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Albert Camus

In 1942 Camus published his first novel, The Stranger. He followed this novel with the 1943 essay "Le Mythe de Sisyphe" ("The Myth of Sisyphus"), arguing against suicide from an absurdist standpoint. Both of these influential works helped to establish Camus as an essential voice in both literature and philosophy.

In the postwar literary scene in Paris, Camus was a contemporary of influential thinkers like Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986). He found himself among a growing group of artists and intellectuals questioning the social institutions which had led to the bloodshed of WWII. Camus's fame also grew on the international scene during this period. He embarked on a speaking tour of America in 1945, where he spoke about the struggle of humanity and each individual's quest to find meaning in life.

In 1957, Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He initially planned to refuse the award, believing other writers to be more worthy of the recognition. However, with the spiraling violence of the Algerian War of Independence, Camus saw this as an opportunity to ease tensions between France and Algeria.

Albert Camus was the second-youngest writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

With the prize money, Camus moved to a quiet town in the French countryside and continued to work on writings that dealt with themes of love and creation. After celebrating New Year's Eve with friends, Camus was destined to travel home by train with his family. At the last moment, a close friend offered to drive Camus home. The pair were killed when the car struck a tree on January 4, 1960.

Albert Camus: Philosophy

Albert Camus tackled moral and ethical questions of life and meaning through his essays, articles, and novels. He is often classified as an existentialist; however, he repeatedly rejected this label.

The Existentialist model of thinking rejects the idea that life's meaning can be derived from traditional models of belief like religion. Existentialists see meaning as something the individual creates through the exercise of free will and the acceptance of personal responsibility.

Camus' friend, Jean-Paul Sartre, was one of the leading thinkers of the Existentialist movement. Sartre and other existentialists believe that meaning can only be formed through the individual's unique experience of the world. While Camus also rejected the belief that meaning derives from man-made institutions like the church, he rejected the idea that the individual could form any sense of purpose. Camus' views are more closely aligned with the concept of Absurdism.

Absurdism grew out of Existentialism as a movement but saw the universe as utterly devoid of meaning. Camus argued that while humans are rational thinkers driven to make order and sense, the quest to do this in a meaningless universe was fundamentally absurd. In the face of this uncaring universe, Camus saw the attempt to create meaning as a form of escapism or a coping mechanism. In his essay "The Myth of Sisyphus," he tackled the problem of existence in a meaningless universe. Humans only had a few choices: they could attempt to cope with systems like religion, commit suicide, or embrace the meaninglessness and welcome life's absurd nature.

Many believed this led to despair and nihilism. Camus argued this meaninglessness was liberating. Freed from expectation and the disappointment of hope, humans could more fully experience life and enjoy experiences.

Albert Camus: Facts

Camus lived an exciting life and was constantly on the quest for knowledge. Here are a few interesting facts about the life of Albert Camus.

  • Camus' most famous work, The Stranger, was almost never made. Printed at the height of WWII, his publishers faced severe paper shortages.

  • Camus was an avid sports fan and was the goalkeeper for his university's soccer team. During an interview with the alumni sports magazine, Camus said, "After many years during which I saw many things, what I know most surely about morality and the duty of man I owe to sport."1

  • As Camus' fame and recognition grew, he became closely associated with the philosophical concept of Absurdism. While talking to people, he stopped using the word "absurd" so people wouldn't think he was making a profound philosophical statement!

  • In 1945, Camus arranged to meet English author and political thinker George Orwell (1903-1950) at a café in Paris. The meeting of two great intellectuals never occurred as Camus was bed-ridden with tuberculosis and unable to attend.

Albert Camus: Books

Albert Camus explored important philosophical concepts from his early work as a journalist through his philosophical essays and novel. Here are some of his most important works.

The Stranger (1942)

Camus's breakthrough novel is the tale of a young French-Algerian man who feels detached and isolated from the world. Meursault seems to have a good job, a girlfriend who loves, and the chance of a promotion to Paris, yet he can't seem to find the ability to care about anything. As he floats through life, enjoying only sensory experiences, Meursault's isolation culminates in a senseless murder.

This philosophical novel explores Camus' personal belief in Absurdism. The novel's protagonist rejects all standard forms of belief and meaning as absurd and wishes to be left alone by others. Since he has no truth to follow, he comforts himself by refusing to lie and pretend for other people's sake. The Stranger established Camus as an important voice in literature and philosophy.

The Plague (1947)

Camus continued to explore the struggle for meaning in his next novel, The Plague. In the 1940s, the French-Algerian city of Oran suffers an outbreak of the bubonic plague. The narrator assists Dr. Bernard Rieux as he attempts to convince the city authorities that the deadly disease has returned. As the death toll begins to rise, the citizens struggle to survive and maintain civility as the quarantine takes its toll.

Albert Camus - Key takeaways

  • Albert Camus was a French-Algerian writer and philosopher.
  • During WWII, Camus worked as a journalist and editor for the underground French resistance publication in Nazi-occupied Paris.
  • Albert Camus emerged as an important figure in the postwar literary scene in Paris. He was friends with influential existential thinker Jean-Paul Sartre.
  • His most famous work, The Stranger (1942), is a philosophical novel that deals with the concept of Absurdism.
  • While Camus rejected all traditional forms of belief and meaning, he argued that humans must embrace life's absurd nature to live a whole life.

1 David Huw Burston, Psychological, Archetypal and Phenomenological Perspectives on Soccer, 2014.

Frequently Asked Questions about Albert Camus

Albert Camus is a French-Algerian writer and philosopher whose work dealt with absurdist themes and the meaninglessness of life. 

Albert Camus died in a car accident on January 4, 1960. 

Albert Camus was born in French Algeria in 1913. 

Albert Camus was influenced by greek Philosophers and early Christian thinkers. 

The Stranger is about a young French-Algerian man who feels disconnected from other people and society. 

Final Albert Camus Quiz

Question

Who is the narrator of The Stranger?

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Answer

Meursault 

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In which year was The Stranger published?

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1942

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Who wrote The Stranger?

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Albert Camus

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The Stranger is an example of a philosophical novel? 


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True

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Which philosophical concept is explored in The Stranger?  

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Answer

Absurdism 

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The novel begins with Meursault attending the funeral of which family member?


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Mother

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Where does Meursault shoot the Arab?


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Answer

On the beach

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In which country is The Stranger set?

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Algeria

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Which title is The Stranger also known by? 

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The Outsider

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Camus presents Meursault as an untruthful man. 

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False

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Meursault has few pleasures in life. Can you name two of them? 

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Cigarettes and women. 

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At the end of the novel, Meursault converts to Christianity. 

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Answer

False

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Meursault's only defense is that he was compelled by the _______?  

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Heat of the sun. 

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How is Meausault to be executed? 

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Guillotine   

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How many times did Meausault refuse to see the prison chaplain? 

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3

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In which country was Albert Camus born? 

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Algeria

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Albert Camus is best known for his contributions to literature and _________. 

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Answer

Philosophy 

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Which branch of philosophy is Albert Camus most associated with? 

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Answer

Absurdism 

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Question

In the essay, "The Myth of Sisyphus", Camus argues that suicide is not justifiable. 

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Answer

True

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In the postwar literary scene, Camus was closely associated with which philosopher? 

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Answer

Jean-Paul Sartre

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Albert Camus was openly critical of France's colonialization of Algeria. 

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True

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Albert Camus most famous novel is __________.  

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The Stranger

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Albert Camus was the youngest writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

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False

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In the 1950s Camus became critical of which political ideology?

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Answer

Communism 

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Which sport did Albert Camus play during his youth? 

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Answer

Soccer

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Question

The Plague takes place in the city of Oran. In which country is Oran located? 

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Answer

Algeria

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Who wrote The Plague

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Answer

Albert Camus

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The Plague covers an outbreak of which disease during the 1940s? 

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Answer

Bubonic disease 

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Question

When Dr. Rieux warns the city leaders that the city must be locked down, the leaders are slow to react. 

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Answer

True

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Which character is the first to help organize a volunteer force? 

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Jean Tarrou

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During the lockdown, Cottard grows wealthy through which illegal activity? 

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Smuggling

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Raymond Rambert decides to stay and help after learning that Dr. Rieux is also separated from his wife by the lockdown. 

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True

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In the end, Cottard is about to remain free and unpunished. 

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False

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Absurdism is the idea that not believing in God is Absurd. 

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Answer

False

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Dr. Rieux and his band of volunteers embody Albert Camus' absurdists philosophy that in the face of hopeless odds, people must___________. 

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Answer

Keep fighting and help others

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