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The Myth of Sisyphus

Albert Camus

Absurd Creation: Philosophy and Fiction

The Absurd Man: Conquest

Absurd Creation: Philosophy and Fiction, page 2

page 1 of 3

Summary

In this, the third part of the essay, Camus examines artistic creation— fiction writing in particular—as the epitome of the absurd life.

The absurd man, as we have seen, lives out a kind of mime. Aware that his actions are absurd and meaningless, he cannot take them fully seriously. Rather than live fully caught up in his actions and interactions, he sees himself playing out a kind of mime in which he acts out his life.

If the absurd life is played out as a mime, the act of creation is the greatest mime of all. An artist invents an entire world that mimics our own. The absurd man does not hope to explain life, but only to describe it: art reflects different aspects of, or perspectives on, life but cannot add anything to it. There is no meaning or transcendence to be found in art, as in life itself, but the creative act of asserting one's own perspective on the world epitomizes the revolt, freedom, and passion of the absurd man.

Both our impulse to think and our impulse to create arise from the anxiety we feel when we face the fundamental contradiction of the absurdity of our lives. As we saw in part one, thinkers generally try to evade this contradiction by leaping into faith or hope. Camus asks if the same is true for creation: do people inevitably try to use art to escape from the absurd? Or can there exist absurd art?

Camus suggests that efforts to draw some distinction between art and philosophy are generally vague or incorrect, and he attacks in particular the assertion that, while a philosopher works from within his system, an artist creates from without. Both artist and philosopher work to forge their particular perspective on the world, and must inhabit that perspective in order to be creative.

Absurd art must be content to describe and not to explain: it does not try to signify anything greater, to point to some sort of meaning or consolation in life. Just as the absurd man cannot hope for transcendence, absurd art cannot promise transcendence. Bad art will weigh itself down in pretensions by trying to give a universal picture of the way things are. Good art accepts that it can only portray a certain perspective, a certain piece of experience, and leaves everything universal or general at an implicit level. A good artist is also good at living: he is alert to the vivid nature of experience and can share it eloquently.

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