Albert Camus

Quotations

Don’t walk in front of me because I may not follow.
Don’t walk behind me because I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.

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.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.

More and more, when faced with the world of men, the only reaction is one of individualism. Man alone is an end unto himself. Everything one tries to do for the common good ends in failure.

Notebooks 1935-1942 (1962), March 1940 entry

Martyrs, my friend, have to choose between being forgotten, mocked or used. As for being understood – never.

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.

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.

A sub-clerk in the post office is the equal of a conqueror if consciousness is common to them.

The Absurd Man

The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.

To work and create “for nothing,” to sculpture in clay, to know one’s creation has no future, to see one’s work destroyed in a day while being aware that fundamentally this has no more importance than building for centuries—this is the difficult wisdom that absurd thought sanctions. Performing these two tasks simultaneously, negating on the one hand and magnifying on the other, it the way open to the absurd creator. He must give the void its colors.

The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.

The Plague

Likewise, a man’s sole creation is strengthened in its successive and multiple aspects: his works. One after another they complement one another, correct or overtake one another, contradict one another, too. If something brings creation to an end, it is not the victorious and illusory cry of the blinded artist: “I have said everything,” but the death of the creator which closes his experiences and the book of his genius.

We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking. In that race which daily hastens us towards death, the body maintains its irreparable lead.

But perhaps the great work of art has less importance in itself than in the ordeal it demands of a man and the opportunity it provides him of overcoming his phantoms and approaching a little closer to his naked reality.

The Ephemeral Creation

…since the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn’t it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all out might against death, without raising our eyes toward the heaven where he sits in silence?

To create is likewise to give a shape to one’s fate. For all these characters, their work defines them at least as much as it is defined by them. The actor taught us this: There is no frontier between being and appearing.

Freedom is too heavy to bear, especially when you’re down with a fever, or are distressed, or love nobody.

All that remains is a fate whose outcome alone is fatal. Outside of that single fatality of death, everything, joy or happiness, is liberty. A world remains of which man is the sole master. What bound him was the illusion of another world. The outcome of his thought, ceasing to be renunciatory, flowers in images. It frolics—in myths, to be sure, but myths with no other depth than that of human suffering and, like it, inexhaustible. Not the divine fable that amuses and blinds, but the terrestrial face, gesture, and drama in which are summed up a difficult wisdom and an ephemeral passion.

The Ephemeral Creation

God is not needed to create guilt or to punish. Our fellow men suffice, aided by ourselves.

The Fall

Some cry: “Love me!” Others: “Don’t love me!” But a certain genus, the worst and most unhappy, cries: “Don’t love me and be faithful to me!”

I sometimes think of what future historians will say of us. A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted.

The Fall

Of who and of what indeed can I say: “I know that!” This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge and the rest is construction.

The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays

In the long run, one gets used to anything. After a single day’s experience of the outside world, a man could easily live 100 years in prison. He’d have laid up enough memories never to be bored.

I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.

Meursault in The Stranger