The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)

The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay published (as Mythe de Sisyphe) in 1942. In it, Camus explores the absurd, which he identifies as coming about in the confrontation between our desire for clarity and our understanding of the world’s irrationality. The essay contains no metaphysics, since Camus’s goal in The Myth of Sisyphus is to describe, not to explain. He does not hope to persuade us through argument but rather wants us to follow his analysis of the absurd—a state of mind we have all shared at one time or another.

The Stranger (1942)

The Stranger, published in 1942 as L'Étranger, is a seminal work that delves into the philosophy of existentialism and the absurdity of human existence. The novel follows Meursault, a detached and apathetic Algerian, as he navigates life with a sense of indifference to moral codes. The physical setting of colonial Algiers is not merely a backdrop but an integral part of the narrative, reflecting the oppressive atmosphere that mirrors Meursault's emotional detachment. Camus’s writing style, characterized by its sparse and detached nature, serves to emphasize the existential outlook on life that permeates the novel. The Stranger is a response to the philosophical and intellectual movement of existentialism that gained prominence in the aftermath of World War II. The novel is a reflection on the nihilism and disillusionment of the time, as Meursault’s rebellion against traditional values and moral codes symbolizes the broader questioning of meaning in a seemingly indifferent universe. Although written during the height of the conflict, Camus’s work represents the spirit of a post-war Europe grappling with the consequences of conflict and the existential angst that followed.