If you’re looking for ways to cope with the tragedies that seem to dominate the news these days, it’s time to rediscover Camus.
The author/existentialist philosopher wrote allegorical stories and more straightforward essays that address the seeming pointlessness of existence during times of senseless death and disaster.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1957 was awarded to Albert Camus “for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times”.
The Plague (4/5 stars, currently priced at $10.99)
The Nobel prize-winning Albert Camus, who died in 1960, could not have known how grimly current his existentialist novel of epidemic and death would remain.
In the small coastal city of Oran, Algeria, rats begin rising up from the filth, only to die as bloody heaps in the streets.
Shortly after, an outbreak of the bubonic plague erupts and envelops the human population.
Albert Camus’ The Plague is a powerful study of human life and its meaning in the face of a deadly virus that sweeps dispassionately through the city, taking a vast percentage of the population with it.
This edition contains extensive overviews of both the author and the novel.
The Stranger (4/5 stars, currently priced at $9.99)
Albert Camus’ The Stranger is one of the most widely read novels in the world, with millions of copies sold. It stands as perhaps the greatest existentialist tale ever conceived, and is certainly one of the most important and influential books ever produced.
When a young Algerian named Meursault kills a man, his subsequent imprisonment and trial are puzzling and absurd.
The apparently amoral Meursault, who puts little stock in ideas like love and God, seems to be on trial less for his murderous actions, and more for what the authorities believe is his deficient character.
This remarkable translation by Matthew Ward has been considered the definitive English version since its original publication. It unlocks the prose as no other English version has, allowing the listener to soak up the richness of Camus’ ideas.
The Fall (4/5 stars, currently priced at $9.99)
The Fall (French: La Chute) is a philosophical novel by Albert Camus.
First published in 1956, it is his last complete work of fiction. Set in Amsterdam, The Fall consists of a series of dramatic monologues by the self-proclaimed “judge-penitent” Jean-Baptiste Clamence, as he reflects upon his life to a stranger.
In what amounts to a confession, Clamence tells of his success as a wealthy Parisian defense lawyer who was highly respected by his colleagues; his crisis, and his ultimate “fall” from grace, was meant to invoke, in secular terms, The Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden.
The Fall explores themes of innocence, imprisonment, non-existence, and truth. In a eulogy to Albert Camus, existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre described the novel as “perhaps the most beautiful and the least understood” of Camus’ books.
The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (4/5 stars, currently priced at $11.99)
One of the most influential works of this century, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays is a crucial exposition of existentialist thought.
Influenced by works such as Don Juan and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide; the question of living or not living in a universe devoid of order or meaning.
With lyric eloquence, Albert Camus brilliantly posits a way out of despair, reaffirming the value of personal existence, and the possibility of life lived with dignity and authenticity.
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