Albert Camus
The Stranger
What do you think?
"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
What does this mean?
Do you agree? Disagree?
Does this remind you of anything you’ve read/seen?
Camus is not alone…
“Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player/That struts and
frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no
more: it is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and
fury/Signifying nothing.”—Macbeth
What is Shakespeare asserting here?
How is it similar to Camus idea(s) on the last slide?
Albert Camus:
Born: 1913 in Mondovi,
Died: 1960 in France
Raised by mother in Algiers
(father died)
Good student—entered
secondary school in 1923,
passed lycee exams, accepted
into University of Algiers’
School of Philosophy (TB),
master’s degree 1936
First trip to Europe 1936
First book (collection of
essays) 1937
Setting: Algiers, Algeria
Albert Camus: Work/Politics
Briefly a member of the Communist Party
1935-39 “Worker’s Theater”—wrote plays of socialist
nature for Algerian workers
Wrote for an anti-colonialist newspaper in Algeria
Attempted to move to Paris to write, German invasion
forced return to N. Africa
Pacifist, opposed WWII. Returned to Paris during war
and worked with “Combat” newspaper/organization
(underground intelligence/sabotage)
Campaigned against violent revolt (in Algeria) and for
human rights
Albert Camus: Evolving
Spent career writing about (and struggling with) absurdist, existentialist,
and nihilist ideas
After college, developed philosophy, “that no matter how inexplicable
existence might be, human life remains sacred”—impacted “absurdist”
“existentialist” writing that followed
Alienated some other leftist writers by being too humanist—
life=meaningless for man, but mankind is more than one
person…moderation/nature rather than violence, morality
Developed idea of “revolt” as process for understanding/handling
“absurdity” of existence. “Camusian revolt consists of three steps:
acknowledgement, acceptance, accomplishment.”,
Published: 1942
Setting reflects Camus’
background in N. Africa
The Stranger
Emulates “American” style
of Faulkner, Hemingway—
short, concise sentences.
Minimal, but meticulous,
detail. Minimal, terse
dialogue. (Not true of all
his works.)
“A novel is never anything
but a philosophy but into
Cover Art
Other Famous
The Plague
The Fall
A Happy Death
Caligula (play)
Myth of Sisyphus (essay)
Key Themes/Guiding
What is the meaning of life/is there meaning to life?
If there is no higher power, what is the point of existence?
What is the role of the individual in society? Why must the individual adhere to social norms or
constructs—why do they exist, and do they have meaning? Is conformity connected (or the same) as
If the individual accepts that he/she will die, how does he/she go about conducting him/herself in society?
How does the individual find happiness in understanding his/her reality?
How is existence isolating? How/why does acknowledging absurdity isolate the individual?
What is a stranger or outsider? How does one become, or create, this status?
The individual decides questions of morality and truth.
The individual is isolated in a hostile or indifferent universe
There is difficulty in attempting to understand human life—it’s a “futile passion.”
Existence is unexplainable. The universe is irrational/absurd.
The physical world is significant—it trumps emotional or social reactions.
“The Myth of Sisyphus”
Published 1942, in same realm as The Stranger
“I do believe at least that man’s awareness of his
destiny has never ceased to advance. We have not
overcome our condition, and yet we know it is better.
We know that we live in contradiction, but we also
know that we must refuse this contradiction and do
what is needed to reduce it”—The Almond Trees, 1940
Tackles the “absurdity” of life—if life is meaningless and
there is no afterlife, is it worth living?

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