‘A man wants to earn money in order to be happy and his whole effort and the best of a life are devoted to the earning of that money. Happiness is forgotten; the means are taken for the end’. This sentiment is just one example of the many facets of wisdom that can be attributed to Albert Camus’s 1942 philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus. In this piece, Camus tries to decipher the reasons that a man would be driven to suicide, summing up his argument by illustrating it by using Sisyphus as an example.
Whilst I was unsure at first how Camus would handle the sensitive subject of suicide, I was impressed by his delicate treatment and measured conclusions, particularly his thoughts on suicide and confession. Whilst at first I began to be a little offended by the content, Camus cleverly switches the pattern of his argument to turn the sentiment on its head and deliver some well thought-out philosophies.
The first element that I have to mention is Camus’s style, which I adore. I have read several pieces of his writing and I am always intrigued by him and how his mind works. His writing style is frank, but does not falter into arrogance as can sometimes happen with philosophical writers. By regularly signposting his argument, it is surprisingly easy to follow Camus’s deep analysis, and only occasionally does his thread seem to get a little lost.
One feature that really appeals to me in this work is Camus’s constant and overt references to other philosophers, and various works of literature. He gives a deep overview of other writers’ views and engages critically with them in a witty and fascinating manner.
But more than that, I like this essay because it is unashamedly unpolished. It comes across more like a stream of consciousness than a structured essay which gives room for his ideas to evolve as the essay goes on. It is an easier reading experience with his occasional colloquialisms and his brutal abuse of the word ‘absurd’ than if it had been a tightly knit, formal piece of philosophy. Due to this, the ending does not really summarise the essay’s content, and the appendix is simply Camus’s thoughts on something completely different which can appear a little careless and unconsidered, but it all adds to the authenticity of the piece and a sense of intimacy with Camus as a writer.
Overall, I believe Camus’s work to be one of genius. For anybody who is interested in philosophy but tires of the convoluted and complicated style of many other writers, then Camus is for you. I would also recommend this highly as a starting point for anybody interested in philosophy but unsure where to begin. Camus is unique. He writes himself into his works in a way that is rarely seen, and it is truly beautiful to behold.