The Life and Legacy of Albert Camus, a 19th Century Philosophical Writer

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The first written example of literature was in Ancient Mesopotamia. Around 3400 B.C., the Sumerian civilization brought to life a world of emotions, knowledge, an expansion of our mind, critical skills, history, new culture and several more aspects to our society today by developing a form of literature. Literature comes in many forms, like poetry, dramas, essays, fiction books, philosophy, art, history and religion. The literature chosen to read influences the reader to act, feel and see in a different way. It expands views on society or of any situation and it connects individuals with larger truths and ideas in a society. Albert Camus, an absurdist writer wrote in mind of the role of mirroring society in order for humans to study themselves and understand the underlying truths common to all people and their purpose of being.

The Struggle to Success

Almost a year after the birth of Albert Camus on November Seventeenth, nineteen thirteen in Mondovi, Algeria, his father died in war. After the Income was depleted due to the death of his father, Camus and his older brother Lucien moved with their mother to a working-class district of Algiers, where all three lived, together with the maternal grandmother and a paralyzed uncle, in a three-room apartment. The family lived in poverty, such a low position in society would demote ambitions of future success, but Albert Camus transcended his social and economic challenges by way of his relentless drive and perseverance.

Nineteenth Century Optimism

The 1900’s were full of disasters, wars and politics, but all those downfalls resulted in technological advancements, alliances, peace and a rise in literature and contemporary art. According to the show on PBS called, The American Experience the “1900’s, was a Time of Millennial Optimism. The most obvious hint at how the country has changed comes early in David McCullough's narration.” ''Cynicism and self-pity were not in style'' in the 1900’s, he says. Instead, ''people felt exhilarated by the possibilities (James, 1998, para. 4).” All these tragic events were happening, so optimism kept the calamity in all of us from releasing within us. With the sense of a better future, a positive change was able to happen, like the situation with Albert Camus, coming out of poverty with ambition to strive for better.

The perseverance. In 1918, Albert Camus attended primary school, and succeeded. He was able to obtain a scholarship to advance to high school in 1923 called Algiers lycée. This was thanks to his undaunting spirit and his teacher, Louis Germain, who accompanied him through primary school to become a successful man in the future. A period of intellectual awakening followed, accompanied by great enthusiasm for sport, especially football, swimming, and boxing. However, in the 1930’s, the first of many severe attacks of tuberculosis put a never ending haul to his athletic career and life and also interrupted his studies. Camus decided to leave the unhealthy apartment that had been his home for 15 years, and, after a short period of time with an uncle that lived nearby, Albert Camus decided to live on his own, supporting himself by getting a variety of jobs while attending school as a philosophy student at the University of Algiers.

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At the university, Camus was mostly influenced by one of his professors, Dr. Jean Grenier. Dr. Jean Grenier helped Albert Camus develop his literary and philosophical ideas and they even shared his enthusiasm for football. Over the next three years Camus further established himself as an emerging author, journalist, and theatre professional. He obtained a diplôme d’études supérieures in 1936 for a thesis on the relationship between Greek and Christian thought in the philosophical writings of Plotinus and St. Augustine. His candidature for the aggregation, which is a qualification that would enable anyone to take up a university career, was cut short by another attack of tuberculosis. To feel better and get his health up, he went to a resort in the French Alps and eventually returned to The University of Algiers.

The Mindset

The dominant philosophical contribution of Camus's work were absurdism and Existentialism. While he is often associated with existentialism, he rejected the label. Elements of absurdism and existentialism are present in Camus's most famous writings. As an Algerian, Camus brought a fresh, outsider perspective to French literature of the period, a somewhat related to but distinct from the metropolitan literature of Paris. In addition to novels, he wrote and adapted plays, and was active in the theater.

Camus believed that “the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual. While the predominant value of existentialist thought is commonly acknowledged to be freedom, its primary virtue is authenticity (“Using APA”, 2019, Para.1).”

He also believed a “philosophical perspective which holds that the efforts of humanity to find meaning or rational explanation in the universe ultimately fail (and, hence, are absurd) because no such meaning exists, at least to human beings. The word absurd in this context does not mean 'logically impossible,' but rather 'humanly impossible (“Using APA”, 2018, para. 1).”

Albert Camus expresses his belief and ideas into his writing, novels and plays. The notion of the absurd and existentialism are apparent in all of the literature of Albert Camus. Then Myth of Sisyphus is his best work on the subject of his beliefs. In the Novel by Albert Camus, it considers absurdity as a “confrontation, an opposition, a conflict, or a 'divorce' between two ideals (“Using APA”, 2018, para.10).” Specifically, he defines the human condition as absurd, the confrontation of man's desire for significance, meaning and clarity in the universe. Albert Camus continues that there are specific human experiences that evoke actions of absurdity. Such a realization or encounter with the absurd or being meaningless leaves the individual with a choice of suicide, a leap of faith, or acceptance. Albert concludes that acceptance is the only defensible option.

The Legacy

Albert Camus went from nothing to a remembered novelist and a philosophical writer. He started life without a good influence nor wealth. Albert Camus had to cope with all the issues. He was successful because he persevered through all his problems and had great influences in his life that made him strive to his success. Albert Camus, unlike many other writers, still have the power and the influence to burst political passion into anyone. This results in his relation of the twentieth century into his works and his works are able to relate to the readers situation. Albert Camus did not only contribute as a philosophical thinker, writer and novelist, but also as a spokesperson and mentor after World War two of his lifetime and the other generations to come all around the world. Albert Camus’s writings, which addressed themselves mainly to the isolation of man in an alien universe, the estrangement of the individual from himself, the problem of evil, and the pressing finality of death, really reflected the alienation of the postwar intellectual. He is remembered, with Sartre, as a leading practitioner of the existential novel and remembered for his view and their huge contribution to the rise of absurdum.

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