seemed like a shell of a man, the remains of someone who was. Nothing is said of his past, nothing is hinted, but yet, I feel that there must be something, some event, that made him so apathetic. I was left wanting to know the whys of his life.

5-0 out of 5 stars make sure you're getting the Stuart Gilbert translation
Alexander Pope's translation (c. 1720) of the Iliad.Now there's a preposterously highblown translation that many would think needed to be redone for the modern age.

But Stuart Gilbert's masterful translation of "L'etranger" from 1946 is for me perfect and, heck, still easily available.There was nothing that needed to be reworked about that:pace Laredo and Ward, it's still fresh and relevant.

Further, Gilbert's rendering has the kind of spare grace that conveys the flavor of the original much better than Joseph Laredo's, arguably conveying, by means of its overall icy tone, Mersault's remote demeanor much more convincingly.The final phrase, "greet me with howls of execration" is much more chillingly rendered there than here, in Laredo's pedestrian and forgettable "greet me with cries of hatred."

5-0 out of 5 stars Some books are meant to be read, others experienced.
Years ago, while on a midnight flight to the United Kingdom, I read a strange book about a young man namedMeursault. So emblematic of my life was his story, that I wrote my name on the inside cover, and dated it.
The Outsider, is one of those novels, or experiences, that one rarely happens upon during the course of their existence. It serves no purpose except the attestation, that as esoteric and nonsensical life may be, it really ISN'T JUST YOU - however exceedingly remote that is to believe.
Meursault, died for truth, in the absolute sense, unlike per say, Sir Thomas Moore, who also died for truth, but of a different kind, and with heroic pretensions to his actions. But I am not kine to graze that field, and in those hackneyed words, we hear time and time again,"....that is a story for another time."

4-0 out of 5 stars Controversial, Challenging, and Vivid!
The Outsider is an interesting introduction to Existential-type thought. But don't dismiss it for that reason if that bothers you!

This book, though short and digestible, really packs a strong punch. I found myself interested in the psyche of Mersault as he faced the three deaths which so defined his life; the death of his mother, the death of the person he murdered, and his own pending death. His cold, emotionless way of analyzing happens is really vivid and dramatic. Something about it reminds me of Brothers Karamazov, though with a decidedly more anti-social stoicic spin to it.

You will be challenged and perhaps drawn in to this story, Camus was a really talented writer, as is evidenced by this work as well as 'The Plauge'.I disagree with Camus' conclusions as well as the worldview he is putting forward in this book, but I can't deny its importance and I really feel that it is a compelling, well-written story that is worth reading if you are studying existentialism and/or nihilism. ... Read more

13. Lyrical and Critical Essays
by Albert Camus
Mass Market Paperback: 384 Pages (1970-09-12)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.99
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Asin: 0394708520
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars An interesting literary work
This book is divided into three sections: Lyrical Essays, Critical Essays, and Camus's Self-Commentary.

The lyrical essays are stories and musings. What I found makes these lyrical essays beautiful is not the language itself (for this, I think no one beats Thoreau) but the ideas and descriptions expressed in the unfolding of the stories or central themes.

The critical essays are essentially Camus's thoughts on culture, philospohy, and other literature (e.g. Faulkner and Melville).Camus's commentary on himself is also very interesting, for I think that these essays are the most telling of Camus's views not just of himself and his writing, but of his views on society at the time.

5-0 out of 5 stars A lyric poet in disguise
"There is no love of life without despair of life."-These words haunted me when I first read this book nearly ten years ago.I then lent it out, never to be returned.(Ahem, I've become very cautious about lending books out since then.)Anyway, I just recently repurchased this book and reread it, and I still (unlike Camus' himself) regard the LYRICAL essays herein as much more beautiful, powerful and significant than the much touted The Stranger (which I, however, like as well, only on another level.)
It's quotes like the one above and "Knowing that certain nights whose sweetness lingers will keep returning to the earth and sea after we are gone, yes, this helps us die." that make this collection of essays Camus' best work.
The Stranger is, indeed, a unique contribution to post-WWII literature.But these essays are unique as well as powerful and beautiful.My bet is that, a century from now, these essays will be remembered long after the "existentialist" vogue has long faded, as Camus' best work.
My apologies to those who worship terse, arid prose.It has its place.But it's not the stuff of truly great literature.The lyrical essays contained herein are.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Essential Ground Of Info.
Here is a compilation of the essays that Camus wrote during the entire span of his career.It is branched into 2 categories,& a final chapter dealing more personally with outlooks on life & his works.The lyrical section describes in vivid detail the places that have moved & altered his life profoundly,eloquently relating how & why.It is one of the great literary what-if's if Camus would have done poetry in verse form;judging from the fine,thin & nimble prose that impressively illustrates the simultaneous cause & effect union bet. the man & his nature,he could have been a very good lyric poet,if not a great one.The Critical essays are honest & insightful measurements on the correlation bet. the work that he deals with & it's relevance to life & art.The final section,"Camus On Himself",offer some verifiable insights into the man & his personality.This book could serve as a very impt. introduction or supplement to Camus's entire canon;one could feel very refreshed & informed after reading it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and insightfull
The language of the book are so well written that you can feel the emotions and spirits permeates from the pages. This book contains a lot of thoughts that are suprisingly simple, yet manage to escape us in the course of everyday life. It is about memories, places, faces and emotions of an ordinary human being with an extraordinary talent for life. " ... there is more love in these awkward pages than in all those that have followed." (Albert Camus, Preface 1958) ... Read more

14. Happy Death
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 208 Pages (1995-08-29)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$6.47
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Asin: 0679764003
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
In his first novel, A Happy Death, written when he was in his early twenties and retrieved from his private papers following his death in I960, Albert Camus laid the foundation for The Stranger, focusing in both works on an Algerian clerk who kills a man in cold blood. But he also revealed himself to an extent that he never would in his later fiction. For if A Happy Death is the study of a rule-bound being shattering the fetters of his existence, it is also a remarkably candid portrait of its author as a young man.

As the novel follows the protagonist, Patrice Mersault, to his victim's house -- and then, fleeing, in a journey that takes him through stages of exile, hedonism, privation, and death -it gives us a glimpse into the imagination of one of the great writers of the twentieth century. For here is the young Camus himself, in love with the sea and sun, enraptured by women yet disdainful of romantic love, and already formulating the philosophy of action and moral responsibility that would make him central to the thought of our time.

Translated from the French by Richard Howard ... Read more

Customer Reviews (22)

5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful , flawed absurdity.
It's been written about "A Happy Death" that Camus' unpublished first novel was brilliantly written, and terrible organized. It's hard to deny that the novel may have some structure problems, but it's hard to care when it's written so beautifully.

Philosophically, it hints at topics Camus would explore later (exile, suicide, rebellion and of course, the absurd). Even young Camus had a way with words, and although like the existentialist of his time he had a way of telling dark and depressing tales, he manages to write with an emphasis on the simple pleasures of life. Whether he's describing the act of bathing in the sun or savoring food items he has a way of making the reader want to live and experience life, for better or worse, to the fullest.

"A Happy Death", in a literary sense, doesn't even come close to the heights of The Stranger (with which it bares many similarities) or The Plague (my personal favorite) but one really can't complain about a novel capable of reaffirming how beautiful (yet absurd) life can be.

4-0 out of 5 stars Better than The Stranger
More honest and less streamlined than The Stranger, this story will connect with the reader if his/her life has reached the point where small things have become both beautiful and final.I enjoyed it when I was 23, but was unprepared for how much I would love it even more at 37.

5-0 out of 5 stars It takes time to live,like any work of art,life needs to be thought about.
A Happy Death is Camus' first attempt at The Outsider,its the chrysalis and matrix of the later book. In it Patrice Mersault thinks in terms of Time Lost and Time Gained with money rather than madeleines to effect that transition.There is a murder,planned rather than spontaneous,to come upon the happiness he seeks,whose vehicle is the will to happiness. As in The Outsider,there are two parts:the life before and a life after, where a happy life leads to a happy death in a world that is absurd.In Part 1 of both novels we get a good idea of Camus' early life in the working class area of Belcourt as a shipping clerk.

I think that the writing in Happy Death is less organised than in The Outsider,but it is livier and fresher and seems more autobiographical and depicts a lot more of Camus' lived life.It sets out its stool,has an agenda:how to get happiness? Get money to buy the time that can cultivate happiness.Because it's more of a willed performance, the structure is more improvised and awkward and deliberate but you don't get the excisions of The Outsider, where the information surrounding the characters has been stripped away and it becomes mysterious and portentous.The character of Mersault seems more human in A Happy Death, and we don't get the darkness of 'the arabs' or 'killing an arab' which makes Camus' position closer to the French colonists.In A Happy Death, isn't he more of the working class l'homme moyen sensuel, hedonistic, believable,still able to murder,but the murder has a lighter tone to it and has a purpose,possibly aided by the victim,Roland Zagreus.

This book,published after his death in 1972 is hardly ever spoken of.The book deserves to be better known. Incidently, there is a gain in impersonality in The Outsider and the reason given for the murder is the heat of the sun,the glint of the sun on the blade etc. I think Camus is consciously taking the character,Meursault,into the realms of myth and away from human psychology.The man appears colder than Patrice, towards women,love, marriage,his mother's death, as if he's become an instrument of the gods.Although Camus(I don't think)doesn't ever mention Proust in his writing,he utlizes Time Lost and Time Gained.However he has no `time' for the involuntary memory which Proust uses to access lost time.

In both novels Mersault is in revolt against society's norms and commits a murder a la Raskolinkov in both. However, Patrice gets away with the murder and is able to realize his desires.Meursault(The Outsider) dies for the truth to his feelings, which challenge bourgeois hypocrisy,shown in the court scenes in Part 2. Where The Outsider depicts the fate society metes out to an honest individual, A Happy Death asks what it truly means to be alive.It maybe Camus' Stephen Hero, which was the book Joyce set aside to write The Portrait ot the Artist as a Young Man. In both writer's later books there is an increase in the mythology and martyrdom of the lone individual.The Outsider is more contentious in its treatment of the Moors who are not mentioned in A Happy Death.Zagreus(from Greek mythology torn apart by the Titans) could be the Christ figure, whereas in The Outsider,Meursault becomes "the only Christ we deserve"(Camus).Then,the name Patrice is dropped,just as Jesus just became known as 'Christ'. Mersault becomes Meursault.A Happy Death is interesting to read if you know The Outsider and shows the transition Camus went through from budding writer,full of untested ideas,to the fully mature,experienced novelist sloughing off trivia and likeability,to become the hardened artist.

4-0 out of 5 stars very good
Camus first book, though published after his death and without his consent, is a lens into the mind of the young author. Great imagery, strong philosophy, and a good mystery feel, leaves the reader fulfilled through out the novel. A MUST for those taking on the philosophy of Camus.

5-0 out of 5 stars Purpose Imposes Meaning
Those who come to A HAPPY DEATH after THE STRANGER tend to note the similarities in plot and theme that relegate they believe the former to the latter as a juvenile attempt--not bad maybe, but not the real thing either. Such a judgment is overhasty. The Mersault of A HAPPY DEATH may or may not be the Mersault of THE STRANGER. Both live in Algiers and both wander aimlesslessly in life, seeking a philosophical underpinning.Both kill a man, and both suffer for it.But such a facile comparison omits a great deal that suggests when Camus took up the pen again a decade later, he has more in mind than a handy earlier book from which he could self-[...].

The Mersault of A HAPPY DEATH has a first name, Patrice, who is poor and seeks a way to battle a losing effort with time that his poverty proves a hindrance. He finds a rich cripple and kills him, and steals his money, which he uses to work out the details, however bizarre, of a philosophy that involve his finding happiness. The other Mersault seeks happiness too, but with him he already is "happy" in the sense that he knows his place in the universe, which he sees as a disordered self-contained field of entropy from which he concludes that nothing makes sense and everything is meaningless. This Mersault does not need to steal money to reach a higher state. Patrice Mersault seeks to elevate himself to reach a higher state that he feels money is the key and murder is the means. His later counterpart would find it amusing that his namesake would bother to look outside himself for anything. Patrice, could he but jump into HIS counterpart's book, would feel, not amusement, but rage at someone who has no purpose in life except to keep doing what he is doing.Both Mersaults share some surface traits, but in the final analysis, they are no more than two distinct individuals who share a name and a few piddling details of their surface lives.And perhaps this is what caused Camus to take up the pen with his twin Mersaults: to show his readers that the universe cannot mean more than what you put into it or what you don't. ... Read more

15. Resistance, Rebellion, and Death: Essays
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 288 Pages (1995-08-29)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.95
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Asin: 0679764011
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Enthralling
I was so taken by this book I have read it again and again. It makes you think and sometimes question your own moral standing.

4-0 out of 5 stars Facinating... truly amazing in parts, yet a bit predictable.
'Resistance, Rebellion, and Death', well the title certainly delivers, each word that Camus writes is empowered by a conviction of the seeming highest moral character confronted with a truly trying time in human history (but what times aren't filled with hardships?).

The only issue I have with these particular collection of writings is the predictability in Camus' thought process, many of which occur in the middle half of the book. I do Wager that the 'Letters to a German Friend' and the last section 'The Artist and His Time' are truly excellent pieces of work. If not for the philosophical aspects of the book, the historical can quench the philosophical hungers. Perhaps I am just not a fan of journalism...
Perhaps the translator is to blame for some of the dry predictable structuring of words?
It's interesting because I have a copy of 'the Rebel' translated by Anthony Bower, whom the ability of poetic fervor is not lacking. But then again I've read 'The Fall' of whichJustin O'Brien translated quite well.

But I shouldn't complain I vaguely understand French. And in any case what is really important seems to be the message behind the language, not the words themselves.

5-0 out of 5 stars The agony of a humanist
This collection of essays is the most brilliant one of Camus' diverse smaller non-fiction writings. The bulk of this book concerns his journalistic writings on the Algerian Revolution, Soviet Union etc. Through these essays, you understand the pain of Camus. Camus' ethics doesn't agree to mindless violence for the sake of power. He makes an impassioned plea for tolerance and humanitarian solutions to the problems of war and peace.

Camus is not necessarily logical or politically correct. His stand on the issue of independence of Algeria is a compromised position between French imperialism and Algerian aspirations for freedom during that period. However, in his passion for diagnozing the problems of his time and addressing them, he hits upon a lot of interesting insights and arguments.

Particularly brilliant for both its analysis and its conclusion is Camus' landmark long essay 'Reflections on the Guillotine' which occupies a fair part of the book. In this essay, Camus systematically demolishes all legal or quasi-moral justifications for capital punishment and answers the third aspect of the question - Whether human life is worth taking?

In his 'The Myth of Sisyphus', he had argued against self-murder. In 'The Rebel', he argued against murder and genocide. In this essay, he argues against legalized murder. But unlike his earlier works where he offered weak arguments after a brilliant analysis, here he hits the mark by demolishing the justifications for capital punishment, totally. This particular essay deserves to be considered a classic in the philosophy of law and justice.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bracing clarity
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It has provided me with the strongest, most clear-headed confidence in the face of unrelenting hypocrisy and struggle. Camus was on the side of the angels for all of the conflicts of his time, a time that saw the darkest face of humanity. His arguments for compassion and justice are utterly transfixing and revelatory, and written with a clarity and insight that are simply breath-taking.

I challenge anyone that supports the death penalty to read "Reflections on the Guillotine" and walk away with their arguments intact. In this piece Camus utterly demolishes every argument for state-sanctioned murder while defending the right to live with dignity, a right that can easily encompass the self-defense by combat necessitated by circumstance.

Camus was a moral, intellectual, and physical hero, and reading these essays one is almost overcome by his sense of humilty, justice, and compassion. His writing is so crystalline, it's almost jolting. This is a powerful tonic for all those that despair of creating a place for the best qualities of the human race in times of utter darkness. A must-read.

5-0 out of 5 stars An essential to the library called your mind
For nearly 30 years I have carried this book with me virtually everywhere. No, it's not "an easy read" - but it is worth buying (owning)and treasuring - if only for the FOURTH LETTER (to a German Friend)- it is the most moving argument/declaration for humanity and choosing it that I have ever seen anywhere.

Some (like Sartre?) might call it a "rationalization". But even those who have resigned themselves to the religions ofcynicism and despair - could find a remnant of fight and even "goodness" (yikes!) inside themselves. Camus' words remind us that resignation and the inevitable indifference and inhumanity that follow are the ultimate betrayals of life.

While there is nothing "cheerful" or even optimistic about these writings - you'd have to be cold-blooded, heartless and completely beyond repair or redemption not to be inspired by the wistful aspirations that Camus exudes from his admittedly battered heart and soul.

I disagree with the reviewer (who did praise this precious book) Sartre is smart - but so is Camus - and Camus exudes the humanity that Sartre can't even see or imagine.

Sartre would tell us that we always have the freedom to at least rattle our chains (at least theoretically) - but Camus has the power to inspire us to want to. ... Read more

16. Albert Camus: A Life
by Olivier Todd, Benjamin Ivry
Paperback: 448 Pages (2000-03-31)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$27.47
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Asin: B0002D6CSE
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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In this enormously engaging, vibrant, and richly researched biography of Albert Camus, the French writer and journalist Olivier Todd has drawn on personal correspondence, notebooks, and public records never before tapped, as well as interviews with Camus's family, friends, fellow workers, writers, mentors, and lovers.

Todd shows us a Camus who struggled all his life with irreconcilable conflicts--between his loyalty to family and his passionate nature, between the call to political action and the integrity to his art, between his support of the native Algerians and his identification with the forgotten people, the poor whites. A very private man, Camus could be charming and prickly, sincere and theatrical, genuinely humble, yet full of great ambition.

Todd paints a vivid picture of the time and place that shaped Camus--his impoverished childhood in the Algerian city of Belcourt, the sea and the sun and the hot sands that he so loved (he would always feel an exile elsewhere), and the educational system that nurtured him. We see the forces that lured him into communism, and his attraction to the theater and to journalism as outlets for his creativity.

The Paris that Camus was inevitably drawn to is one that Todd knows intimately, and he brings alive the war years, the underground activities that Camus was caught up in during the Occupation and the bitter postwar period, as well as the intrigues of the French literati who embraced Camus after his first novel, L'Etranger, was published. Todd is also keenly attuned to the French intellectual climate, and as he takes Camus's measure as a successful novelist, journalist, playwright and director, literary editor, philosopher, he also reveals the temperament in the writer that increasingly isolated him and crippled his reputation in the years before his death and for a long time after. He shows us the solitary man behind the mask--debilitated by continuing bouts of tuberculosis, constantly drawn to irresistible women, and deeply troubled by his political conflicts with the reigning French intellectuals, particularly by the vitriol of his former friend Sartre over the Algerian conflict.

Filled with sharp observations and sparkling with telling details, here is a wonderfully human portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning writer, who died at the age of forty-six and who remains one of the most influential literary figures of our time.Amazon.com Review
Olivier Todd's biography of Albert Camus matches its subject'sdepth by portraying the man as well as the moralist. Born in Algeriaand raised in poverty by an illiterate mother, Camus never forgotwhere he came from.He made his name in Nazi-occupied Paris--publiclyas the author of The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus,covertly as a member of the Resistance and editor of its newspaper,Combat--but he longed for the North African sun of hisyouth. During the years of crisis when Algeria struggled to break freefrom France, Camus alienated both colonialists and revolutionaries bysupporting full equality for Arabs but denouncing terrorism. "Ibelieve in justice," he told an Algerian heckler at a 1957meeting he addressed in Stockholm after winning the NobelPrize. "But I will defend my mother before justice." It isthis preference for the concrete over the abstract that makes Camussuch an appealing thinker.Todd's biography, which offers the mostfully human depiction yet, is equally engaging. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

4-0 out of 5 stars Objective, reasonably comprehensive, workmanlike, and abridged
When published in French in 1996, "Albert Camus: une vie" was, by consensus view, the most comprehensive and objective biography of Albert Camus to date.This English translation was published the next year.Unfortunately, when translated into English, Todd's original French biography also was abridged - "unfortunately" because I sense that the abridgement was clumsy.I suspect that much of the cropping occurred in the first part of the book, dealing with Camus's life from his birth in Algeria in 1913 until his move to Paris in 1941, since the first third of this biography (through 1941) is annoyingly choppy and poorly organized.Around page 130 the quality of this English version of ALBERT CAMUS: A LIFE improves.

Even so, the biography is on the dry side.The writing is only so-so -- but then, that too might be due at least in part to the translation.As a biography, it is more a collection than a synthesis; Todd inclines more to presenting facts and quoting others' assessments of Camus than he does to offering his own analysis and commentary.A real strength of this biography is that Todd does not succumb to hero-worship.Compared to two other works about Camus biographical in nature that I have read or skimmed, Todd is not blind to, nor does he gloss over, Camus's personal weaknesses and defects of character.Another strength of this biography is how it highlights people and events in Camus's life that he worked into various of his novels and plays.In the end, I applaud this biography for its objectivity, though I also fault how the workmanlike tone and approach virtually strips all sense of warmth for the book's subject.

Yet another notable aspect of this biography is its occasional gossipy tidbits, though they always are presented in a dead-pan manner.One example:For a few years Camus was a close associate of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.As Todd puts it, Beauvoir "felt amorous" towards Camus, but he, despite being a notorious womanizer (though his dalliances tended to be with young, slim, quite attractive women), steadfastly resisted her advances.(This fact should not be overlooked when considering Beauvoir's later castigation of Camus's politics and intellectual abilities.)On the other hand, Simone was able to coax Arthur Koestler into the sack.Ironically, Camus later said to Koestler (perhaps not knowing that for Koestler sex with Simone was not just a hypothetical), "Imagine what [Simone] might say on the pillow afterwards.It's horrible--with such a chatterbox, a total bluestocking, unbearable!"

This biography covers in reasonable detail all of the better-known episodes or aspects of Camus's life: his tuberculosis (which certainly gave him a deeper appreciation for the mystery and wonder of life, which in turn informed his opposition to terrorism and to capital punishment); his involvement with the Resistance; his friendship and then quarrel with Sartre; his controversial public silence in the late-1950s as regards his native Algeria; the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature; and his relations with numerous women.

Camus was an inveterate Don Juan, who could be very jealous and get quite upset upon learning that one of his lovers had been unfaithful to him but, as for himself, could come up with any number of reasons why fidelity or monogamy was not natural for him.It is nigh impossible to pardon him his conduct towards his second wife Francine, and it appears likely that his rampant philandering contributed to Francine's mental illness. From Todd's biography, it also appears that Camus had difficulty understanding that reasonable people could, in good faith, see political or moral matters differently than he.He comes across -- at least to those other than his closest friends - as having been rather smug, maybe even arrogant, which (especially when coupled with his enviable good looks, fame, and success with women) no doubt increased the number of enemies or critics he had among the French intelligentsia.

But by no means is Todd's biography a hatchet job.Todd, in his rather dry and somber manner, honors Camus for his distinctive achievements and defends him from the more shrill and knee-jerk attacks from the Left (which, for the most part, the course of history over the past thirty years has also exposed as misguided).Of Camus's literary works, Todd regards "The Stranger" and "The Fall" to be "masterpieces".Again and again Todd shows how Camus simply refused to be caught up in the ideologies that helped fuel the Cold War.When "The Rebel" was criticized by Sartre and his toadies on the grounds that some of its views were those of the right wing, Camus wrote, "One doesn't decide the truth of an idea according to whether it is left- or right-wing, and even less by what the left or right wing decides to make of it."(A maxim that many of our contemporary political pundits would do well to remember.)To the perturbation of the French Left of the late 1940s and the 1950s, Camus saw and pronounced the USSR to be a "land of slaves" and a lie.To those like Sartre who defended Communism and the USSR as the hope of the future, Camus responded, "We don't need hope, we only need truth."Finally, with regard to Algeria, Todd is not altogether clear or successful in explaining Camus's conflicted and complex position(s), but he certainly is on the mark when he concludes: "Camus wanted Algeria to remain somehow in the French Republic, but he did not have what is seen today as typical colonialist mentality, condoning the OAS counterterrorist groups' torturing Algerian nationalists.Those who claim that he did [such as Conor Cruise O'Brien and Edward Said] falsify his life and works."

Though not ideal, Todd's biography probably is essential to an English-speaking student of Camus who (like me) does not read French.For those who, understandably, have the time or inclination to read only one biography of Camus, I would instead recommend Elizabeth Hawes's "Camus, A Romance" (despite its idiosyncrasies, which I mention in my Amazon review of that work).Three-and-a-half stars, rounded up.

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
Camus is not the easiest of writers to categorize.Both philosopher and literary figure, his world is fraught with too many pitfalls for the casual glance.On top of everything else, his early personal life was very hard, his father a fatality in the First World War when Camus was one, his mother illiterate, and he tubercular from high school.How then did this frightened child emerge to become the second youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize?
To chronicle this achievement requires manifold skills, which Olivier Todd has in abundance, and with which he succeeds.The only reason for not giving this book five stars is a personal predilection for giving five stars only to the most excellent.This is a good book, an exceptional work.Todd delves into existentialism with gusto, presenting that philosophy and Camus' version of it quite concisely.I think the only place where this book falters is in the psychological, the motive for Camus' writing.One can connect the dots, but sometimes I would have liked just a little bit assurance.Still, not to be missed for anyone who has any proclivity for this person, thought, or era.

2-0 out of 5 stars Terrible abridgement
As other reviewers have noted, this is an abridgement of the French version. And it is a bad one. Contrary to one of the other reviewers, though, I don't think the fault is with the French original.

For one thing, the abridgement makes Camus so boring and unsymapthetic for the first 1/3 of the book, that it's tempting to put the book down. This section is where the translator and his editors threw away the most material: the 1/3 mark in the translation is more like the 1/2-way point in the French original. The result is a forced march of events and girlfriends, without much description of local character or humanizing incident.

Unfortunately even the part of the book dealing with the adult Camus is stripped of a lot of meaningful material. For example, some amusing anecdotes about the local residents were edited out of Chapter 25, which describes Camus's wartime stay in a rural area of France.

Moreover, the translation itself has some weird quirks. One is the persistent reference to C.'s notebooks as "Carnets", presented as if this were a book title. Notebooks of French writers should become capital-C and italicized "Carnets" only when they're edited and published. If you're talking about what an unknown (in fact, unpublished) writer wrote in his notebooks, then you should say "notebooks" or, as Todd does in the French original, "carnets" without italics. Yet translator Ivry uses italicized "Carnets" throughout.

Another irritation is that sometimes it would have been better to leave some stuff in French and hang a footnote. E.g., in Chapter 25, the biographer talks about Camus's friendship with another French writer, Francis Ponge. Around the same time Camus's first literary works were being published, Ponge published his famous collection of prose poems, "Le parti pris des choses". Within the chapter, Ivry mentions this title in French, without translation. The chapter title is the puzzling "Men's Prejudices." Yet in Todd's original, the chapter title is "Le parti pris des hommes" -- a clear reference to Ponge's book. Ivry should have provided a translation of the book title, or else left the chapter title in French. To do as he did entirely obscures Olivier Todd's light and witty touch. (Another mystifying and humorless choice is that the original title of Ch. 25, "Rutabagas et résistances," is translated simply as "Resistances.")

If you just want a quick resume of the facts of Camus's life, should you make a commitment to this 400-page biography that may not warm you up to its subject? If you want to really dig into his life, should you read this book that skips everything that the translator (or his publisher) believed is "not of sufficient interest to the American general reader," as Ivry says in his preface? Personally, I'm interested in Camus only just enough to read one biography of him, once. Discovering the huge gap in quality between this translation and the gigantic original after I was already halfway through the English version was frustrating.

It's also sad to reflect that Ivry and his editors probably belong to that segment of US society who are most sincerely interested in literature. That they believed the average reader who's already interested enough to read 400 pages about Camus wouldn't have read 600+ pages about him, or appreciated some footnotes at the end of the book (all of the original's footnotes are omitted), represents either condescension, bad market sense or tremendously bad taste. To say nothing of the fact that by often throwing out more humanizing and light-hearted material, they're reinforcing many English speakers' false caricature of Camus, often formed after reading "The Stranger" in college, as an alienated and depressed "existentialist" guy who couldn't enjoy life.

Not all publishers make such bad choices. Oxford U Press recently published the 4th volume of a biography of Gustav Mahler, which also happens to be a translation from the French; just that volume alone comes to almost 1,800 pages in English. It would have been a much more modest project for Knopf to have published an unabridged translation of Todd's bestseller -- and much more respectful to both author and readers.

1-0 out of 5 stars Terrible
One hopes that the French edition, which is 400 hundred, not 100, pages longer, is considerably better, but I find that hard to believe. The writing is unacceptably choppy and awkward, with paragraphs springing from nowhere and sentences shifting from one grand topic to another without stopping. It's almost laughable. Chock full of details and totally lacking in style or spirit, this book will only be useful to those seeking a blow by blow chronology of Camus' life - and the chronology is uneven at best (many times Todd goes back several months without clear indication).

Poor writing wouldn't be a problem if there was at least a point of view, but Todd offers us none, preferring instead to recounting facts and quoting at length from Camus' letters. The fact that Camus was such a crystalline writer only makes this book seem like more of an insult.

I was hugely disappointed by this book. (...)

3-0 out of 5 stars Read the French Edition of this book.
The only real problem I have with this book was that the American edition has been abridged. Over 150 pages have been cut. As a result much of the portrait of Camus as a philosopher has been deleted. So I would recomend reading the French edition if at all possible ... Read more

17. The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Albert Camus
Paperback: 256 Pages (2002-12-05)
list price: US$16.50 -- used & new: US$7.19
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0141185139
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr. Rieux, resist the terror. An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, "The Plague" is in part an allegory of France's suffering under the Nazi occupation, and a story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

3-0 out of 5 stars eh
so so. alot of things to over-analyze if your into in-depth reading. no fun for just the heck of it though. ... Read more

18. Albert Camus's The Stranger (Bloom's Guides)
Hardcover: 93 Pages (2008-04-30)
list price: US$30.00 -- used & new: US$19.80
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Asin: 079109829X
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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A guide to reading "The Stranger" with a critical and appreciative mind encouraging analysis of plot, style, form, and structure. Also includes background on the author's life and times, sample tests, term paper suggestions, and a reading list. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (17)

5-0 out of 5 stars A worthy contribution to the excellent Bloom's Guides series
A worthy contribution to the excellent Bloom's Guides series, Bloom's Guides: The Stranger is a comprehensive reading and study guide for students and lay readers alike of Albert Camus' classic existential novel "The Stranger", about a man who almost involuntarily commits an unprovoked murder, yet is unable to explain why he did it, let alone fake remorse. He is ultimately condemned not for the crime itself, but for his failure to express hypocrisy over it; he is unable to immerse himself in the physical and emotional absurdities of daily existence that demand thousands of little lies and great lies from every member of human society. Bloom's Guide: The Stranger features a strong emphasis on summary and analysis, walking the reader step by step through the nuances of this complex yet insightful work of Western literature. Additional enhancements include "The Story Behind the Story", which describes the conditions under which The Stranger was written, a biographical sketch of the author, a descriptive list of characters, and an annotated bibliography. Enthusiastically recommended especially for anyone studying "The Stranger" as part of a literary course or thesis.

1-0 out of 5 stars Problems with Camus
I was really disappointed by this book. It was really hyped by many of the people I know, as a must read. I can't see why. The main character was worse then shallow. The book was written as something critical but the line that Camus and his mentor Sartre seem to take, time and time again, is to side with tyranny. This character was a straight and clear clinical psychopath. Why was it that Sartre was completely "ok" with silencing concetration camp survivors from Russia? Well... If this character was Sartre and Camus' ideal person then there really is no confusion about that, now is there. It appears that in order for Camus to justify his positions on his politics he had to create bad people and then try to make them ideal. Sociopaths are not heros rather they are murdering arabs, run giant corporations, or countries or trying to ridicule or silence people.

5-0 out of 5 stars Served its purpose
This gives a good albeit brief synopsis of the book. I needed a good outline that I could use as a companion to teach from the book and this worked.

4-0 out of 5 stars A book that speaks to your secret self....
"The Stranger" is a wonderful little book, filled with deceptively simple language and actions.It's understated, very subtle, and except for the outright atheist vs. church stuff at the end, you've really got to work for it.You can pick it up, read it in a night, put it down, and refuse to be affected...but if you listen, the meaning is in there, deep and dark, not didactic, more like a whisper.

The apparent indifference Mersault carries strikes one as inhuman: shrugging off his mother's death, swearing off the church, agreeing to marry in a heartbeat, and, most poignantly, accepting his fate - a death sentence.But the things Mersault is trying to say through the gaps between what's actually on the page is simple:it's all arbitrary, we're fools on a ball spinning around a star, and contentment is the simplest thing to feel amidst chaos.

Although the murder and the trial, and definitely the funeral, are fantastic moral-bending existentialist scenes, what sticks with you in the dark of night, is as simple as the prose and also as endlessly complex:we're here, we'll never understand each other, we see what's most convenient to see, and we all die in the end anyway, whether or not our tenure here can be marked as "good" or "bad" or "moral".Not the most uplifting read in the world, but literature is a cruel mistress sometimes.

5-0 out of 5 stars Condemned for being honest
The darkness and simplicity of this wonderful book are frequently misunderstood. Many readers find Merseault cold and emotionless, but this is not the case. Merseault displays emotion in his argument with the prisonpriest, and (big surprise) his feelings toward his mother.

Although he isput on trial for killing an Arab, Mersault is actually condemned forfailing to grieve for his mother in public. Have any of you been to thefuneral of an elderly realative? Sometimes, despite the emotions you feelfor that person, the experience of the funeral is flat, meaningless andlogical. All of the love came before the event and will come again manytimes later. But somehow a funeral leaves one dry and plain. Mersaultexperienced his mother's death for what it was: a dry and uncomfortableevent. He did not put on a show for the people involved with the funeral orthose who knew the deceased. His actions were plain and honest.

ButMerseault does have feelings for his mother. When he learns much later thatshe had a lover in the elderly home she occupied he feels glad for her.That moment of empathy if an extrordinary act of comppassion. It is also aprivate one.

"The Stranger" reveals many simple truths aboutthe kind of people we are and it raises questions about the inegrity behindour thoughts and actions. It is a wonderful book whose value is easilyoverlooked by people who only put stock in a verbose work. ... Read more

19. Albert Camus the Algerian: Colonialism, Terrorism, Justice
by David Carroll
Paperback: 256 Pages (2008-10-23)
list price: US$24.00 -- used & new: US$17.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0231140878
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Editorial Review

Product Description
In these original readings of Albert Camus' novels, short stories, and political essays, David Carroll concentrates on Camus' conflicted relationship with his Algerian background and finds important critical insights into questions of justice, the effects of colonial oppression, and the deadly cycle of terrorism and counterterrorism that characterized the Algerian War and continues to surface in the devastation of postcolonial wars today. During France's "dirty war" in Algeria, Camus called for an end to the violence perpetrated against civilians by both France and the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) and supported the creation of a postcolonial, multicultural, and democratic Algeria. His position was rejected by most of his contemporaries on the Left and has, ironically, earned him the title of colonialist sympathizer as well as the scorn of important postcolonial critics. Carroll rescues Camus' work from such criticism by emphasizing the Algerian dimensions of his literary and philosophical texts and by highlighting in his novels and short stories his understanding of both the injustice of colonialism and the tragic nature of Algeria's struggle for independence.By refusing to accept that the sacrifice of innocent human lives can ever be justified, even in the pursuit of noble political goals, and by rejecting simple, ideological binaries (West vs. East, Christian vs. Muslim, "us" vs. "them," good vs. evil), Camus' work offers an alternative to the stark choices that characterized his troubled times and continue to define our own. "What they didn't like, was the Algerian, in him," Camus wrote of his fictional double inThe First Man. Not only should "the Algerian" in Camus be "liked," Carroll argues, but the Algerian dimensions of his literary and political texts constitute a crucial part of their continuing interest. Carroll's reading also shows why Camus' critical perspective has much to contribute to contemporary debates stemming from the global "war on terror." ... Read more

20. La Peste
by Albert Camus
Paperback: Pages (1972-10-01)
list price: US$24.95 -- used & new: US$15.99
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Asin: 082883668X
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Customer Reviews (5)

Having submitted this review in spanish and not having it posted, I'll try again in english.......
Camus reached fame with his elaborations about the concept of the absurd (the purposeless search of the meaning of existence in a universe void of any)in three works: The Stranger, a novel; Caligula, a teathrical opus; and The Myth of Sisyphus, a recopilation of philosophical essays.
In his second famous novel, The Plague, we find a different Camus. Perhaps, more concerned about moral values and solidarity between human beings, in the face of massive destruction.
The plot of the novel unfolds in the city of Oran, Algeria. The central image has to do with a rat invasion that causes a plague epidemy, with disastrous consecuences. Here we find metaphorically portraited the invasion by the Nazis in 1943 of non occupied France (Camus said that the Nazis came like rats).
Then we find a description of the evolution of the plague, the reaction of the authorities (at first, self denial), the progressive isolation of the town from outside world, and on the onset the "normalization" of the tragedy (people grow accostumed to live with it, and become zombies). After the evolution and the growth of the problem, the inhabitants become completely isolated from the outside, and become prisoners in the inside, due to the drastic measures taken by the authorities. The plague becomes a collective problem that requires recognition and reaction by all. We have here a clear metaphorical reference to the need of a collective reaction to the Vichy government by all the citizens. The call to participate and react becomes a moral issue. Camus then describes with certain detail the soccer stadium where people are forcibly concentrated by the authorities, and this is an allusion to the Nazi concentration camps. More than the persons, the protagonist of this novel is the city.
In the sense that the values of solidarity and participation against a common disaster or enemy are called for, this novel is much more developed, from an ethical standpoint, than The Stranger.

5-0 out of 5 stars magnifica
esta novela, que da la sensacion de claustrofobia y terror provocada por una enfermedad que pone en cuarentena a toda la poblacion, es otro logro de albert camus, un tremendo escritor, autor de ese otro libro llamado elextranjero. la peste, de caracter menos nihilista, nos muestra a los sereshumanos aislados por la enfermedad y en busca de una causa comun, perosiempre solos, con su interior muy buena... LUIS MENDEZ

5-0 out of 5 stars La Peste est une premonition de ce fin de siecle
Only in French, but comments in English are welcome:un des plus puissants livres de tous les temps, du point de vue litteraire inimitable, du point de vue humain la transcription artistique et a la fois humaine des profondeurs sensibles et distantes en meme temps de l'espece humaine.

5-0 out of 5 stars Perhaps one of the most important books ever written.
Camus's second novel "La Pest" is probably his richest and most widely accessable.The importance of the novel, however, is that it strives to create "existential ethics."Camus powerfully builds upon the ideas of absurdity that he estiblished in "The Myth of Sysiphus" and also expands upon how and why people must face and oppose suffering in the world.

4-0 out of 5 stars Light hearted, entertaining.Page after page of easy fun.
Just kidding!Actually this book was heavy, depressing, and tedious to slog through.All that means is I didn't like it. I could still tell that La Peste is Camus' best attempt at converting the world to existentialism-- it just wasn't my cup of tea.Skillfully written, well thought-out and planned.Rough going throughout, but it will change you if you let it. ... Read more

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