The Myth of Sisyphus Background

The Myth of Sisyphus Background

Albert Camus published The Myth of Sisyphus in 1942 in French which was translated first into English by Just O'Brien in 1955. The book is a philosophical essay in four parts, "An Absurd Reasoning," "The Absurd Man," "Absurd Creation," and "The Myth of Sisyphus." Arguments in the work are mainly existential, meaning that they deal with the meaning of life in the context of a nihilistic or else atheistic worldview. That is, Camus argues that life has no inherent goal or aim, no validating quality in its function. His argument within his existential worldview is that man can learn the truth about the meaninglessness of life, or its absurdity, and still lead a brave, rewarding life in spite of that fact. One who lives bravely despite the hopelessness of his condition is what Camus defines in this work as an absurd hero.

The Greek account of Sisyphus is found in Homer and other ancient writers, but Camus retells the story highlighting a certain narrative. He tells the story in a way that is relatable to his argument, in that he frames Sisyphus' main struggle to be against the hopelessness of his situation, namely that he is forced to push a stone up a hill just to watch it roll back down again. He does this every day in the darkness of the underworld, seperated from the natural world which provided him comfort and solice.

Through this allegory, Camus raises questions about love and the purpose of romance, religion and the afterlife, work and toil, essence, meaning, purpose, design--all within a bleak, hopeless narrative about human life. Camus' views are so absolutely hopeless that he even criticizes Franz Kafka, another writer in the genre, for his allowing hope to creep in through the crevices of his short stories.

Through his arguments, Camus rightful assumes his place in post-modernism as the father of Absurdism and a brilliant defender of Existentialism. His Absurd Hero is a unique take on Nietzsche's "ubermensch" and anti-heroic arguments. Camus teaches about bravery and resilience even in the bleak hopelessness of human existence.

The Myth of Sisyphus also gave the concept of the "Theatre of Absurdity" to the genre of literature. The theme of absurdity in the play is mainly shown in the punishment section of Sisyphus where he is asked to roll a huge piece of rock to the top of a mountain and in reverse the rock rolls down back to the ground. Sisyphus is punished to do the task till eternity and beyond. Hence, it is a process which has no utility and will bear no fruit, and so the task is regarded to be absurd or meaningless.

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