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Born poor in a working-class neighborhood in French-Algeria, Albert Camus gained a unique perspective about life from which he spawned one of the greatest philosophies of the absurd. Life wasn’t always easy for Camus.
But he learned so much from it. It was most likely his humble beginnings that ingrained in him the need to embrace all that life has to offer and to endure no matter what the challenges are.
This French-Algerian journalist and philosophical essayist was born Albert Camus on the 7th of November, 1913 in the small village of Mondavi to a military veteran father and a mother who worked as a housekeeper as well as a part-time factory worker to support the family.
Before WWI broke out, his father was summoned to the battlefield. At the First Battle of the Marne, he died from his shrapnel wounds. Camus not even a year old yet. One thing that he learned about his father that stuck with him through the years was that he became sick after witnessing someone’s execution. This tale influenced his strong opposition to the death penalty, a belief which he elaborated in Reflections on the Guillotine.
After his father’s death, Camus’s mother brought him and his older brother to Belcourt, where they would live along with his maternal uncle and grandmother. As Camus recalled this part of his life in the autobiographical novel entitled The First Man, he described how the family lived in harsh conditions yet it was bittersweet. The family’s trips to the beach and their hunting trips were among the few things that made him forget about their dingy apartment with no bathroom, water, and electricity.
Camus attended the local public school, where he would discover a love for history and literature. But it was in secondary school where he learned the likes of Proust, Verlaine, and Bergson. There, he nurtured a lifelong interest in art, literature, theatre, and film.
Camus, the Actor and Playwright
The 30’s was a busy decade for Camus. From 1933 to 1937, he juggled college, a professional career in theatre and writing, and a few odd jobs along with a brief stint with the Communist party. Plus, he married his first wife, Simon Hie, and then got divorced.
Camus attended the University of Algiers in 1933 where he specialized in philosophy and received certificates in sociology as well as psychology. In 1936, he co-founded an acting company called Theatre du Travail that was best known for portraying dramas related to left-wing politics.
He was an actor, director, and scriptwriter. Eventually, he changed the name of the company to Theatre de l’Equipe, which also steered the shift from labor politics to classic drama. In the next few years, he would make a name for himself as an author, journalist, and theatre professional.
Camus, the World Renowned Author
Though Camus was already pretty famous in Algiers as a playwright and author in the early 40’s, he had yet to gain international recognition as a writer. The first few years in the decade were rough because of the war in Europe and the eventual occupation of France.
When he married his second wife, Francine Faure, in 1940, he didn’t have steady employment and had to teach part-time to supplement his income. During this time, he was also working on his first novel The Stranger. After he published it in 1942, it gained an international audience.
Camus and Sartre
During World War II, Camus fought for the French Resistance, which sought to liberate Nazi-occupied Paris. He crossed paths with his fellow philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre while he was serving the military. While they formed a friendship, the pair also worked together in the political journal, Combat.
But in the 50’s, when Sartre pledged his support for Stalin’s communist propaganda, they had a falling out. At that time, Camus was disenchanted by the idea that “the end justifies the means,” a notion which was endorsed by communist revolutionaries.
Camus, the Philosopher of the Absurd
The Myth of Sisyphus, which was published right after his first novel, was where he first introduced the concept of the Absurd, and where equated life with the Sisyphean struggle.
Much like the philosophers who preceded him such as Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre, he believed that you go through life trying to understand the purpose of your existence. But unlike some philosophers, he rejected the idea of nihilism or utter hopelessness.
In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus asserts that you must endure despite the fact that all your efforts will eventually be futile and forgotten. He suggests that you must acknowledge the absurd and then triumph over the infinite possibilities of hopelessness.
In 1957, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Camus passed away on the 4th of January, 1960 in Burgundy, France.
For the contemporary reader, the best lesson that this Nobel laureate can offer is to live life to the fullest despite its many challenges and to embrace the simplest of pleasures that you may experience along the way.
Here are 100 of Albert Camus’s most inspirational quotes:
Albert Camus Quotes
“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead. Walk beside me… just be my friend.” – Albert Camus
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” – Albert Camus
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus
“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.” – Albert Camus
“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” – Albert Camus
“Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” – Albert Camus
“Live to the point of tears.” – Albert Camus
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” – Albert Camus
“You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question.” – Albert Camus
“And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” – Albert Camus
“When I look at my life and its secret colours, I feel like bursting into tears.” – Albert Camus
“Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.” – Albert Camus
“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.” – Albert Camus
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus
“Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” – Albert Camus
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” – Albert Camus
“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.” – Albert Camus
“I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.” – Albert Camus
“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” – Albert Camus
“I used to advertise my loyalty and I don’t believe there is a single person I loved that I didn’t eventually betray.” – Albert Camus
“In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” – Albert Camus
“At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman.” – Albert Camus
“Always go too far, because that’s where you’ll find the truth.” – Albert Camus
“When the soul suffers too much, it develops a taste for misfortune.” – Albert Camus
“I do not believe in God and I am not an atheist.” – Albert Camus
“Do not wait for the last judgment. It comes every day.” – Albert Camus
“People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves.”- Albert Camus
“I have no idea what’s awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.” – Albert Camus
“I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God.” – Albert Camus
“There is not love of life without despair about life.” – Albert Camus
“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.” – Albert Camus
“Man is always prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot free himself from them.” – Albert Camus
“Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.” – Albert Camus
“I would rather live my life as if there is a god and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.” – Albert Camus
“If something is going to happen to me, I want to be there.” – Albert Camus
“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him.” – Albert Camus
“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.” – Albert Camus
“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners.” – Albert Camus
“There is scarcely any passion without struggle.” – Albert Camus
“I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.” – Albert Camus
“Life can be magnificent and overwhelming — that is the whole tragedy. Without beauty, love, or danger it would almost be easy to live.” – Albert Camus
“What is a rebel? A man who says no.” – Albert Camus
“What is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying.” – Albert Camus
“I rebel; therefore I exist.” – Albert Camus
“Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism.” – Albert Camus
“Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” – Albert Camus
“The evil that is in the world almost always comes from ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” – Albert Camus
“I know that man is capable of great deeds. But if he isn’t capable of great emotion, well, he leaves me cold.” – Albert Camus
“You can’t create experience, you undergo it.” – Albert Camus
“Where there is no hope, it is incumbent on us to invent it.” – Albert Camus
“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.” – Albert Camus
“The most important thing you do every day you live is deciding not to kill yourself.” – Albert Camus
“Always there comes an hour when one is weary of one’s work and devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.” – Albert Camus
“Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?” “Yes,” I said.” – Albert Camus
“We are all special cases.” – Albert Camus
“The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.” – Albert Camus
“I know simply that the sky will last longer than I.” – Albert Camus
“I had been right, I was still right, I was always right. I had lived my life one way and I could just as well have lived it another. I had done this and I hadn’t done that. I hadn’t done this thing but I had done another. And so?” – Albert Camus
“Peace is the only battle worth waging.” – Albert Camus
“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can’t be sure.” – Albert Camus
“The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.” – Albert Camus
“And never have I felt so deeply at one and the same time so detached from myself and so present in the world.” – Albert Camus
“The need to be right – the sign of a vulgar mind.” – Albert Camus
“There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined.” – Albert Camus
“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.” – Albert Camus
“I feel like getting married, or committing suicide, or subscribing to L’Illustration. Something desperate, you know.” – Albert Camus
“We all carry within us places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. Our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to transform them in ourselves and others.” – Albert Camus
“Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.” – Albert Camus
“There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night.” – Albert Camus
“I love life – that’s my real weakness. I love it so much that I am incapable of imagining what not life is.” – Albert Camus
“For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.” – Albert Camus
“But, you know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man.” – Albert Camus
“A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.” – Albert Camus
“A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover, through the detours of art or love or passionate work, those one or two images in the presence of which his heart first opened.” – Albert Camus
“I realized then that a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison. He would have enough memories to keep him from being bored.” – Albert Camus
“I don’t want to be a genius-I have enough problems just trying to be a man.” – Albert Camus
“If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance.” – Albert Camus
“Integrity has no need of rules.” – Albert Camus
“The literal meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that prevents you from killing yourself.” – Albert Camus
“Human relationships always help us to carry on because they always presuppose further developments, a future – and also because we live as if our only task was precisely to have relationships with other people.” – Albert Camus
“Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable.” – Albert Camus
“A man is more a man through the things he keeps to himself than through those he says.” – Albert Camus
“Sometimes at night I would sleep open-eyed underneath a sky dripping with stars. I was alive then.” – Albert Camus
“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” – Albert Camus
“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” – Albert Camus
“I’ve never really had much of an imagination. But still I would try to picture the exact moment when the beating of my heart would no longer be going on inside my head.” – Albert Camus
“I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.” – Albert Camus
“After a while you could get used to anything.” – Albert Camus
“He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool.” – Albert Camus
“I would like to be able to breathe— to be able to love her by memory or fidelity. But my heart aches. I love you continuously, intensely.” – Albert Camus
“Your success and happiness are forgiven you only if you generously consent to share them. But to be happy it is essential not to be too concerned with others. Consequently, there is no escape. Happy and judged, or absolved and wretched.” – Albert Camus
“After another moment’s silence she mumbled that I was peculiar, that that was probably why she loved me but that one day I might disgust her for the very same reason.” – Albert Camus
“Life is a sum of all your choices.” – Albert Camus
“Don’t believe your friends when they ask you to be honest with them. All they really want is to be maintained in the good opinion they have of themselves.” – Albert Camus
“What made me run away was doubtless not so much the fear of settling down, but of settling down permanently in something ugly.” – Albert Camus
“If absolute truth belongs to anyone in this world, it certainly does not belong to the man or party that claims to possess it.” – Albert Camus
“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.” – Albert Camus
“But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?” – Albert Camus
“If there were a party of those who aren’t sure they’re right, I’d belong to it.” – Albert Camus
“But sometimes it takes more courage to live than to shoot yourself.” – Albert Camus