‘Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is’— Albert Camus announced this in the Introduction to The Rebel (1951).
Encompassing the author in his above mentioned predicament, it would be impossible, however, to unravel his ‘being’. We would, thus, begin this analysis on Camus with the Sisyphus-like pre-supposition of sure shot failure, philosophised by the great man himself.Camus was born in 1913 at Mondovi in Algeria & was fostered all through by extreme poverty. He also played a vital role in the intellectual probes associated with the horrid World Wars.
It was the publication of his essay The Myth of Sisyphus(1942) that transformed him from just a provincial essayist to one of the canonical modern & post modern thinkers.
In that celebrated essay, Camus presents the idea of suicide- actual & philosophical as the two modes to attain the so-called ‘existential freedom’. Even in The Fall (1956), he communicates through Jean-Baptiste Clamence— “Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to your skepticism.” Coming back to The Myth of Sisyphus, There Camus comes up with the image of the absurd world. It is absurd in its unrealized multiplicities which are not explicable within any single logical paradigm. It is essentially the vision of a universe, torn between numerous cross- currents (cultural, social, political, economic & metaphysical), where logical explanation is but an el dorado. Absurd is to Camus, the only animating link between the individual & the external world–“The absurd is not in man nor in the world, but in their presence together…it is the only bond uniting them.” And so the only way to combat it is to learn to live with its lethal awareness. In this banal consciousness lies Camus’s existential credo–“This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.” So sensory experiences, in his opinion, end with those of the individual & his objective reality & this symbiotic existence makes & unmakes every other structure. Existentialism then is, as it were, a quest to touch, if not possess ‘the still point of the turning world’ which perhaps Thomas Beckett felt reaching, as the swords came in, all together, in a quiet, subdued silence, in T.S.Eliot’s The Murder in the Cathedral .
Albert Camus essay, The Myth Of Sisyphus is an insightful analysis of the classic work, The Myth Of Sisyphus. In some regards Camus view of Sisyphus can seem quite accurate and in tune with the original text, but based on Camus interpretation of the justness of Sisyphus punishment, it is clear that the writer has some different ideas as well. Camus concludes that this punishment does not have the ...
Camus regards artistic creation as a means to multiply life & thereby combat absurdity–“The artist commits himself and becomes himself in his work.” His examples of the absurd hero in the essay are Don Juan, The Actor, The Conqueror etc. All of them have, in common, some fundamental nuances about life. They all feel that there is an absolute dearth of order in external reality. That is what Meursault, the protagonist of Camus’s novel The Stranger(1942), says–“Nothing, nothing mattered, and I know why”, very much in the manner of Beckett’s Vladimir who says–“Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it is awful!”. Even Dr. Rieux, the absurd figure in Camus’s The Plague realizes so, because he too is under a death-sentence, trapped by a seemingly unending torment and yet, like Sisyphus, he continues to perform his duty, no matter how useless or how insignificant his action turns out to be. Camus frames The Plague (1947) in the tropes of traditional fictional structure; somewhere down the line, it also operates as a prelude to The Rebel. The tale of collective suffering due to the intrusion of the plague into the town of Oran, on the Algerian coast, is also a tale of putting up a stolid resistance against the disease & thus a particularized instance of the ‘revolt’.
Life as a World War I Soldier Life as a soldier in World War I was no “walk in the park” for anyone involved. The soldiers fought through plenty of gruesome battles that altered their lives in great ways. On the other hand some soldiers were able to still find joy and humor in their lives. For example one soldier, a Captain Alexander Stewart, describes in his diary how he was “annoyed when he had ...
Dr. Rieux, the central character, is left with a negation of the Christian concept of an all-powerful & all-good God as he comes across the horridly unjust death of the innocent little boy, owing to the murderous plague. It is this notion of ‘revolt’, which he de-contextualizes in the mould of a semi-philosophical treatise in The Rebel. Hence, with The Plague, Camus starts his journey from the abyss of nihilism to a profound humanism. While Bertrand d’ Astorg calls it ‘a new humanitarianism’, Marcel Thiebaut admires Camus for reintegrating into an absurd world, the moral principles which govern a world which is not absurd. As Sartre points out in his pamphlet- Existentialism is Humanism (1946), Camus observes —-“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy”. Each time the rock rolls down, he is able to look back upon his life and analyze it afresh. Nothing can be more existentialist. Bob Lane unlocks the key which opens up the struggle against the absurd in a three-tier climactic discourse–“Vladimir recognizes, Meursault confronts, and Sisyphus transcends”.
So there is no chaos in this absurd vision. To use the words of Bob Lane,–“… the experience of the absurd is the proof of man’s uniqueness and the foundation of his dignity and freedom.”
In his 1941-novel The Stranger, Camus depicts Meursault, an individual going through the motions of life without any emotive expectations from it. His existential resignation from the emotion as well as from the logic of emerging realities turns him into an atheist, viewing life as one views a movie—“It’s all the same to me”. He receives the news of his mother’s death merely with a faint annoyance at having to ask for two days’ leave of absence from the office where he works. At the time of his mother’s funeral journey, he looks rather automatically & objectively at all the disparate details around (the whiteness of the roots of the grave, the coffin, the nurse’s clothes etc).
Good morning friends, family and all those of you who are here today to celebrate the life of a great man, Victor Chang. Before I begin, I would like to offer my deepest sympathies to the Chang family for their unfortunate loss. This was a senseless and wasteful murder of such an innocent man. When I remember Victor, three words come to mind; Compassion, talent and persistence. Victor Chang, born ...
But this indifference is certainly not an enjoyable construct on Meursault’s part as he finally clarifies in the night before his own hanging—“So close to death, mother must have felt liberated & ready to live her life again. No one at all had any right to cry over her”; it is rather a painful imposition of indifference on one’s own self to counter the ‘benign indifference’ of the outer-world. Sartre points out, in his critical essay on The Stranger, how the short unanalytical, descriptive phrases in the narrative, express linguistically, a compellingly drab monotony.
Jean-Baptise Clamence in The Fall (1956) is Camus’s fictive alter-self, rendering an almost naturalistic self-confession. Revolving around a former lawyer from Paris, living in personal exile due to self-hatred, The Fall is a tale of a man’s guilt for not acting, while The Plague is a story of action against the odds. Camus’s two plays—Cross-Purpose & Caligula deal with the same dark riddle of life, ‘told by an idiot’ & perhaps thus so hostile to the pre-decided yardsticks of moral and emotive codes. “This is happiness: this intolerable release, this universal contempt, blood, hatred all around me, the unique isolation of the man who all his life knows the boundless joy of the unpunished killer… this ruthless logic that crushes human lives.”. These words, mouthed by Caligula in the play, underscore the very pensive vacuity of existentialist revelation which is also its only solution. And this void can only set in once there is a definitive quest for happiness in life. It is this frustration which would also enhance the penchant for the quest. Caligula offers some explanation to his mistress, Caesonia, as he strangles her. It remains a question, however, whether too unstable to commit suicide, Camus’s character forces others to kill him or not.
Camus’s 1951-work The Rebel, which is written in the vein of political contemplation, defines his subjective perception of ‘revolt’, distinctively different from ‘revolution’, as a peaceful evolutionary procedure. Camus asserts in a tone of gong-like proclamation —“Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic”. In course of it, he also introspects the realities of Capitalism unequivocally—“The society based on production is only productive, not creative.” Coming back to the existentialist argument, Camus denies disdainfully, the notion of Re-incarnation, based on the pangs of the first birth itself —“In order to exist just once in the world, it is necessary never again to exist”. We find, as it were, one identical nuance in Jibananada Das’s ‘Unishho Chhechallish-Shatchallish’, where the master observes, out of that same moral gloom—“Mritera e prithibite phere na kokhono / Mritera kothao nei; ache ?/Kono kono aghraner pathe paychari kara shanta manusher / Hridayer pathe chhara mritera kothao nei bole mone hoy.” Another poem of the great poet, which readily strikes in its existentialist perceptions, is ‘At Bachhar Ager Ekdin’ where “uter gribar moto kono ek nistabdhata…” symptomatizes one of those unread & perhaps even unreadable impressions of the absurd universe.
The connection between language and culture ha been considered by many scholars, and at present it has become an axiom that national culture manifests itself in national language. Language, being a unique storage of the cultura heritage of the nation, serves to transmit the collected wisdom of the nation from generation to generation. Specifically, people's beliefs, views of life and values ...
The line where the poet compares his existence to that of a corpse, lying on the table of the dissection-room & the much celebrated lines- “Artha noy, kirti noy, shachhalata noy-/Aro ek bipanna bishmay /Amader antargata rakter bhitare / Khela kare” poignantly echo the absurdist visions of Albert Camus. James Joyce, one of the most powerful literary personalities in the world of modern fiction also identifies with certain basic existentialist principles like the idea of ‘existential freedom’ which finds expression in his The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) through the aesthetic credo of its protagonist Stephen Deadalus. The Stream of Consciousness mode itself, in its muddled reality, with a defiance of logic, signalizes a victory of the narrative’s ‘existence’ over its ‘essence’, which chiefly involves chronology etc. Ulysses (1922), in its semantic conception of an absurdist Dublin-microcosm & Finnegan’s wake(1939) ,more than anything else, in its distinctively existentialist register of language, style & diction relate to us the same coarse tale of unfailing but cognitively curable human futility; something which Shakti Chattopadhyay captures—“Na nade na chade / Him garter bhitare eka eka / Harit dalpalahin gachher jangale / Katha bale machh.”
English Language is traditionally viewed as a code made up of words and a series of rules that connect them together. Language learning here, involves only vocabulary learning, and the rules for constructing ‘proper’ sentences. In most schools in Meghalaya, grammar is being taught at a very early age and students are expected to understand complex idiomatic phrases at the secondary level. ...
In correspondence with its philosophy, existentialist language operates in a distinct pattern of its own—sometimes deliberately fragmented with a host of punctuations & linkers, often sordidly breathless in unpunctuated long sentences, carrying no romantic ‘ennui’, but rather a dark dreary dullness, as in Camus’s The Outsider. Apart from that, it is an idiom, on its own, bristling with questions & vested with a tentativeness of diction. In The Fall, Camus is frequently found in dilemma about the applicability of certain words & he keeps on using adjacent words on the trot to unveil the idea beneath. This lively tension between the syntagm & paradigm of Camus’s language evokes Derrida’s vision of Deconstructive language where sense is differed & deferred all the time & the longing to reach the definitive crux of the signifier-signified bond remains unsatiated. The existentialist syntax tends to become rather marginalstic at times as well. In Camus’s The Outsider, at the time of his mother’s burial, Meursault seems to pay attention to all those so-called marginalised objects of his thought such as the grave, the priest, the soil, the coffin, its colour, the number of people around etc rather than the rigidly pre-conceived centre of his mother’s corpse, her passing away & most conventionally her memories. This centre-margin relativity, expressed in the language itself, is curtly representative of that unbridgeable gap between the paradoxical world without & human judgment within—-“Between the idea & the reality, between the motion & the act, falls the shadow”.
According to Albert Camus’s argument ,in the Aristotelian mode, in The Myth of Sisyphus, if one affirms that ‘everything is true’, then he has to affirm the truth of the contradictory statement that ‘everything is false’. Thus very cleverly, Camus’s discourse, at the very outset, negates all criticism. Therefore, what he says can be neither true nor false. So let the pendulum hang in the balance & let us put up with the uncertainty, at least, that lurks around—-“We are not certain, we are never certain. If we were we could reach some conclusions and we could, at last, make others take us seriously” (The Fall).
In December of 1996 a national controversy erupted when the Oakland school district suggested that “ebonics,” which is also known as Black English, was a genetically based second language. Since Oakland California’s decision to allow the teaching of ebonics in its school system, ebonics has become a national issue and has sparked a heated debate form coast to coast. A large part ...