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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Camus' introduction to the absurd
I have read this essay several times and I have to say that the ideas here can be dangerous.
If the ideas that have been written in this book i.e. the meaningless state of existence, its absurdity in the light of atheism and the point of it all have not been raised independently by the reader, then the reader is likely to get caught in a dangerous maze.
The...
Published on May 8 2003 by ron stollman

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3.0 out of 5 stars Just a few thoughts, not an actual review
...
First of all, coming off of THE STRANGER, the incredible generalities spewed in this book are pretty thick and tough to comprehend. Camus uses the term "lucid" over and over, but his book is anything but. The titular essay, spanning roughly a 100 pages, has its moments and flashes of brilliance, but much of it, in the opinion of this public-school jackass, could...
Published on May 13 2002 by edwartell


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Camus' introduction to the absurd, May 8 2003
By 
ron stollman (Herzliya, Israel) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
I have read this essay several times and I have to say that the ideas here can be dangerous.
If the ideas that have been written in this book i.e. the meaningless state of existence, its absurdity in the light of atheism and the point of it all have not been raised independently by the reader, then the reader is likely to get caught in a dangerous maze.
The essay is beautifully written, the ideas are wonderfully interwoven and there is a sense that Camus is facing those important questions dead in the face. But aside from all that the greatest thing about Camus' essay is his directness. Every sentence in this book has some depth in it, there is not one superficial idea. The quotations leave the reader deep in thought and stay carved in the mind.
But as I mentioned and perhaps because of these reasons the book is dangerous. From the point of view of Camus, a man that looks at the world logically, he cannot help but come to the conclusion that it is absurd. Hence despair reigns, and then there is the necessary existential choice that the individual is faced with.
To me these questions are far more important than any others. When man knows that at the end of this great struggle he is faced with the nothingness, he wonders what is the point of it all. But is there? Camus answers positively that there is a point in living. By keeping the struggle alive and being absorbed in the finite condition that existence brings forth, in the mutation of consciousness an alternative set of values is introduced and everything is seen in a new light.
I know that many of the ideas here have already been covered by other thinkers in the past. Camus admits this and further mentions them in their struggle and ethics.
Camus has done a wonderful job, and this is a great introduction to his other novels, which illuminate the absurd and mans struggle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is best read as a companion to The Stranger., Oct. 24 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
Sartre said this book should be read as you read The Stranger, and I have found that advice to be valuable to my students. My kids are always a bit bewildered about the scene where Mersault kills the Arab, but when they read, "The greatest good is the greatest consciousness," they begin to see why the Stranger was so strange. And when he "awakens" just before dawn of the day he is to die, and the students read, "You must live your life as if you have been condemned to die and sun is beginning to rise," they begin to understand. The title essay for the book argues what I think is the final argument in the Ontological question raised by the Greeks: Since life is absurd, where the meanings should be is a vacuum, and we desperately want meaning when we recognize our necessary death, then we are free to make our own meanings, and it is the making of meaning that is the point of living; that is, the growth of individual consciousness. Camus, then, is the great optimist in a time of great pessimism.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and relevant definition of modern man, Jan. 6 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
The Myth of Sisyphus is more of a literary essay than a philosophical one, and most of the thoughts in it aren't too original. Camus notes numerous times that he is merely trying to clarify a modern "climate" of thought so that his generation might be able to build from it. The nature of the book is incredibly original, and this unique essay is a remarkable testimony of the human condition, a key to understanding Camus's other works, and a beautiful definition of what I suppose is loosely termed "existentialist" thought.
What is daunting about the book is that Camus seems to be a little uneasy about where to start describing his philosophy of the absurd. The style of writing is swift, energetic, and lyrical, but frustratingly inprecise and vague (a little like Grand in the Plague who can't seem to find the right words). Camus creates in the book his own unique vocabulary that takes some getting used to, and often the book sounds repetitive. Words like lucid, nostalgia, fecund, and ephemeral are repeated ad nauseum. The upshot is, if one bothers to read the whole work, these words do begin to take on new meanings.
The best bits of the book are those in which Camus can find definite examples that illustrate or describe his point. When, for instance, he describes what it feels like to be overwhelmed by a feeling of absurdity, what it feels like to long for "oneness" (nostalgia), and what its like to return from abstraction to distraction. These are things that almost every human being encounters at least once in their life, and Camus never touches so close to his reader as when he faces, with great intellectual courage, these all-too-human feelings.
His examples of absurd heroes also make for great reading and much food-for-thought. The weakest is probably his essay on "Don Juan," which at times sounds a bit too much like a notorious womanizer justifying himself in his philosophy. Still, after revisiting the story of Don Juan, one is forced to reflect on Camus's message -- maybe this absurd hero, who defied God and loved in such quantity really IS something noble. Better, however, is his essay on Dostoyevsky's Kirilov and his philosophical suicide. Kirilov's absurd logic, which makes him God in an illogical circumstance where God does not exist, is a definitive piece of absurd thought.
The essay "Myth of Sisyphus" is a reiteration of the books themes in a more literary format, and since Sisyphus is the quintessential man-in-revolt, it makes a perfect capstone for the book. The appendix on Kafka (presumably left out in the original book, published in occupied France, because the author was Jewish) has given me a new perspective on his work. Camus points out, perfectly, the natural reaction of humanity to absurdity that defines Kafka's work, and in fact man's current condition. The idea of the Castle as a response to the Trial had never occured to me, and I enjoyed Camus, an athiest, delving into the religious points in Kafka's novels.
The other essays are a mixed bag. Some from "Summer" (L'Ete) which is collected in its enitirety in the volume "Lyrical and Critical Essays." A few other stray pieces and a questionaire are included. "The Minotaur" -- the longest of the additional pieces -- is a torturously long lyrical adventure through Oran that is a necessary evil to be visited before reading The Plague. One essay, recounting a 1953 visit back to Algeria, is moving in its emotional intensity, but the thought of Camus's mammoth failure during the Algerian crisis is unfortunately close to mind. The questionaire is brief and reveals a lot about Camus's temprement -- his mistrust of ideologies in particular. It is notable for some appreciated comments about the "true left" not being removed from its passionate humanism. These assorted pieces seem a little bit like junkyard scraps after finishing the essays of The Myth of Sisyphus. Still, they are worth looking at.
Very relevant, and one Camus's most remarkable achievements (along with the Stranger and The Fall). A must read for all Camus fans.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and compelling work--an invitation to discomfort, Dec 22 2003
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
It is interesting to note that, in spite of the gorgeous way in which Camus describes the joy that is the physical, immanent world, what Camus insists of the reader is no more than a challenge to what, for many people, are core notions about sadi world and its worth (or lack thereof). This book, when read closely, clears up many misconceptions held about existentialist or "absurd" thought, namely that, from an exceedingly nihilistic standpoint, the world and, by extension, life is utterly meaningless and altogether a futile endeavor devoid of hope. What Camus argues for is, contrary to uninformed assumptions, the beauty and joy inherent in the struggle of life (particularly against the notion of some ultimate/transcendent meaning that is applicable to all, and, perhaps more so, some sort of "next life" that ultimately bestows meaning on "this" life). In spite of Camus arguments, which are beautiful and compelling, I find his conflicting points regarding the inherent joy and meaning within life and the utter, ultimate hopelessness and futility which stems from its finite nature difficult to balance. Camus would, however, argue that this is as it should be, and that this contradiction is precisely what he talks about throughout the primary essay--the "absurd" (the divergence between the true and the expected/assumed/presumed) Though much of what Camus argues for is difficult and, at times, unpleasant to digest (considering their full assault on many preconcieved notions operating within the West/Christendom), I cannot help but admit that they are true. It is this criterion, whether or not something is evidently true, which serves as the impetus for his analysis; one cannot help but admire the ruthless inquisitiveness and honesty with which he asks and answers such questions of himself and of us. Strongly recommended. Camus, in addition to his evident passion for man and for life, writes gorgeous, aphoristic prose--which, I feel, is the best (or at least most pleasant) way for a philosopher to write.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A few words about reading a book like this, Oct. 18 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
Seriously folks, I have never read such horrible reviews on amazon.com ever. The people who are supposed to be "reviewing" this book have launched into diatribes about why Camus' philosophy is "wrong" or why they dont agree with it. This is simply ludicrous.
Camus was a brilliant Nobel winning author. To know Camus, one must read this book, along with The Stranger and The Plague. I for one will be the first to admit that I do not understand all of Camus. I do not know enough to "criticize" Camus' philosophy. The reviewers here who have tried to do so have simply shown their ignorance.
Bottom line, read this book if you would like to read Camus. O'Brien's translation is managable, if not a little choppy. Nonetheless, these are the standards of Camus that we all still read. They are the hallmarks that we use to justify Camus' brilliance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pleased, Aug. 10 2003
By 
Seth "nytimes25" (Lawrence, KS United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
This book was more philosophical than expected. I didn't know what to expect while going into this book, but I came out of it with a better understanding of Camus and his life at the time the book was written. Is Mr. Camus referring to himself in his writing of this book? Perhaps. That is just something that is unclear in his writing. I'm on neutral grounds on that issue, but you may come out without a doubt certain he is referring to himself or the complete opposite. A great read, but not an easy read. Nothing that can be superficially read in a night. His thoughts and perspectives need to be understood a little deeper.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening subject and an enlightened finding, July 22 2003
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
The Myth of Sisyphus gets right to the point. The problem is is suicide the answer to the absurd. If you are not familiar with Camus' definition of the absurd you will have to work a little harder to understand the problem and why the answer is no, suicide is not an answer. I am not giving away anything here as Camus gives the answer right in the preface. Read the preface. Read the book. If you are not sure, read it again. Camus presents evidence as he sees fit and writes lyrically, thus the book is dense and meandering at times. It is worth the trouble.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!!, Jan. 1 2003
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
In this series of essays Camus, the giant of literature, confronts the most vexing question of our times. In a world stripped away from the illusions of religion, where man must face life as it is without the obscuring veil of fantasies, is life worth living? Camus combining a poetic literary style and exceptional philosophic genius shows that in fact life has no meaning. But far from a reason for despair, this realization "restores the majesty to life". For Camus one evades life when one hides behinds religious dogma or in the midst of some untenable philosophical system, for reason can bring us no closer to the truth than blind faith. We must, for Camus, accept that we can find no truth, and live life as it is; a life without answers, without meaning, without purpose. Other books I liked were Paul Omeziri's Descent into Illusions and Heiddeger's Being and Time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Each person in the world is a Sisyphus, Oct. 3 2002
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This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
When I was little, I was disposed to ask adults and myself as well, like many kids have ever done, what lay beyond the earth on which we lived. The outer space, indeed. That's almost the same answer through ages out of most adults' mouths. And yet, there was no reply at all to my ensuing question: "What lies beyond the universe then?" Now that I got no gratifying answer, I tried figuring it out by myself. To my astonishment, it conjured up an out-of-the-way feeling on my mind in which my annoying question was being answered by montage of a couple images. First off, the whole screen I saw was light to an extent that it even dazzled my eyes because of a close-up of a lamp hanging from a mast of a canoe. Suddenly, there was a panoramic shot from high above in the sky whence I was surprised to find the canoe at endless sea wrapped by infinite darkness of the night. At the moment, the lamp was twinkling, unlike the previous shot, as if to be blown out in time.
For the then-existing finding, or rather, feeling, I hadn't found an appropriate expression and description until I read "The Myth of Sisyphus"-- "crushing truths." The so-called crushing truths keep looming over like threatening clouds. Human beings are so microscopic that there seems well-nigh no meaning for the being of beings. Each of us, or the earth as a whole, is seemingly a single box 'shrouded' by numerous boxes. Existence as such resembles innumerable Chinese boxes, for which one can never know which is the first one within that starts with, nor can one reach for the last one that is the biggest without. While Camus seems to approve of the fact of nothingness, a silver lining still emerges from one of many encouraging sentences in this essay--"But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged." Such live and positive impetus stretches further when he quotes Oedipus as saying, "Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that all is well."
Human beings are really microscopic so that there are no differences between individuals. Each person is a Sisyphus, in a sense. Sisyphus with courage to move on, or the one without it, if any. "The Myth of Sisyphus" is one of the essays in this book. To be honest, I've read only this article for the time being. I can, however, assure you that it pays to buy the whole book just for a single essay in this case.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Just a few thoughts, not an actual review, May 13 2002
By 
"edwartell" (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays (Paperback)
...
First of all, coming off of THE STRANGER, the incredible generalities spewed in this book are pretty thick and tough to comprehend. Camus uses the term "lucid" over and over, but his book is anything but. The titular essay, spanning roughly a 100 pages, has its moments and flashes of brilliance, but much of it, in the opinion of this public-school jackass, could be easily excised with no loss to anybody. The sentiments, and Camus' philosophy, emerge loud and clear, but they are covered up in unnecessary dross.
The other essays do not elucidate anything in particular, and they can be even hazier. Overall, it becomes increasingly more and more frustrating...especially when we reach the point when Camus begins pining for Greek sculpture, which fits in with no other part of the essays. It's a useful explicit statement of beliefs, but it's not much as writing.
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The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays
The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays by Albert Camus (Paperback - May 7 1991)
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