Case Study

For me “The Myth of Sisyphus” marks the beginning of an idea
which I was to pursue in The Rebel. It attempts to resolve the
problem of suicide, as The Rebel attempts to resolve that of
murder, in both cases without the aid of eternal values which,
temporarily perhaps, are absent or distorted in contemporary
Europe. The fundamental subject of “The Myth of Sisyphus” is
this: it is legitimate and necessary to wonder whether life has a
meaning; therefore it is legitimate to meet the problem of suicide
face to face. The answer, underlying and appearing through the
paradoxes which cover it, is this: even if one does not believe in
God, suicide is not legitimate. Written fifteen years ago, in 1940,
amid the French and European disaster, this book declares that
even within the limits of nihilism it is possible to find the means to
proceed beyond nihilism. In all the books I have written since, I
have attempted to pursue this direction. Although “The Myth of
Sisyphus” poses mortal problems, it sums itself up for me as a
lucid invitation to live and to create, in the very midst of the desert.
It has hence been thought possible to append to this
philosophical argument a series of essays, of a kind I have never
ceased writing, which are somewhat marginal to my other books.
In a more lyrical form, they all illustrate that essential fluctuation
from assent to refusal which, in my view, defines the artist and his
difficult calling. The unity of this book, that I should like to be
apparent to American readers as it is to me, resides in the
reflection, alternately cold and impassioned, in which an artist
may indulge as to his reasons for living and for creating. After
fifteen years I have progressed beyond several of the positions
which are set down here; but I have remained faithful, it seems to
me, to the exigency which prompted them. That is why this hook is
in a certain sense the most personal of those I have published in
America. More...