According to a recent survey, only 14% of American adults say they’re “very happy.” With deindustrialization and a technological revolution eating at the very fabric of our society, solipsism is the common theme of modern life.
Now, more than ever, we Americans search for meaning beyond the subsistence living of past generations.
Is there a meaning beyond the absurd surface? During our national existential crisis, we can learn a lot from existential philosopher and writer Albert Camus. Are you familiar with his work?
Read on to learn more about Camus, his famous works, and his contributions to existential philosophy.
Camus Early Years
Born November 7, 1913, in French Algeria, Camus grew up under his mother’s care. His father died fighting in WWI. Camus lived in Algiers with his mother, his older brother, grandmother, and uncle.
Upon entering university, Camus’ articles already appeared in various literary magazines. His life’s goal was for a career in journalism. As he grew older, he flirted with the French Communist Party and worked menial office jobs.
It is in there that many scholars believe Camus formed his thesis on the absurdity of modern life, one of the themes he’d explore during his literary career.
Literary Works and Philosophical Themes
Most scholars place Camus in the existential philosophical tradition with writers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Though Camus works in existentialism and absurdism, he sought to distance himself from Sartrean existentialism.
Rather than search for meaning, Camus’ works reflected his notion that modern life is absurd and that humans should embrace that absurdity rather than spend their lives trying to find meaning in it.
After all, we all meet the same fate no matter what we do.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
One of Camus’ most famous novels, The Stranger, follows the protagonist, Mersault living in French Algeria. Mersault’s mother dies, and he attends the funeral though he shows no grief or emotion.
In the climax of Part 1, Mersault shoots an Arab man who attacked his brother. Upon the man’s death, Mersault again shows no grief or remorse.
Part 2 revolves around Mersault’s incarceration and the attempt greater society makes to force him toward religious belief.
In the end, Mersault proclaims he is happy. Since we all die, life has no meaning.
This book contains many famous Albert Camus quotes.
The Plague by Albert Camus
Another of the famous Albert Camus books, The Plague, is essential reading for today’s COVID-19 pandemic. It follows an unknown narrator as he wades through a deadly disease outbreak in the city of Oran.
During the novel, Camus explores the horrible events that leave humans unable to control their destiny. It is how we react to those events that define any redeemable human nature.
The Fall by Albert Camus also explores these themes.
Albert Camus: A Writer for Modern Times
Albert Camus spent his literary career exploring the absurdity of modern life and its inevitable outcomes. As we wade through our unhappy lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, Camus’ work once again becomes essential reading.
Do you want to know more about 20th-century philosophical greats? Check out the rest of our page.