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Thread: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

  1. #6181
    Coachella Junkie Miroir Noir's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    You'd do us all a service by not continuing to waste our time with your poor attempts at comedy.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    To you guys I say Wat?????????? Off to ?????? ....... cr****
    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    It's hard to argue with that.

  2. #6182

    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.


  3. #6183
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Two guys arguing about a fake image's worth in time on an Internet message board where time is wasted daily on arguing.

  4. #6184
    old school Neutral Milk Hotel's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Yes, that's the emusic page for The Knife
    Quote Originally Posted by thelastgreatman
    Lingo, shut the fuck up. You look like a goddamn cancer patient and your analogy is idiotic. Also, The Black Keys are unlistenable garbage, you unbelievable fucking dork.

    1/18 Volcano Choir - The Fonda
    1/22 Vampire Weekend - USC
    2/14 Spiritualized - Ace Hotel
    3/8 Mark Kozelek - First Unitarian Church
    3/18 Kraftwerk - Walt Disney Concert Hall
    3/19 Kraftwerk - Walt Disney Concert Hall




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  5. #6185

    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neutral Milk Hotel View Post
    Yes, that's the emusic page for The Knife
    Tour dates state Coachella both weekends.

  6. #6186

    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    scroll down!!

  7. #6187
    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by kahaha View Post
    Two guys arguing about a fake image's worth in time on an Internet message board where time is wasted daily on arguing.
    One guy commenting on two guys arguing.
    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

  8. #6188
    Coachella Junkie ficklecycle's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    What the fuck is emusic?

  9. #6189
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Whoa, it's realz and if you click the link to the scalped tix it says Muse, Arcade Fire NOT THE REFLEKTORS and The Outkast are headlining. Legit as they come, get on those tickets. We must've missed the regular on sale spending too much time here.

  10. #6190
    Coachella Junkie nathanfairchild's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by ficklecycle View Post
    What the fuck is emusic?
    It's equally as accurate as songkick.
    September 16 - Earth
    September 18 - DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist
    September 20 - Skeletonwitch
    September 21 - Nails
    September 23 - Andy Stott
    October 2 - Beck
    October 3-5 - Austin City Limits
    October 10 - Bonobo
    October 20 - Mastodon
    October 23 - 26 - Housecore Horror Festival
    October 29 - The Melvins
    November 7-9 - Fun Fun Fun Fest
    November 18 - Slayer

  11. #6191
    old school Neutral Milk Hotel's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Can we just ban everyone on the boards except for me and, let's say...ficklecycle
    Quote Originally Posted by thelastgreatman
    Lingo, shut the fuck up. You look like a goddamn cancer patient and your analogy is idiotic. Also, The Black Keys are unlistenable garbage, you unbelievable fucking dork.

    1/18 Volcano Choir - The Fonda
    1/22 Vampire Weekend - USC
    2/14 Spiritualized - Ace Hotel
    3/8 Mark Kozelek - First Unitarian Church
    3/18 Kraftwerk - Walt Disney Concert Hall
    3/19 Kraftwerk - Walt Disney Concert Hall




    www.facebook.com/mlingo

    http://www.last.fm/group/Coachella+Forum

  12. #6192
    Coachella Junkie PlayaDelWes's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Because seatgeek is the definitive source
    Quote Originally Posted by dj12inches View Post
    What makes me qualified? I've watched EVERY fucking episode of American Idol, and every single episode of The Voice...Forget that I won departmental music awards when I was in the 8th grade choir.

  13. #6193
    Banned thelastgreatman's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neutral Milk Hotel View Post
    Can we just ban everyone on the boards except for me and, let's say...ficklecycle
    The End Of Conversation As We Know It.
    Quote Originally Posted by schoolofruckus View Post
    Look, your parenting is yours and Randy's business alone.
    Fans of TheLastGreatMan Accessory Shop

  14. #6194
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    One guy commenting on two guys arguing.
    Guy arguing #1 turns his head to one guy commenting... Invites him into their bedroom with guy arguing #2's approval.

    Guy commenting thinks... and accepts offer.

    Fast forward to 20 minutes later: Bodies are touching bodies, appendages intertwined with no way of telling whose are whose.

    Frustration is exorcised and with that one final thrust as all three collapse out of breath with exhaustion, Goldenvoice releases the lineup.

  15. #6195

    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by gswhooper View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    It's amusing that some guy would go to all the trouble to make that.. and then fuck up the daylight time/standard time part of it.
    Its called google images dipshits. I'm not going to waste 5 mins making that shit.
    It's actually an official image from Coachella's Instagram 77 weeks ago
    http://instagram.com/p/NJuONoksg1/

  16. #6196
    Coachella Junkie ficklecycle's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neutral Milk Hotel View Post
    Can we just ban everyone on the boards except for me and, let's say...ficklecycle
    Aww shucks

  17. #6197
    Member ialvarado2's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by kahaha View Post
    Whoa, it's realz and if you click the link to the scalped tix it says Muse, Arcade Fire NOT THE REFLEKTORS and The Outkast are headlining. Legit as they come, get on those tickets. We must've missed the regular on sale spending too much time here.
    My fake poster blew them away...

    OutKast-TheKnife-Replacements-theGlitchMob-JagwarMa-Shlohmo-MSMR-AntiFlag-CaravanPalace-GabbaGabbaHeys-EllieGoulding-NekoC-AFI-Bonobo-theCult-Bastille

    QOTSA-Lorde-PetShopBoys-MGMT-EmpireOfTheSun-CageTheElephant-Chvrches-CapitalCities-Temples-Naked&Famous-Mogwai-HolyGhost-WhiteLies-theInternet-LauraMvula-

    ArcadeFire-Beck-NMH-Disclosure-LanaDelRey-Mot÷rhead-LittleDragon-ToyDolls-1975-Krewella-Fishbone-TromboneShorty-ArtDept-Bombino-BadManners-SurferBlood-BoNingen-JRoddy-FactoyFloor

  18. #6198
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zero Mistro View Post
    It's actually an official image from Coachella's Instagram 77 weeks ago
    http://instagram.com/p/NJuONoksg1/
    Yes, it was originally posted by coachella for some kind of announcement over a year ago. Is it in any way relevant right now? No. Shut up. All of you.

  19. #6199

    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    I've always wanted to see Julian Casablanca live.

  20. #6200
    old school Neutral Milk Hotel's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by ialvarado2 View Post
    My fake poster blew them away...

    Julian Casablanca
    Quote Originally Posted by thelastgreatman
    Lingo, shut the fuck up. You look like a goddamn cancer patient and your analogy is idiotic. Also, The Black Keys are unlistenable garbage, you unbelievable fucking dork.

    1/18 Volcano Choir - The Fonda
    1/22 Vampire Weekend - USC
    2/14 Spiritualized - Ace Hotel
    3/8 Mark Kozelek - First Unitarian Church
    3/18 Kraftwerk - Walt Disney Concert Hall
    3/19 Kraftwerk - Walt Disney Concert Hall




    www.facebook.com/mlingo

    http://www.last.fm/group/Coachella+Forum

  21. #6201
    Member ialvarado2's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Albiedamned View Post
    I always wanted to see Julian Casablanca live.
    I left the S out on purpose or else I would not be able to distinguish it from the real poster
    OutKast-TheKnife-Replacements-theGlitchMob-JagwarMa-Shlohmo-MSMR-AntiFlag-CaravanPalace-GabbaGabbaHeys-EllieGoulding-NekoC-AFI-Bonobo-theCult-Bastille

    QOTSA-Lorde-PetShopBoys-MGMT-EmpireOfTheSun-CageTheElephant-Chvrches-CapitalCities-Temples-Naked&Famous-Mogwai-HolyGhost-WhiteLies-theInternet-LauraMvula-

    ArcadeFire-Beck-NMH-Disclosure-LanaDelRey-Mot÷rhead-LittleDragon-ToyDolls-1975-Krewella-Fishbone-TromboneShorty-ArtDept-Bombino-BadManners-SurferBlood-BoNingen-JRoddy-FactoyFloor

  22. #6202
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by ialvarado2 View Post
    My fake poster blew them away...

    I would be "content"

  23. #6203
    old school shotglass75's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by ialvarado2 View Post
    I left the S out on purpose or else I would not be able to distinguish it from the real poster
    nice save
    Check out Sleeping is Giving in for great mixes and other cool stuff

  24. #6204
    Coachella Junkie Miroir Noir's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by kahaha View Post
    Two guys arguing about a fake image's worth in time on an Internet message board where time is wasted daily on arguing.

    The Myth of Sisyphus
    and Other Essays

    by Albert Camus

    Translated from the French by
    JUSTIN O'BRIEN

    PREFACE

    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 than the others, therefore, it has need of
    the indulgence and understanding of its readers.
    ALBERT CAMUS
    PARIS
    MARCH 1955

    for PASCAL PIA

    O my soul, do not aspire to
    immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible.
    —Pindar, Pythian iii

    THE PAGES that follow deal with an absurd sensitivity that can be found
    widespread in the age—and not with an absurd philosophy which our
    time, properly speaking, has not known. It is therefore simply fair to
    point out, at the outset, what these pages owe to certain contemporary
    thinkers. It is so far from my intention to hide this that they will be
    found cited and commented upon throughout this work.
    But it is useful to note at the same time that the absurd,
    hitherto taken as a conclusion, is considered in this essay as a startingpoint.
    In this sense it may be said that there is something provisional
    in my commentary: one cannot prejudge the position it entails. There
    will be found here merely the description, in the pure state, of an intellectual
    malady. No metaphysic, no belief is involved in it for the moment.
    These are the limits and the only bias of this book. Certain personal
    experiences urge me to make this clear.

    AN ABSURD REASONING

    Absurdity and Suicide

    THERE is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is
    suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts
    to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the
    rest—whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the
    mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards. These are
    games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims,
    that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example,
    you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the
    definitive act. These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful
    study before they become clear to the intellect.
    If I ask myself how to judge that this question is more urgent than
    that, I reply that one judges by the actions it entails. I have never seen
    anyone die for the ontological argument. Galileo, who held a scientific
    truth of great importance, abjured it with the greatest ease as soon as
    it endangered his life. In a certain sense, he did right.[1] That truth
    was not worth the stake. Whether the earth or the sun revolves around
    the other is a matter of profound indifference. To tell the truth, it is a
    futile question. On the other hand, I see many people die because they
    judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting
    killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living (what
    is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying). I
    therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.
    How to answer it? On all essential problems (I mean thereby
    those that run the risk of leading to death or those that intensify the
    passion of living) there are probably but two methods of thought: the
    method of La Palisse and the method of Don Quixote. Solely the balance
    between evidence and lyricism can allow us to achieve
    simultaneously emotion and lucidity. In a subject at once so humble
    and so heavy with emotion, the learned and classical dialectic must
    yield, one can see, to a more modest attitude of mind deriving at one
    and the same time from common sense and understanding.
    Suicide has never been dealt with except as a social phenomenon.
    On the contrary, we are concerned here, at the outset, with the relationship
    between individual thought and suicide. An act like this is
    prepared within the silence of the heart, as is a great work of art. The
    man himself is ignorant of it. One evening he pulls the trigger or
    jumps. Of an apartment-building manager who had killed himself I
    was told that he had lost his daughter five years before, that be bad
    changed greatly since, and that that experience had “undermined”
    him. A more exact word cannot be imagined. Beginning to think is beginning
    to be undermined. Society has but little connection with such
    beginnings. The worm is in man’s heart. That is where it must be
    sought. One must follow and understand this fatal game that leads
    from lucidity in the face of existence to flight from light.
    There are many causes for a suicide, and generally the most obvious
    ones were not the most powerful. Rarely is suicide committed (yet the
    hypothesis is not excluded) through reflection. What sets off the crisis
    is almost always unverifiable. Newspapers often speak of “personal
    sorrows” or of “incurable illness.” These explanations are plausible.
    But one would have to know whether a friend of the desperate man
    had not that very day addressed him indifferently. He is the guilty one.
    For that is enough to precipitate all the rancors and all the boredom
    still in suspension.[2]
    But if it is hard to fix the precise instant, the subtle step when the
    mind opted for death, it is easier to deduce from the act itself the consequences
    it implies. In a sense, and as in melodrama, killing yourself
    amounts to confessing. It is confessing that life is too much for you or
    that you do not understand it. Let’s not go too far in such analogies,
    however, but rather return to everyday words. It is merely confessing
    that that “is not worth the trouble.” Living, naturally, is never easy.
    You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many
    reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you
    have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that
    habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character
    of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering.
    What, then, is that incalculable feeling that deprives the mind of the
    sleep necessary to life? A world that can be explained even with bad
    reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly
    divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger.
    His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a
    lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man
    and this life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity.
    All healthy men having thought of their own suicide, it can be
    seen, without further explanation, that there is a direct connection
    between this feeling and the longing for death.
    The subject of this essay is precisely this relationship between the
    absurd and suicide, the exact degree to which suicide is a solution to
    the absurd. The principle can be established that for a man who does
    not cheat, what he believes to be true must determine his action. Belief
    in the absurdity of existence must then dictate his conduct. It is legitimate
    to wonder, clearly and without false pathos, whether a conclusion
    of this importance requires forsaking as rapidly as possible an incomprehensible
    condition. I am speaking, of course, of men inclined
    to be in harmony with themselves.
    Stated clearly, this problem may seem both simple and insoluble.
    But it is wrongly assumed that simple questions involve answers that
    are no less simple and that evidence implies evidence. A priori and reversing
    the terms of the problem, just as one does or does not kill oneself,
    it seems that there are but two philosophical solutions, either yes
    or no. This would be too easy. But allowance must be made for those
    who, without concluding, continue questioning. Here I am only
    slightly indulging in irony: this is the majority. I notice also that those
    who answer “no” act as if they thought “yes.” As a matter of fact, if I
    accept the Nietzschean criterion, they think “yes” in one way or another.
    On the other hand, it often happens that those who commit suicide
    were assured of the meaning of life. These contradictions are constant.
    It may even be said that they have never been so keen as on this point
    where, on the contrary, logic seems so desirable. It is a commonplace
    to compare philosophical theories and the behavior of those who profess
    them. But it must be said that of the thinkers who refused a meaning
    to life none except Kirilov who belongs to literature, Peregrinos
    who is born of legend,[3] and Jules Lequier who belongs to hypothesis,
    admitted his logic to the point of refusing that life. Schopenhauer is
    often cited, as a fit subject for laughter, because he praised suicide
    while seated at a well-set table. This is no subject for joking. That way
    of not taking the tragic seriously is not so grievous, but it helps to
    judge a man.
    In the face of such contradictions and obscurities must we conclude
    that there is no relationship between the opinion one has about life
    and the act one commits to leave it? Let us not exaggerate in this direction.
    In a man’s attachment to life there is something stronger than
    all the ills in the world. The body’s judgment is as good as the mind’s
    and the body shrinks from annihilation. We get into the habit of living
    before acquiring the habit of thinking. In that race which daily hastens
    us toward death, the body maintains its irreparable lead. In short, the
    essence of that contradiction lies in what I shall call the act of eluding
    because it is both less and more than diversion in the Pascalian sense.
    Eluding is the invariable game. The typical act of eluding, the fatal
    evasion that constitutes the third theme of this essay, is hope. Hope of
    another life one must “deserve” or trickery of those who live not for life
    itself but for some great idea that will transcend it, refine it, give it a
    meaning, and betray it.
    Thus everything contributes to spreading confusion. Hitherto, and it
    has not been wasted effort, people have played on words and pretended
    to believe that refusing to grant a meaning to life necessarily leads
    to declaring that it is not worth living. In truth, there is no necessary
    common measure between these two judgments. One merely has to refuse
    to he misled by the confusions, divorces, and inconsistencies previously
    pointed out. One must brush everything aside and go straight
    to the real problem. One kills oneself because life is not worth living,
    that is certainly a truth yet an unfruitful one because it is a truism. But
    does that insult to existence, that flat denial in which it is plunged
    come from the fact that it has no meaning? Does its absurdity require
    one to escape it through hope or suicide—this is what must be clarified,
    hunted down, and elucidated while brushing aside all the rest.
    Does the Absurd dictate death? This problem must be given priority
    over others, outside all methods of thought and all exercises of the disinterested
    mind. Shades of meaning, contradictions, the psychology
    that an “objective” mind can always introduce into all problems have
    no place in this pursuit and this passion. It calls simply for an unjust—
    in other words, logical— thought. That is not easy. It is always
    easy to be logical. It is almost impossible to be logical to the bitter end.
    Men who die by their own hand consequently follow to its conclusion
    their emotional inclination. Reflection on suicide gives me an opportunity
    to raise the only problem to interest me: is there a logic to the
    point of death? I cannot know unless I pursue, without reckless passion,
    in the sole light of evidence, the reasoning of which I am here
    suggesting the source. This is what I call an absurd reasoning. Many
    have begun it. I do not yet know whether or not they kept to it.
    When Karl Jaspers, revealing the impossibility of constituting the
    world as a unity, exclaims: “This limitation leads me to myself, where I
    can no longer withdraw behind an objective point of view that I am
    merely representing, where neither I myself nor the existence of others
    can any longer become an object for me,” he is evoking after many
    others those waterless deserts where thought reaches its confines.
    After many others, yes indeed, but how eager they were to get out of
    them! At that last crossroad where thought hesitates, many men have
    arrived and even some of the humblest. They then abdicated what was
    most precious to them, their life. Others, princes of the mind,
    abdicated likewise, but they initiated the suicide of their thought in its
    purest revolt. The real effort is to stay there, rather, in so far as that is
    possible, and to examine closely the odd vegetation of those distant regions.
    Tenacity and acumen are privileged spectators of this inhuman
    show in which absurdity, hope, and death carry on their dialogue. The
    mind can then analyze the figures of that elementary yet subtle dance
    before illustrating them and reliving them itself.

    Absurd Walls

    Like great works, deep feelings always mean more than they are
    conscious of saying. The regularity of an impulse or a repulsion in a
    soul is encountered again in habits of doing or thinking, is reproduced
    in consequences of which the soul itself knows nothing. Great feelings
    take with them their own universe, splendid or abject. They light up
    with their passion an exclusive world in which they recognize their climate.
    There is a universe of jealousy, of ambition, of selfishness, or of
    generosity. A universe in otherwords, a metaphysic and an attitude of
    mind. What is true of already specialized feelings will be even more so
    of emotions basically as indeterminate, simultaneously as vague and
    as “definite,” as remote and as “present” as those furnished us by
    beauty or aroused by absurdity.
    At any streetcorner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in
    the face. As it is, in its distressing nudity, in its light without effulgence,
    it is elusive. But that very difficulty deserves reflection. It is
    probably true that a man remains forever unknown to us and that
    there is in him something irreducible that escapes us. But practically I
    know men and recognize them by their behavior, by the totality of
    their deeds, by the consequences caused in life by their presence. Likewise,
    all those irrational feelings which offer no purchase to analysis. I
    can define them practically, appreciate them practically, by gathering
    together the sum of their consequences in the domain of the intelligence,
    by seizing and noting all their aspects, by outlining their universe.
    It is certain that apparently, though I have seen the same actor a
    hundred times, I shall not for that reason know him any better personally.
    Yet if I add up the heroes he has personified and if I say that I
    know him a little better at the hundredth character counted off, this
    will be felt to contain an element of truth. For this apparent paradox is
    also an apologue. There is a moral to it. It teaches that a man defines
    himself by his make-believe as well as by his sincere impulses. There is
    thus a lower key of feelings, inaccessible in the heart but partially disclosed
    by the acts they imply and the attitudes of mind they assume. It
    is clear that in this way I am defining a method. But it is also evident
    that that method is one of analysis and not of knowledge. For methods
    imply metaphysics; unconsciously they disclose conclusions that they
    often claim not to know yet. Similarly, the last pages of a book are
    already contained in the first pages. Such a link is inevitable. The
    method defined here acknowledges the feeling that all true knowledge
    is impossible. Solely appearances can be enumerated and the climate
    make itself felt.
    Perhaps we shall be able to overtake that elusive feeling of absurdity
    in the different but closely related worlds of intelligence, of the art of
    living, or of art itself. The climate of absurdity is in the beginning. The
    end is the absurd universe and that attitude of mind which lights the
    world with its true colors to bring out the privileged and implacable
    visage which that attitude has discerned in it.
    * * *
    All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.
    Great works are often born on a street-corner or in a restaurant’s revolving
    door. So it is with absurdity. The absurd world more than others
    derives its nobility from that abject birth. In certain situations,
    replying “nothing” when asked what one is thinking about may be
    pretense in a man. Those who are loved are well aware of this. But if
    that reply is sincere, if it symbolizes that odd state of soul in which the
    void be-comes eloquent, in which the chain of daily gestures is broken,
    in which the heart vainly seeks the link that will connect it again, then
    it is as it were the first sign of absurdity.
    It happens that the stage sets collapse. Rising, streetcar, four hours
    in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal,
    sleep, and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and
    Saturday according to the same rhythm—this path is easily followed
    most of the time. But one day the “why” arises and everything begins
    in that weariness tinged with amazement. “Begins”—this is important.
    Weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life, but at the
    same time it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness. It awakens
    consciousness and provokes what follows. What follows is the gradual
    return into the chain or it is the definitive awakening. At the end of the
    awakening comes, in time, the consequence: suicide or recovery. In itself
    weariness has something sickening about it. Here, I must conclude
    that it is good. For everything be-gins with consciousness and nothing
    is worth anything except through it. There is nothing original about
    these remarks. But they are obvious; that is enough for a while, during
    a sketchy reconnaissance in the origins of the absurd. Mere “anxiety,”
    as Heidegger says, is at the source of everything.
    Likewise and during every day of an unillustrious life, time carries
    us. But a moment always comes when we have to carry it. We live on
    the future: “tomorrow,” “later on,” “when you have made your way,”
    “you will understand when you are old enough.” Such irrelevancies are
    wonderful, for, after all, it’s a matter of dying. Yet a day comes when a
    man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But
    simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. He takes his
    place in it. He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that
    he acknowledges having to travel to its end. He belongs to time, and by
    the horror that seizes him, he recognizes his worst enemy. Tomorrow,
    he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to
    reject it. That revolt of the flesh is the absurd.[4]
    A step lower and strangeness creeps in: perceiving that the world is
    “dense,” sensing to what a degree a stone is foreign and irreducible to
    us, with what intensity nature or a landscape can negate us. At the
    heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness
    of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory
    meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote
    than a lost paradise. The primitive hostility of the world rises up
    to face us across millennia, for a second we cease to understand it because
    for centuries we have understood in it solely the images and
    designs that we had at- tributed to it beforehand, because henceforth
    we lack the power to make use of that artifice. The world evades us because
    it becomes itself again. That stage scenery masked by habit becomes
    again what it is. It withdraws at a distance from us. Just as
    there are days when under the familial face of a woman, we see as a
    stranger her we had loved months or years ago, perhaps we shall come
    even to desire what suddenly leaves us so alone. But the time has not
    yet come. Just one thing: that denseness and that strangeness of the
    world is the absurd.
    Men, too, secrete the inhuman. At certain moments of lucidity, the
    mechanical aspect of their gestures, their meaningless pantomime
    makes silly everything that surrounds them. A man is talking on the
    telephone behind a glass partition; you cannot hear him, but you see
    his incomprehensible dumb show: you wonder why he is alive. This
    discomfort in the face of man’s own inhumanity, this incalculable
    tumble before the image of what we are, this “nausea,” as a writer of
    today calls it, is also the absurd. Likewise the stranger who at certain
    seconds comes to meet us in a mirror, the familiar and yet alarming
    brother we encounter in our own photographs is also the absurd.
    I come at last to death and to the attitude we have toward it. On this
    point everything has been said and it is only proper to avoid pathos.
    Yet one will never be sufficiently surprised that everyone lives as if no
    one “knew.” This is because in reality there is no experience of death.
    Properly speaking, nothing has been experienced but what has been
    lived and made conscious. Here, it is barely possible to speak of the experience
    of others’ deaths. It is a substitute, an illusion, and it never
    quite convinces us. That melancholy convention cannot be persuasive.
    The horror comes in reality from the mathematical aspect of the event.
    If time frightens us, this is because it works out the problem and the
    solution comes afterward. All the pretty speeches about the soul will
    have their contrary convincingly proved, at least for a time. From this
    inert body on which a slap makes no mark the soul has disappeared.
    This elementary and definitive aspect of the adventure constitutes the
    absurd feeling. Under the fatal lighting of that destiny, its uselessness
    becomes evident. No code of ethics and no effort are justifiable a priori
    in the face of the cruel mathematics that command our condition.
    Let me repeat: all this has been said over and over. I am limiting
    myself here to making a rapid classification and to pointing out these
    obvious themes. They run through all literatures and all philosophies.
    Everyday conversation feeds on them. There is no question of reinventing
    them. But it is essential to be sure of these facts in order to be
    able to question oneself subsequently on the primordial question. I am
    interested let me repeat again—not go much in absurd discoveries as
    in their consequences. If one is assured of these facts, what is one to
    conclude, how far is one to go to elude nothing? Is one to die voluntarily
    or to hope in spite of everything? Beforehand, it is necessary to take
    the same rapid inventory on the plane of the intelligence.
    * * *
    The mind’s first step is to distinguish what is true from what is false.
    However, as soon as thought reflects on itself, what it first discovers is
    a contradiction. Useless to strive to be convincing in this case. Over
    the centuries no one has furnished a clearer and more elegant demonstration
    of the business than Aristotle: “The often ridiculed consequence
    of these opinions is that they destroy themselves. For by
    asserting that all is true we assert the truth of the contrary assertion
    and consequently the falsity of our own thesis (for the contrary assertion
    does not admit that it can be true). And if one says that all is false,
    that assertion is itself false. If we declare that solely the assertion opposed
    to ours is false or else that solely ours is not false, we are nevertheless
    forced to admit an infinite number of true or false judgments.
    For the one who expresses a true assertion proclaims simultaneously
    that it is true, and so on ad infinitum.”
    This vicious circle is but the first of a series in which the mind that
    studies itself gets lost in a giddy whirling. The very simplicity of these
    paradoxes makes them irreducible. Whatever may be the plays on
    words and the acrobatics of logic, to understand is, above all, to unify.
    The mind’s deepest desire, even in its most elaborate operations, parallels
    man’s unconscious feeling in the face of his universe: it is an insistence
    upon familiarity, an appetite for clarity. Understanding the
    world for a man is reducing it to the human, stamping it with his seal.
    The cat’s universe is not the universe of the anthill. The truism “All
    thought is anthropomorphic” has no other meaning. Likewise, the
    mind that aims to understand reality can consider itself satisfied only
    by reducing it to terms of thought. If man realized that the universe
    like him can love and suffer, he would be reconciled. If thought discovered
    in the shimmering mirrors of phenomena eternal relations
    capable of summing them up and summing themselves up in a single
    principle, then would be seen an intellectual joy of which the myth of
    the blessed would be but a ridiculous imitation. That nostalgia for
    unity, that appetite for the absolute illustrates the essential impulse of
    the human drama. But the fact of that nostalgia’s existence does not
    imply that it is to be immediately satisfied. For if, bridging the gulf
    that separates desire from conquest, we assert with Parmenides the
    reality of the One (whatever it may be), we fall into the ridiculous contradiction
    of a mind that asserts total unity and proves by its very assertion
    its own difference and the diversity it claimed to resolve. This
    other vicious circle is enough to stifle our hopes.
    These are again truisms. I shall again repeat that they are not interesting
    in themselves but in the consequences that can be deduced
    from them. I know another truism: it tells me that man is mortal. One
    can nevertheless count the minds that have deduced the extreme conclusions
    from it. It is essential to consider as a constant point of reference
    in this essay the regular hiatus between what we fancy we know
    and what we really know, practical assent and simulated ignorance
    which allows us to live with ideas which, if we truly put them to the
    test, ought to upset our whole life. Faced with this inextricable contradiction
    of the mind, we shall fully grasp the divorce separating us from
    our own creations. So long as the mind keeps silent in the motionless
    world of its hopes, everything is reflected and arranged in the unity of
    its nostalgia. But with its first move this world cracks and tumbles: an
    infinite number of shimmering fragments is offered to the understanding.
    We must despair of ever reconstructing the familiar, calm
    surface which would give us peace of heart. After so many centuries of
    inquiries, so many abdications among thinkers, we are well aware that
    this is true for all our knowledge. With the exception of professional
    rationalists, today people despair of true knowledge. If the only significant
    history of human thought were to be written, it would have to be
    the history of its successive regrets and its impotences.
    Of whom 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 I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and
    the rest is construction. For if I try to seize this self of which I feel sure,
    if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping
    through my fingers. I can sketch one by one all the aspects it is able to
    assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing,
    this origin, this ardor or these silences, this nobility or this vileness.
    But aspects cannot be added up. This very heart which is mine
    will forever remain indefinable to me. Between the certainty I have of
    my existence and the content I try to give to that assurance, the gap
    will never be filled. Forever I shall be a stranger to myself. In
    psychology as in logic, there are truths but no truth. Socrates’”Know
    thyself” has as much value as the “Be virtuous” of our confessionals.
    They reveal a nostalgia at the same time as an ignorance. They are
    sterile exercises on great subjects. They are legitimate only in precisely
    so far as they are approximate.
    And here are trees and I know their gnarled surface, water and I feel
    its taste. These scents of grass and stars at night, certain evenings
    when the heart relaxes—how shall I negate this world whose power
    and strength I feel? Yet all the knowledge on earth will give me nothing
    to assure me that this world is mine. You describe it to me and you
    teach me to classify it. You enumerate its laws and in my thirst for
    knowledge I admit that they are true. You take apart its mechanism
    and my hope increases. At the final stage you teach me that this wondrous
    and multicolored universe can be reduced to the atom and that
    the atom itself can be reduced to the electron. All this is good and I
    wait for you to continue. But you tell me of an invisible planetary system
    in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus. You explain this
    world to me with an image. I realize then that you have been reduced
    to poetry: I shall never know. Have I the time to become indignant?
    You have already changed theories. So that science that was to teach
    me everything ends up in a hypothesis, that lucidity founders in metaphor,
    that uncertainty is resolved in a work of art. What need had I of
    so many efforts? The soft lines of these hills and the hand of evening
    on this troubled heart teach me much more. I have returned to my beginning.
    I realize that if through science I can seize phenomena and
    enumerate them, I cannot, for all that, apprehend the world. Were I to
    trace its entire relief with my finger, I should not know any more. And
    you give me the choice between a description that is sure but that
    teaches me nothing and hypotheses that claim to teach me but that are
    not sure. A stranger to myself and to the world, armed solely with a
    thought that negates itself as soon as it asserts, what is this condition
    in which I can have peace only by refusing to know and to live, in
    which the appetite for conquest bumps into walls that defy its
    assaults? To will is to stir up paradoxes. Everything is ordered in such
    a way as to bring into being that poisoned peace produced by thoughtlessness,
    lack of heart, or fatal renunciations.
    Hence the intelligence, too, tells me in its way that this world is absurd.
    Its contrary, blind reason, may well claim that all is clear; I was
    waiting for proof and longing for it to be right. But despite so many
    pretentious centuries and over the heads of so many eloquent and persuasive
    men, I know that is false. On this plane, at least, there is no
    happiness if I cannot know. That universal reason, practical or ethical,
    that determinism, those categories that explain everything are enough
    to make a decent man laugh. They have nothing to do with the mind.
    They negate its profound truth, which is to be enchained. In this unintelligible
    and limited universe, man’s fate henceforth assumes its
    meaning. A horde of irrationals has sprung up and surrounds him until
    his ultimate end. In his recovered and now studied lucidity, the feeling
    of the absurd becomes clear and definite. I said that the world is
    absurd, but I was too hasty. This world in itself is not reasonable, that
    is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational
    and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human
    heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For
    the moment it is all that links them together. It binds them one to the
    other as only hatred can weld two creatures together. This is all I can
    discern clearly in this measureless universe where my adventure takes
    place. Let us pause here. If I hold to be true that absurdity that determines
    my relationship with life, if I become thoroughly imbued
    with that sentiment that seizes me in face of the world’s scenes, with
    that lucidity imposed on me by the pursuit of a science, I must sacrifice
    everything to these certainties and I must see them squarely to be
    able to maintain them. Above all, I must adapt my behavior to them
    and pursue them in all their consequences. I am speaking here of decency.
    But I want to know beforehand if thought can live in those
    deserts.
    * * *
    I already know that thought has at least entered those deserts. There
    it found its bread. There it realized that it had previously been feeding
    on phantoms. It justified some of the most urgent themes of human
    reflection.
    From the moment absurdity is recognized, it becomes a passion, the
    most harrowing of all. But whether or not one can live with one’s passions,
    whether or not one can accept their law, which is to burn the
    heart they simultaneously exalt—that is the whole question. It is not,
    however, the one we shall ask just yet. It stands at the center of this experience.
    There will be time to come back to it. Let us recognize rather
    those themes and those impulses born of the desert. It will suffice to
    enumerate them. They, too, are known to all today. There have always
    been men to defend the rights of the irrational. The tradition of what
    may be called humiliated thought has never ceased to exist. The criticism
    of rationalism has been made so often that it seems unnecessary
    to begin again. Yet our epoch is marked by the rebirth of those paradoxical
    systems that strive to trip up the reason as if truly it had always
    forged ahead. But that is not so much a proof of the efficacy of
    the reason as of the intensity of its hopes. On the plane of history, such
    a constancy of two attitudes illustrates the essential passion of man
    torn between his urge toward unity and the clear vision he may have of
    the walls enclosing him.
    But never perhaps at any time has the attack on reason been more
    violent than in ours. Since Zarathustra’s great outburst: “By chance it
    is the oldest nobility in the world. I conferred it upon all things when I
    proclaimed that above them no eternal will was exercised,” since Kierkegaard’s
    fatal illness, “that malady that leads to death with nothing
    else following it,” the significant and tormenting themes of absurd
    thought have followed one another. Or at least, and this proviso is of
    capital importance, the themes of irrational and religious thought.
    From Jaspers to Heidegger, from Kierkegaard to Che-stov, from the
    phenomenologists to Scheler, on the logical plane and on the moral
    plane, a whole family of minds related by their nostalgia but opposed
    by their methods or their aims, have persisted in blocking the royal
    road of reason and in recovering the direct paths of truth. Here I assume
    these thoughts to be known and lived. Whatever may be or have
    been their ambitions, all started out from that indescribable universe
    where contradiction, antinomy, anguish, or impotence reigns. And
    what they have in common is precisely the themes so far disclosed. For
    them, too, it must be said that what matters above all is the conclusions
    they have managed to draw from those discoveries. That matters
    so much that they must be examined separately. But for the moment
    we are concerned solely with their discoveries and their initial experiments.
    We are concerned solely with noting their agreement. If it
    would be presumptuous to try to deal with their philosophies, it is possible
    and sufficient in any case to bring out the climate that is common
    to them.
    Heidegger considers the human condition coldly and announces
    that that existence is humiliated. The only reality is “anxiety” in the
    whole chain of beings. To the man lost in the world and its diversions
    this anxiety is a brief, fleeting fear. But if that fear becomes conscious
    of itself, it becomes anguish, the perpetual climate of the lucid man “in
    whom existence is concentrated.” This professor of philosophy writes
    without trembling and in the most abstract language in the world that
    “the finite and limited character of human existence is more primordial
    than man himself.” His interest in Kant extends only to recognizing
    the restricted character of his “pure Reason.” This is to coincide at the
    end of his analyses that “the world can no longer offer anything to the
    man filled with anguish.” This anxiety seems to him so much more important
    than all the categories in the world that he thinks and talks
    only of it. He enumerates its aspects: boredom when the ordinary man
    strives to quash it in him and benumb it; terror when the mind contemplates
    death. He too does not separate consciousness from the absurd.
    The consciousness of death is the call of anxiety and “existence
    then delivers itself its own summons through the intermediary of consciousness.”
    It is the very voice of anguish and it adjures existence “to
    return from its loss in the anonymous They.” For him, too, one must
    not sleep, but must keep alert until the consummation. He stands in
    this absurd world and points out its ephemeral character. He seeks his
    way amid these ruins.
    Jaspers despairs of any ontology because he claims that we have lost
    “na´vetÚ.” He knows that we can achieve nothing that will transcend
    the fatal game of appearances. He knows that the end of the mind is
    failure. He tarries over the spiritual adventures revealed by history
    and pitilessly discloses the flaw in each system, the illusion that saved
    everything, the preaching that hid nothing. In this ravaged world in
    which the impossibility of knowledge is established, in which everlasting
    nothingness seems the only reality and irremediable despair seems
    the only attitude, he tries to recover the Ariadne’s thread that leads to
    divine secrets.
    Chestov, for his part, throughout a wonderfully monotonous work,
    constantly straining toward the same truths, tirelessly demonstrates
    that the tightest system, the most universal rationalism always
    stumbles eventually on the irrational of human thought. None of the
    ironic facts or ridiculous contradictions that depreciate the reason escapes
    him. One thing only interests him, and that is the exception,
    whether in the domain of the heart or of the mind. Through the Dostoevskian
    experiences of the condemned man, the exacerbated adventures
    of the Nietzschean mind, Hamlet’s imprecations, or the bitter aristocracy
    of an Ibsen, he tracks down, il-luminates, and magnifies the
    human revolt against the irremediable. He refuses the reason its reasons
    and begins to advance with some decision only in the middle of
    that colorless desert where all certainties have become stones.
    Of all perhaps the most engaging, Kierkegaard, for a part of his existence
    at least, does more than discover the absurd, he lives it. The
    man who writes: “The surest of stubborn silences is not to hold one’s
    tongue but to talk” makes sure in the beginning that no truth is
    absolute or can render satisfactory an existence that is impossible in
    itself. Don Juan of the understanding, he multiplies pseudonyms and
    contradictions, writes his Discourses of Edification at the same time
    as that manual of cynical spiritualism, The Diary of the Seducer. He
    refuses consolations, ethics, reliable principles. As for that thorn he
    feels in his heart, he is careful not to quiet its pain. On the contrary, he
    awakens it and, in the desperate joy of a man crucified and happy to be
    so, he builds up piece by piece—lucidity, refusal, make believe—a category
    of the man possessed. That face both tender and sneering, those
    pirouettes followed by a cry from the heart are the absurd spirit itself
    grappling with a reality beyond its comprehension. And the spiritual
    adventure that leads Kierkegaard to his beloved scandals begins likewise
    in the chaos of an experience divested of its setting and relegated
    to its original incoherence.
    On quite a different plane, that of method, Husserl and the phenomenologists,
    by their very extravagances, reinstate the world in its
    diversity and deny the transcendent power of the reason. The spiritual
    universe becomes incalculably enriched through them. The rose petal,
    the milestone, or the human hand are as important as love, desire, or
    the laws of gravity. Thinking ceases to be unifying or making a semblance
    familiar in the guise of a major principle. Thinking is learning all
    over again to see, to be attentive, to focus consciousness; it is turning
    every idea and every image, in the manner of Proust, into a privileged
    moment. What justifies thought is its extreme consciousness. Though
    more positive than Kierkegaard’s or Chestov’s, Husserl’s manner of
    proceeding, in the beginning, nevertheless negates the classic method
    of the reason, disappoints hope, opens to intuition and to the heart a
    whole proliferation of phenomena, the wealth of which has about it
    something inhuman. These paths lead to all sciences or to none. This
    amounts to saying that in this case the means are more important than
    the end. All that is involved is “an attitude for understanding” and not
    a consolation. Let me repeat: in the beginning, at very least.
    How can one fail to feel the basic relationship of these minds! How
    can one fail to see that they take their stand around a privileged and
    bitter moment in which hope has no further place? I want everything
    to be explained to me or nothing. And the reason is impotent when it
    hears this cry from the heart. The mind aroused by this insistence
    seeks and finds nothing but contradictions and nonsense. What I fail
    to understand is nonsense. The world is peopled with such irrationals.
    The world itself, whose single meaning I do not understand, is but a
    vast irrational. If one could only say just once: “This is clear,” all would
    be saved. But these men vie with one another in proclaiming that
    nothing is clear, all is chaos, that all man has is his lucidity and his
    definite knowledge of the walls surrounding him.
    All these experiences agree and confirm one another. The mind,
    when it reaches its limits, must make a judgment and choose its conclusions.
    This is where suicide and the reply stand. But I wish to reverse
    the order of the inquiry and start out from the intelligent adventure
    and come back to daily acts. The experiences called to mind here
    were born in the desert that we must not leave behind. At least it is essential
    to know how far they went. At this point of his effort man
    stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing
    for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation
    between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.
    This must not be forgotten. This must be clung to because the whole
    consequence of a life can depend on it. The irrational, the human nostalgia,
    and the absurd that is born of their encounter—these are the
    three characters in the drama that must necessarily end with all the logic
    of which an existence is capable.
    Philosophical Suicide
    The feeling of the absurd is not, for all that, the notion of the absurd.
    It lays the foundations for it, and that is all. It is not limited to that
    notion, except in the brief moment when it passes judgment on the
    universe. Subsequently it has a chance of going further. It is alive; in
    other words, it must die or else reverberate. So it is with the themes we
    have gathered together. But there again what interests me is not works
    or minds, criticism of which would call for another form and another
    place, but the discovery of what their conclusions have in common.
    Never, perhaps, have minds been so different. And yet we recognize as
    identical the spiritual landscapes in which they get under way. Likewise,
    despite such dissimilar zones of knowledge, the cry that terminates
    their itinerary rings out in the same way. It is evident that the
    thinkers we have just recalled have a common climate.
    To say that that climate is deadly scarcely amounts to playing on
    words. Living under that stifling sky forces one to get away or to stay.
    The important thing is to find out how people get away in the first case
    and why people stay in the second case. This is how I define the problem
    of suicide and the possible interest in the conclusions of existential
    philosophy.
    But first I want to detour from the direct path. Up to now we have
    managed to circumscribe the absurd from the outside. One can,
    however, wonder how much is clear in that notion and by direct analysis
    try to discover its meaning on the one hand and, on the other, the
    consequences it involves.
    If I accuse an innocent man of a monstrous crime, if I tell a
    virtuous man that he has coveted his own sister, he will reply that this
    is absurd. His indignation has its comical aspect. But it also has its
    fundamental reason. The virtuous man illustrates by that reply the
    definitive antinomy existing between the deed I am attributing to him
    and his lifelong principles. “It’s absurd” means “It’s impossible” but
    also “It’s contradictory.” If I see a man armed only with a sword attack
    a group of machine guns, I shall consider his act to be absurd. But it is
    so solely by virtue of the disproportion between his intention and the
    reality he will encounter, of the contradiction I notice between his true
    strength and the aim he has in view. Likewise we shall deem a verdict
    absurd when we contrast it with the verdict the facts apparently dictated.
    And, similarly, a demonstration by the absurd is achieved by
    comparing the consequences of such a reasoning with the logical reality
    one wants to set up. In all these cases, from the simplest to the
    most complex, the magnitude of the absurdity will be in direct ratio to
    the distance between the two terms of my comparison. There are absurd
    marriages, challenges, rancors, silences, wars, and even peace
    treaties. For each of them the absurdity springs from a comparison. I
    am thus justified in saying that the feeling of absurdity does not spring
    from the mere scrutiny of a fact or an impression, but that it bursts
    from the comparison between a bare fact and a certain reality,
    between an action and the world that transcends it. The absurd is essentially
    a divorce. It lies in neither of the elements compared; it is
    born of their confrontation.
    In this particular case and on the plane of intelligence, I can therefore
    say that the Absurd is not in man (if such a metaphor could have a
    meaning) nor in the world, but in their presence together. For the moment
    it is the only bond uniting them. If wish to limit myself to facts, I
    know what man wants, I know what the world offers him, and now I
    can say that I also know what links them. I have no need to dig deeper.
    A single certainty is enough for the seeker. He simply has to derive all
    the consequences from it.
    The immediate consequence is also a rule of method. The odd trinity
    brought to light in this way is certainly not a startling discovery. But it
    resembles the data of experience in that it is both infinitely simple and
    infinitely complicated. Its first distinguishing feature in this regard is
    that it cannot be divided. To destroy one of its terms is to destroy the
    whole. There can be no absurd outside the human mind. Thus, like
    everything else, the absurd ends with death. But there can be no absurd
    outside this world either. And it is by this elementary criterion
    that I judge the notion of the absurd to be essential and consider that
    it can stand as the first of my truths. The rule of method alluded to
    above appears here. If I judge that a thing is true, I must preserve it. If
    I attempt to solve a problem, at least I must not by that very solution
    conjure away one of the terms of the problem. For me the sole datum
    is the absurd. The first and, after all, the only condition of my inquiry
    is to preserve the very thing that crushes me, consequently to respect
    what I consider essential in it. I have just defined it as a confrontation
    and an unceasing struggle.
    And carrying this absurd logic to its conclusion, I must admit that
    that struggle implies a total absence of hope (which has nothing to do
    with despair), a continual rejection (which must not be confused with
    renunciation), and a conscious dissatisfaction (which must not be
    compared to immature unrest). Everything that destroys, conjures
    away, or exorcises these requirements (and, to begin with, consent
    which overthrows divorce) ruins the absurd and devaluates the attitude
    that may then be proposed. The absurd has meaning only in so
    far as it is not agreed to.
    * * *
    There exists an obvious fact that seems utterly moral: namely, that a
    man is always a prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot
    free himself from them. One has to pay something. A man who has
    be-come conscious of the absurd is forever bound to it. A man devoid
    of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.
    That is natural. But it is just as natural that he should strive to escape
    the universe of which he is the creator. All the foregoing has significance
    only on account of this paradox. Certain men, starting from a critique
    of rationalism, have admitted the absurd climate. Nothing is
    more instructive in this regard than to scrutinize the way in which they
    have elaborated their consequences.
    Now, to limit myself to existential philosophies, I see that all of them
    without exception suggest escape. Through an odd reasoning, starting
    out from the absurd over the ruins of reason, in a closed universe limited
    to the human, they deify what crushes them and find reason to
    hope in what impoverishes them. That forced hope is religious in all of
    them. It deserves attention.
    I shall merely analyze here as examples a few themes dear to
    Chestov and Kierkegaard. But Jaspers will provide us, in caricatural
    form, a typical example of this attitude. As a result the rest will be
    clearer. He is left powerless to realize the transcendent, incapable of
    plumbing the depth of experience, and conscious of that universe upset
    by failure. Will he advance or at least draw the conclusions from
    that failure? He contributes nothing new. He has found nothing in experience
    but the confession of his own impotence and no occasion to
    infer any satisfactory principle. Yet without justification, as he says to
    himself, he suddenly asserts all at once the transcendent, the essence
    of experience, and the superhuman significance of life when he writes:
    “Does not the failure reveal, beyond any possible explanation and interpretation,
    not the absence but the existence of transcendence?”
    That existence which, suddenly and through a blind act of human confidence,
    explains everything, he defines as “the unthinkable unity of
    the general and the particular.” Thus the absurd becomes god (in the
    broadest meaning of this word) and that inability to understand becomes
    the existence that illuminates everything. Nothing logically prepares
    this reasoning. I can call it a leap. And para-doxically can be understood
    Jaspers’s insistence, his infinite patience devoted to making
    the experience of the transcendent impossible to realize. For the more
    fleeting that approximation is, the more empty that definition proves
    to be, and the more real that transcendent is to him; for the passion he
    devotes to asserting it is in direct proportion to the gap between his
    powers of explanation and the irrationality of the world and of experience.
    It thus appears that the more bitterly Jaspers destroys the reason’s
    preconceptions, the more radically he will explain the world. That
    apostle of humiliated thought will find at the very end of humiliation
    the means of regenerating being to its very depth.
    Mystical thought has familiarized us with such devices. They are just
    as legitimate as any attitude of mind. But for the moment I am acting
    as if I took a certain problem seriously. Without judging beforehand
    the general value of this attitude or its educative power, I mean simply
    to consider whether it answers the conditions I set myself, whether it
    is worthy of the conflict that concerns me. Thus I return to Chestov. A
    commentator relates a remark of his that deserves interest:
    “The only true solution,” he said, “is precisely where human judgment
    sees no solution. Otherwise, what need would we have of God?
    We turn toward God only to obtain the impossible. As for the possible,
    men suffice.” If there is a Chestovian philosophy, I can say that it is altogether
    summed up in this way. For when, at the conclusion of his
    passionate analyses, Chestov discovers the fundamental absurdity of
    all existence, he does not say: “This is the absurd,” but rather: “This is
    God: we must rely on him even if he does not correspond to any of our
    rational categories.” So that confusion may not be possible, the Russian
    philosopher even hints that this God is perhaps full of hatred and
    hateful, incomprehensible and contradictory; but the more hideous is
    his face, the more he asserts his power. His greatness is his incoherence.
    His proof is his inhumanity. One must spring into him and by
    this leap free oneself from rational illusions. Thus, for Chestov acceptance
    of the absurd is contemporaneous with the absurd itself. Being
    aware of it amounts to accepting it, and the whole logical effort of his
    thought is to bring it out so that at the same time the tremendous hope
    it involves may burst forth. Let me repeat that this attitude is legitimate.
    But I am persisting here in considering a single problem and all its
    consequences. I do not have to examine the emotion of a thought or of
    an act of faith. I have a whole lifetime to do that. I know that the rationalist
    finds Chestov’s attitude annoying. But I also feel that Chestov
    is right rather than the rationalist, and I merely want to know if he remains
    faithful to the commandments of the absurd.
    Now, if it is admitted that the absurd is the contrary of hope, it is
    seen that existential thought for Chestov presupposes the absurd but
    proves it only to dispel it. Such subtlety of thought is a conjuror’s emotional
    trick. When Chestov elsewhere sets his absurd in opposition to
    current morality and reason, he calls it truth and redemption. Hence,
    there is basically in that definition of the absurd an approbation that
    Chestov grants it. If it is admitted that all the power of that notion lies
    in the way it runs counter to our elementary hopes, if it is felt that to
    remain, the absurd requires not to be consented to, then it can be
    clearly seen that it has lost its true aspect, its human and relative character
    in order to enter an eternity that is both incomprehensible and
    satisfying. If there is an absurd, it is in man’s universe. The moment
    the notion transforms itself into eternity’s springboard, it ceases to be
    linked to human lucidity. The absurd is no longer that evidence that
    man ascertains without consenting to it. The struggle is eluded. Man
    integrates the absurd and in that communion causes to disappear its
    essential character, which is opposition, laceration, and divorce. This
    leap is an escape. Chestov, who is so fond of quoting Hamlet’s remark:
    “The time is out of joint,” writes it down with a sort of savage hope
    that seems to belong to him in particular. For it is not in this sense
    that Hamlet says it or Shakespeare writes it. The intoxication of the irrational
    and the vocation of rapture turn a lucid mind away from the
    absurd. To Chestov reason is useless but there is something beyond
    reason. To an absurd mind reason is useless and there is nothing beyond
    reason.
    This leap can at least enlighten us a little more as to the true nature
    of the absurd. We know that it is worthless except in an equilibrium,
    that it is, above all, in the comparison and not in the terms of that
    comparison. But it so happens that Chestov puts all the emphasis on
    one of the terms and destroys the equilibrium. Our appetite for understanding,
    our nostalgia for the absolute are explicable only in so far,
    precisely, as we can understand and explain many things. It is useless
    to negate the reason absolutely. It has its order in which it is efficacious.
    It is properly that of human experience. Whence we wanted to
    make everything clear. If we cannot do so, if the absurd is born on that
    occasion, it is born precisely at the very meeting-point of that efficacious
    but limited reason with the ever resurgent irrational. Now, when
    Chestov rises up against a Hegelian proposition such as “the motion of
    the solar system takes place in conformity with immutable laws and
    those laws are its reason,” when he devotes all his passion to upsetting
    Spinoza’s rationalism, he concludes, in effect, in favor of the vanity of
    all reason. Whence, by a natural and illegitimate reversal, to the preeminence
    of the irrational.[5] But the transition is not evident. For
    here may intervene the notion of limit and the notion of level. The
    laws of nature may be operative up to a certain limit, beyond which
    they turn against themselves to give birth to the absurd. Or else, they
    may justify themselves on the level of description without for that
    reason being true on the level of explanation.
    Everything is sacrificed here to the irrational, and, the demand for
    clarity being conjured away, the absurd disappears with one of the
    terms of its comparison. The absurd man, on the other hand, does not
    undertake such a leveling process. He recognizes the struggle, does not
    absolutely scorn reason, and admits the irrational. Thus he again embraces
    in a single glance all the data of experience and he is little inclined
    to leap before knowing. He knows simply that in that alert
    awareness there is no further place for hope.
    What is perceptible in Leo Chestov will be perhaps even more so in
    Kierkegaard. To be sure, it is hard to outline clear propositions in so
    elusive a writer. But, despite apparently opposed writings, beyond the
    pseudonyms, the tricks, and the smiles, can be felt throughout that
    work, as it were, the presentiment (at the same time as the apprehension)
    of a truth which eventually bursts forth in the last works: Kierkegaard
    likewise takes the leap. His childhood having been so
    frightened by Christianity, he ultimately returns to its harshest aspect.
    For him, too, antinomy and paradox become criteria of the religious.
    Thus, the very thing that led to despair of the meaning and depth of
    this life now gives it its truth and its clarity. Christianity is the scandal,
    and what Kierkegaard calls for quite plainly is the third sacrifice required
    by Ignatius Loyola, the one in which God most rejoices: “The
    sacrifice of the intellect.” [6]
    This effect of the “leap” is odd, but must not surprise us any longer.
    He makes of the absurd the criterion of the other world, whereas it is
    simply a residue of the experience of this world. “In his failure,” says
    Kierkegaard, “the believer finds his triumph.”
    It is not for me to wonder to what stirring preaching this attitude is
    linked. I merely have to wonder if the spectacle of the absurd and its
    own character justifies it. On this point, I know that it is not so. Upon
    considering again the content of the absurd, one understands better
    the method that inspired Kierkegaard. Between the irrational of the
    world and the insurgent nostalgia of the absurd, he does not maintain
    the equilibrium. He does not respect the relationship that constitutes,
    properly speaking, the feeling of absurdity. Sure of being unable to escape
    the irrational, he wants at least to save himself from that desperate
    nostalgia that seems to him sterile and devoid of implication. But if
    he may be right on this point in his judgment, he could not be in his
    negation. If he substitutes for his cry of revolt a frantic adherence, at
    once he is led to blind himself to the absurd which hitherto enlightened
    him and to deify the only certainty he henceforth possesses,
    the irrational. The important thing, as Abbe Galiani said to Mme
    d’Epinay, is not to be cured, but to live with one’s ailments. Kierkegaard
    wants to be cured. To be cured is his frenzied wish, and it
    runs throughout his whole journal. The entire effort of his intelligence
    is to escape the antinomy of the human condition. An all the more desperate
    effort since he intermittently perceives its vanity when he
    speaks of himself, as if neither fear of God nor piety were capable of
    bringing him to peace. Thus it is that, through a strained subterfuge,
    he gives the irrational the appearance and God the attributes of the absurd:
    unjust, incoherent, and incomprehensible. Intelligence alone in
    him strives to stifle the underlying demands of the human heart. Since
    nothing is proved, everything can be proved.
    Indeed, Kierkegaard himself shows us the path taken. I do not want
    to suggest anything here, but how can one fail to read in his works the
    signs of an almost intentional mutilation of the soul to balance the
    mutilation accepted in regard to the absurd? It is the leitmotiv of the
    Journal. “What I lacked was the animal which also belongs to human
    destiny .... But give me a body then.” And further on: “Oh! especially in
    my early youth what should I not have given to be a man, even for six
    months ... what I lack, basically, is a body and the physical conditions
    of existence.” Elsewhere, the same man nevertheless adopts the great
    cry of hope that has come down through so many centuries and
    quickened so many hearts, except that of the absurd man. “But for the
    Christian death is certainly not the end of everything and it implies infinitely
    more hope than life implies for us, even when that life is overflowing
    with health and vigor.” Reconciliation through scandal is still
    reconciliation. It allows one perhaps, as can be seen, to derive hope of
    its contrary, which is death. But even if fellow- feeling inclines one toward
    that attitude, still it must be said that excess justifies nothing.
    That transcends, as the saying goes, the human scale; therefore it must
    be superhuman. But this “therefore” is superfluous. There is no logical
    certainty here. There is no experimental probability either. All I can
    say is that, in fact, that transcends my scale. If I do not draw a negation
    from it, at least I do not want to found anything on the incomprehensible.
    I want to know whether I can live with what I know and with
    that alone. I am told again that here the intelligence must sacrifice its
    pride and the reason bow down. But if I recognize the limits of the
    reason, I do not therefore negate it, recognizing its relative powers. I
    merely want to remain in this middle path where the intelligence can
    remain clear. If that is its pride, I see no sufficient reason for giving it
    up. Nothing more profound, for example, than Kierkegaard’s view according
    to which despair is not a fact but a state: the very state of sin.
    For sin is what alienates from God. The absurd, which is the metaphysical
    state of the conscious man, does not lead to God.[7] Perhaps
    this notion will become clearer if I risk this shocking statement: the
    absurd is sin without God.
    It is a matter of living in that state of the absurd I know on what it is
    founded, this mind and this world straining against each other without
    being able to embrace each other. I ask for the rule— of life of that
    state, and what I am offered neglects its basis, negates one of the
    terms of the painful opposition, demands of me a resignation. I ask
    what is involved in the condition I recognize as mine; I know it implies
    obscurity and ignorance; and I am assured that this ignorance explains
    everything and that this darkness is my light. But there is no
    reply here to my intent, and this stirring lyricism cannot hide the paradox
    from me. One must therefore turn away. Kierkegaard may shout
    in warning: “If man had no eternal consciousness, if, at the bottom of
    everything, there were merely a wild, seething force producing
    everything, both large and trifling, in the storm of dark passions, if the
    bottomless void that nothing can fill underlay all things, what would
    life be but despair?” This cry is not likely to stop the absurd man.
    Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable. If in order to
    elude the anxious question: “What would life be?” one must, like the
    donkey, feed on the roses of illusion, then the absurd mind, rather
    than resigning itself to falsehood, prefers, to adopt fearlessly Kierkegaard’s
    reply: “despair.” Everything considered, a determined soul
    will always manage.
    * * *
    I am taking the liberty at this point of calling the existential attitude
    philosophical suicide. But this does not imply a judgment. It is a convenient
    way of indicating the movement by which a thought negates itself
    and tends to transcend itself in its very negation. For the existentials
    negation is their God. To be precise, that god is maintained only
    through the negation of human reason.[8] But, like suicides, gods
    change with men. There are many ways of leaping, the essential being
    to leap. Those redeeming negations, those ultimate contradictions
    which negate the obstacle that has not yet been leaped over, may
    spring just as well (this is the paradox at which this reasoning aims)
    from a certain religious inspiration as from the rational order. They
    always lay claim to the eternal, and it is solely in this that they take the
    leap.
    It must be repeated that the reasoning developed in this essay leaves
    out altogether the most widespread spiritual attitude of our enlightened
    age: the one, based on the principle that all is reason, which
    aims to explain the world. It is natural to give a clear view of the world
    after accepting the idea that it must be clear. That is even legitimate,
    but does not concern the reasoning we are following out here. In fact,
    our aim is to shed light upon the step taken by the mind when, starting
    from a philosophy of the world’s lack of meaning, it ends up by finding
    a meaning and depth in it. The most touching of those steps is religious
    in essence; it becomes obvious in the theme of the irrational. But
    the most paradoxical and most significant is certainly the one that attributes
    rational reasons to a world it originally imagined as devoid of
    any guiding principle. It is impossible in any case to reach the consequences
    that concern us without having given an idea of this new attainment
    of the spirit of nostalgia.
    I shall examine merely the theme of “the Intention” made fashionable
    by Husserl and the phenomenologists. I have already alluded to
    it. Originally Husserl’s method negates the classic procedure of the
    reason. Let me repeat. Thinking is not unifying or making the appearance
    familiar under the guise of a great principle. Thinking is learning
    all over again how to see, directing one’s consciousness, making of
    every image a privileged place. In other words, phenomenology declines
    to explain the world, it wants to be merely a description of actual
    experience. It confirms absurd thought in its initial assertion that
    there is no truth, but merely truths. From the evening breeze to this
    hand on my shoulder, everything has its truth. Consciousness illuminates
    it by paying attention to it. Consciousness does not form the object
    of its understanding, it merely focuses, it is the act of attention,
    and, to borrow a Bergsonian image, it resembles the projector that
    suddenly focuses on an image. The difference is that there is no scenario,
    but a successive and incoherent illustration. In that magic lantern
    all the pictures are privileged. Consciousness suspends in experience
    the objects of its attention. Through its miracle it isolates them.
    Henceforth they are beyond all judgments. This is the “intention” that
    characterizes consciousness. But the word does not imply any idea of
    finality; it is taken in its sense of “direction”: its only value is topographical.
    At first sight, it certainly seems that in this way nothing contradicts
    the absurd spirit. That apparent modesty of thought that limits itself
    to describing what it declines to explain, that intentional discipline
    whence results paradoxically a profound enrichment of experience and
    the rebirth of the world in its prolixity are absurd procedures. At least
    at first sight. For methods of thought, in this case as elsewhere, always
    assume two aspects, one psychological and the other metaphysical.[9]
    Thereby they harbor two truths. If the theme of the intentional claims
    to illustrate merely a psychological attitude, by which reality is drained
    instead of being explained, nothing in fact separates it from the absurd
    spirit. It aims to enumerate what it cannot transcend. It affirms solely
    that without any unifying principle thought can still take delight in describing
    and understanding every aspect of experience. The truth involved
    then for each of those aspects is psychological in nature. It
    simply testifies to the “interest” that reality can offer. It is a way of
    awaking a sleeping world and of making it vivid to the mind. But if one
    attempts to extend and give a rational basis to that notion of truth, if
    one claims to discover in this way the “essence” of each object of
    knowledge, one restores its depth to experience. For an absurd mind
    that is incomprehensible. Now, it is this wavering between modesty
    and assurance that is noticeable in the intentional attitude, and this
    shimmering of phenomenological thought will illustrate the absurd
    reasoning better than anything else.
    For Husserl speaks likewise of “extra-temporal essences” brought to
    light by the intention, and he sounds like Plato. All things are not explained
    by one thing but by all things. I see no difference. To be sure,
    those ideas or those essences that consciousness “effectuates” at the
    end of every description are not yet to be considered perfect models.
    But it is asserted that they are directly present in each datum of perception.
    There is no longer a single idea explaining everything, but an
    infinite number of essences giving a meaning to an infinite number of
    objects. The world comes to a stop, but also lights up. Platonic realism
    becomes intuitive, but it is still realism. Kierkegaard was swallowed up
    in his God; Parmenides plunged thought into the One. But here
    thought hurls itself into an abstract polytheism. But this is not all: hallucinations
    and fictions likewise belong to “extra-temporal essences.”
    In the new world of ideas, the species of centaurs collaborates with the
    more modest species of metropolitan man.
    For the absurd man, there was a truth as well as a bitterness in that
    purely psychological opinion that all aspects of the world are privileged.
    To say that everything is privileged is tantamount to saying that
    everything is equivalent. But the metaphysical aspect of that truth is so
    far-reaching that through an elementary reaction he feels closer perhaps
    to Plato. He is taught, in fact, that every image presupposes an
    equally privileged essence. In this ideal world without hierarchy, the
    formal army is composed solely of generals. To be sure, transcendency
    had been eliminated. But a sudden shift in thought brings back into
    the world a sort of fragmentary immanence which restores to the universe
    its depth.
    Am I to fear having carried too far a theme handled with greater circumspection
    by its creators? I read merely these assertions of Husserl,
    apparently paradoxical yet rigorously logical if what precedes is accepted:
    “That which is true is true absolutely, in itself; truth is one,
    identical with itself, however different the creatures who perceive it,
    men, monsters, angels or gods.” Reason triumphs and trumpets forth
    with that voice, I cannot deny. What can its assertions mean in the absurd
    world? The perception of an angel or a god has no meaning for
    me. That geometrical spot where divine reason ratifies mine will always
    be incomprehensible to me. There, too, I discern a leap, and
    though performed in the abstract, it nonetheless means for me
    forgetting just what I do not want to forget. When farther on Husserl
    exclaims: “If all masses subject to attraction were to disappear, the law
    of attraction would not be destroyed but would simply remain without
    any possible application,” I know that I am faced with a metaphysic of
    consolation. And if I want to discover the point where thought leaves
    the path of evidence, I have only to reread the parallel reasoning that
    Husserl voices regarding the mind: “If we could contemplate clearly
    the exact laws of psychic processes, they would be seen to be likewise
    eternal and invariable, like the basic laws of theoretical natural science.
    Hence they would be valid even if there were no psychic process.”
    Even if the mind were not, its laws would be! I see then that of a
    psychological truth Husserl aims to make a rational rule: after having
    denied the integrating power of human reason, he leaps by this expedient
    to eternal Reason.
    Husserl’s theme of the “concrete universe” cannot then surprise me.
    If I am told that all essences are not formal but that some are material,
    that the first are the object of logic and the second of science, this is
    merely a question of definition. The abstract, I am told, indicates but a
    part, without consistency in itself, of a concrete universal. But the
    wavering already noted allows me to throw light on the confusion of
    these terms. For that may mean that the concrete object of my attention,
    this sky, the reflection of that water on this coat, alone preserve
    the prestige of the real that my interest isolates in the world. And I
    shall not deny it. But that may mean also that this coat itself is universal,
    has its particular and sufficient essence, belongs to the world of
    forms. I then realize that merely the order of the procession has been
    changed. This world has ceased to have its reflection in a higher universe,
    but the heaven of forms is figured in the host of images of this
    earth. This changes nothing for me. Rather than encountering here a
    taste for the concrete, the meaning of the human condition, I find an
    intellectualism sufficiently unbridled to generalize the concrete itself.
    * * *
    It is futile to be amazed by the apparent paradox that leads thought
    to its own negation by the opposite paths of humiliated reason and triumphal
    reason. From the abstract god of Husserl to the dazzling god
    of Kierkegaard the distance is not so great. Reason and the irrational
    lead to the same preaching. In truth the way matters but little; the will
    to arrive suffices. The abstract philosopher and the religious philosopher
    start out from the same disorder and support each other in the
    same anxiety. But the essential is to explain. Nostalgia is stronger here
    than knowledge. It is significant that the thought of the epoch is at
    once one of the most deeply imbued with a philosophy of the non-significance
    of the world and one of the most divided in its conclusions. It
    is constantly oscillating between extreme rationalization of reality
    which tends to break up that thought into standard reasons and its extreme
    irrationalization which tends to deify it. But this divorce is only
    apparent. It is a matter of reconciliation, and, in both cases, the leap
    suffices. It is always wrongly thought that the notion of reason is a
    oneway notion. To tell the truth, however rigorous it may be in its ambition,
    this concept is nonetheless just as unstable as others. Reason
    bears a quite human aspect, but it also is able to turn toward the divine.
    Since Plotinus, who was the first to reconcile it with the eternal
    climate, it has learned to turn away from the most cherished of its
    principles, which is contradiction, in order to integrate into it the
    strangest, the quite magic one of participation.[10] It is an instrument
    of thought and not thought itself. Above all, a man’s thought is his
    nostalgia.
    Just as reason was able to soothe the melancholy of Plotinus, it
    provides modern anguish the means of calming itself in the familiar
    setting of the eternal. The absurd mind has less luck. For it the world
    is neither so rational nor so irrational. It is unreasonable and only
    that. With Husserl the reason eventually has no limits at all. The absurd,
    on the contrary, establishes its lim-its since it is powerless to
    calm its anguish. Kierkegaard independently asserts that a single limit
    is enough to negate that anguish. But the absurd does not go so far.
    For it that limit is directed solely at the reason’s ambitions. The theme
    of the irrational, as it is conceived by the existentials, is reason becoming
    confused and escaping by negating itself. The absurd is lucid reason
    noting its limits.
    Only at the end of this difficult path does the absurd man recognize
    his true motives. Upon comparing his inner exigence and what is then
    offered him, he suddenly feels he is going to turn away. In the universe
    of Husserl the world becomes clear and that longing for familiarity
    that man’s heart harbors becomes useless. In Kierkegaard’s apocalypse
    that desire for clarity must be given up if it wants to be satisfied.
    Sin is not so much knowing (if it were, everybody would be innocent)
    as wanting to know. Indeed, it is the only sin of which the absurd man
    can feel that it constitutes both his guilt and his innocence. He is
    offered a solution in which all the past contradictions have become
    merely polemical games. But this is not the way he experienced them.
    Their truth must be preserved, which consists in not being satisfied.
    He does not want preaching.
    My reasoning wants to be faithful to the evidence that aroused it.
    That evidence is the absurd. It is that divorce between the mind that
    desires and the world that disappoints, my nostalgia for unity, this
    fragmented universe and the contradiction that binds them together.
    Kierkegaard suppresses my nostalgia and Husserl gathers together
    that universe. That is not what I was expecting. It was a matter of living
    and thinking with those dislocations, of knowing whether one had
    to accept or refuse. There can be no question of masking the evidence,
    of suppressing the absurd by denying one of the terms of its equation.
    It is essential to know whether one can live with it or whether, on the
    other hand, logic commands one to die of it. I am not interested in
    philosophical suicide, but rather in plain suicide. I merely wish to
    purge it of its emotional content and know its logic and its integrity.
    Any other position implies for the absurd mind deceit and the mind’s
    retreat before what the mind itself has brought to light. Husserl claims
    to obey the desire to escape “the inveterate habit of living and thinking
    in certain well- known and convenient conditions of existence,” but
    the final leap restores in him the eternal and its comfort. The leap does
    not represent an extreme danger as Kierkegaard would like it to do.
    The danger, on the contrary, lies in the subtle instant that precedes the
    leap. Being able to remain on that dizzying crest—that is integrity and
    the rest is subterfuge. I know also that never has helplessness inspired
    such striking harmonies as those of Kierkegaard. But if helplessness
    has its place in the indifferent landscapes of history, it has none in a
    reasoning whose exigence is now known.
    Absurd Freedom
    Now the main thing is done, I hold certain facts from which I cannot
    separate. What I know, what is certain, what I cannot deny, what I
    cannot reject—this is what counts. I can negate everything of that part
    of me that lives on vague nostalgias, except this desire for unity, this
    longing to solve, this need for clarity and cohesion. I can refute
    everything in this world surrounding me that offends or enraptures
    me, except this chaos, this sovereign chance and this divine equivalence
    which springs from anarchy. I don’t know whether this world has
    a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that
    meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it. What can
    a meaning outside my condition mean to me? I can understand only in
    human terms. What I touch, what resists me—that is what I understand.
    And these two certainties—my appetite for the absolute and for
    unity and the impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and
    reasonable principle—I also know that I cannot reconcile them. What
    other truth can I admit without lying, without bringing in a hope I lack
    and which means nothing within the limits of my condition?
    If I were a tree among trees, a cat among animals, this life would
    have a meaning, or rather this problem would not arise, for I should
    belong to this world. I should be this world to which I am now opposed
    by my whole consciousness and my whole insistence upon familiarity.
    This ridiculous reason is what sets me in opposition to all
    creation. I cannot cross it out with a stroke of the pen. What I believe
    to be true I must therefore preserve. What seems to me so obvious,
    even against me, I must support. And what constitutes the basis of
    that conflict, of that break between the world and my mind, but the
    awareness of it? If therefore I want to preserve it, I can through a constant
    awareness, ever revived, ever alert. This is what, for the moment,
    I must remember. At this moment the absurd, so obvious and yet so
    hard to win, returns to a man’s life and finds its home there. At this
    moment, too, the mind can leave the arid, dried-up path of lucid effort.
    That path now emerges in daily life. It encounters the world of
    the anonymous impersonal pronoun “one,” but henceforth man enters
    in with his revolt and his lucidity. He has forgotten how to hope. This
    hell of the present is his Kingdom at last. All problems recover their
    sharp edge. Abstract evidence retreats before the poetry of forms and
    colors. Spiritual conflicts become embodied and return to the abject
    and magnificent shelter of man’s heart. None of them is settled. But all
    are transfigured. Is one going to die, escape by the leap, rebuild a mansion
    of ideas and forms to one’s own scale? Is one, on the contrary, going
    to take up the heart-rending and marvelous wager of the absurd?
    Let’s make a final effort in this regard and draw all our conclusions.
    The body, affection, creation, action, human nobility will then resume
    their places in this mad world. At last man will again find there the
    wine of the absurd and the bread of indifference on which he feeds his
    greatness.
    Let us insist again on the method: it is a matter of persisting. At a
    certain point on his path the absurd man is tempted. History is not
    lacking in either religions or prophets, even without gods. He is asked
    to leap. All he can reply is that he doesn’t fully understand, that it is
    not obvious. Indeed, he does not want to do anything but what he fully
    understands. He is assured that this is the sin of pride, but he does not
    understand the notion of sin; that perhaps hell is in store, but he has
    not enough imagination to visualize that strange future; that he is losing
    immortal life, but that seems to him an idle consideration. An attempt
    is made to get him to admit his guilt. He feels innocent. To tell
    the truth, that is all he feels—his irreparable innocence. This is what
    allows him everything. Hence, what he demands of himself is to live
    solely with what he knows, to accommodate himself to what is, and to
    bring in nothing that is not certain. He is told that nothing is. But this
    at least is a certainty. And it is with this that he is concerned: he wants
    to find out if it is possible to live without appeal.
    * * *
    Now I can broach the notion of suicide. It has already been felt what
    solution might be given. At this point the problem is reversed. It was
    previously a question of finding out whether or not life had to have a
    meaning to be lived. It now becomes clear, on the contrary, that it will
    be lived all the better if it has no meaning. Living an experience, a particular
    fate, is accepting it fully. Now, no one will live this fate, knowing
    it to be absurd, unless he does everything to keep before him that
    absurd brought to light by consciousness. Negating one of the terms of
    the opposition on which he lives amounts to escaping it. To abolish
    conscious revolt is to elude the problem. The theme of permanent revolution
    is thus carried into individual experience. Living is keeping
    the absurd alive. Keeping it alive is, above all, contemplating it. Unlike
    Eurydice, the absurd dies only when we turn away from it. One of the
    only coherent philosophical positions is thus revolt. It is a constant
    confrontation between man and his own obscurity. It is an insistence
    upon an impossible transparency. It challenges the world anew every
    second. Just as danger provided man the unique opportunity of seizing
    awareness, so metaphysical revolt extends awareness to the whole
    of experience. It is that constant presence of man in his own eyes. It is
    not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainly of a
    crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.
    This is where it is seen to what a degree absurd experience is remote
    from suicide. It may be thought that suicide follows revolt—but
    wrongly. For it does not represent the logical outcome of revolt. It is
    just the contrary by the consent it presupposes. Suicide, like the leap,
    is acceptance at its extreme. Everything is over and man returns to his
    essential history. His future, his unique and dreadful future—he sees
    and rushes toward it. In its way, suicide settles the absurd. It engulfs
    the absurd in the same death. But I know that in order to keep alive,
    the absurd cannot be settled. It escapes suicide to the extent that it is
    simultaneously awareness and rejection of death. It is, at the extreme
    limit of the condemned man’s last thought, that shoelace that despite
    everything he sees a few yards away, on the very brink of his dizzying
    fall. The contrary of suicide, in fact, is the man condemned to death.
    That revolt gives life its value. Spread out over the whole length of a
    life, it restores its majesty to that life. To a man devoid of blinders,
    there is no finer sight than that of the intelligence at grips with a reality
    that transcends it. The sight of human pride is unequaled. No disparagement
    is of any use. That discipline that the mind imposes on itself,
    that will conjured up out of nothing, that face-to-face struggle
    have something exceptional about them. To impoverish that reality
    whose inhumanity constitutes man’s majesty is tantamount to impoverishing
    him himself. I understand then why the doctrines that explain
    everything to me also debilitate me at the same time. They relieve me
    of the weight of my own life, and yet I must carry it alone. At this juncture,
    I cannot conceive that a skeptical metaphysics can be joined to
    an ethics of renunciation.
    Consciousness and revolt, these rejections are the contrary of renunciation.
    Everything that is indomitable and passionate in a human
    heart quickens them, on the contrary, with its own life. It is essential
    to die unrecon-ciled and not of one’s own free will. Suicide is a repudi—
    ation. The absurd man can only drain everything to the bitter
    end, and deplete himself. The absurd is his extreme tension, which he
    maintains constantly by solitary effort, for he knows that in that consciousness
    and in that day-to-day revolt he gives proof of his only
    truth, which is defiance. This is a first consequence.
    * * *
    If I remain in that prearranged position which consists in drawing
    all the conclusions (and nothing else) involved in a newly discovered
    notion, I am faced with a second paradox. In order to remain faithful
    to that method, I have nothing to do with the problem of metaphysical
    liberty. Knowing whether or not man is free doesn’t interest me. I can
    experience only my own freedom. As to it, I can have no general notions,
    but merely a few clear insights. The problem of “freedom as
    such” has no meaning, for it is linked in quite a different way with the
    problem of God. Knowing whether or not man is free involves knowing
    whether he can have a master. The absurdity peculiar to this problem
    comes from the fact that the very notion that makes the problem of
    freedom possible also takes away all its meaning. For in the presence
    of God there is less a problem of freedom than a problem of evil. You
    know the alternative: either we are not free and God the all-powerful is
    responsible for evil. Or we are free and responsible but God is not all
    powerful. All the scholastic subtleties have neither added anything to
    nor subtracted anything from the acuteness of this paradox.
    This is why I cannot act lost in the glorification or the mere definition
    of a notion which eludes me and loses its meaning as soon as it
    goes beyond the frame of reference of my individual experience. I cannot
    understand what kind of freedom would be given me by a higher
    being. I have lost the sense of hierarchy. The only conception of freedom
    I can have is that of the prisoner or the individual in the midst of
    the State. The only one I know is freedom of thought and action. Now
    if the absurd cancels all my chances of eternal freedom, it restores and
    magnifies, on the other hand, my freedom of action. That privation of
    hope and future means an increase in man’s availability.
    Before encountering the absurd, the everyday man lives with aims, a
    concern for the future or for justification (with regard to whom or
    what is not the question). He weighs his chances, he counts on
    “someday,” his retirement or the labor of his sons. He still thinks that
    something in his life can be directed. In truth, he acts as if he were
    free, even if all the facts make a point of contradicting that liberty. But
    after the absurd, everything is upset. That idea that “I am,” my way of
    acting as if everything has a meaning (even if, on occasion, I said that
    nothing has)—all that is given the lie in vertiginous fashion by the absurdity
    of a possible death. Thinking of the future, establishing aims
    for oneself, having preferences—all this presupposes a belief in freedom,
    even if one occasionally ascertains that one doesn’t feel it. But at
    that moment I am well aware that that higher liberty, that freedom to
    be, which alone can serve as basis for a truth, does not exist. Death is
    there as the only reality. After death the chips are down. I am not even
    free, either, to perpetuate myself, but a slave, and, above all, a slave
    without hope of an eternal revolution, without recourse to contempt.
    And who without revolution and without contempt can remain a
    slave? What freedom can exist in the fullest sense without assurance of
    eternity?
    But at the same time the absurd man realizes that hitherto he was
    bound to that postulate of freedom on the illusion of which he was living.
    In a certain sense, that hampered him. To the extent to which he
    imagined a purpose to his life, he adapted himself to the demands of a
    purpose to be achieved and became the slave of his liberty. Thus I
    could not act otherwise than as the father (or the engineer or the leader
    of a nation, or the post-office sub-clerk) that I am preparing to be. I
    think I can choose to be that rather than something else. I think so unconsciously,
    to be sure. But at the same time I strengthen my postulate
    with the beliefs of those around me, with the presumptions of my human
    environment (others are so sure of being free, and that cheerful
    mood is so contagious!). However far one may remain from any presumption,
    moral or social, one is partly influenced by them and even,
    for the best among them (there are good and bad presumptions), one
    adapts one’s life to them. Thus the absurd man realizes that he was not
    really free. To speak clearly, to the extent to which I hope, to which I
    worry about a truth that might be individual to me, about a way of being
    or creating, to the extent to which I arrange my life and prove
    thereby that I accept its having a meaning, I create for myself barriers
    between which I confine my life. I do like so many bureaucrats of the
    mind and heart who only fill me with disgust and whose only vice, I
    now see clearly, is to take man’s freedom seriously.
    The absurd enlightens me on this point: there is no future. Henceforth
    this is the reason for my inner freedom. I shall use two comparisons
    here. Mystics, to begin with, find freedom in giving themselves. By
    losing themselves in their god, by accepting his rules, they become
    secretly free. In spontaneously accepted slavery they recover a deeper
    independence. But what does that freedom mean? It may be said,
    above all, that they feel free with regard to themselves, and not so
    much free as liberated. Likewise, completely turned toward death
    (taken here as the most obvious absurdity), the absurd man feels released
    from everything outside that passionate attention crystallizing
    in him. He enjoys a freedom with regard to common rules. It can be
    seen at this point that the initial themes of existential philosophy keep
    their entire value. The return to consciousness, the escape from everyday
    sleep represent the first steps of absurd freedom. But it is existential
    preaching that is alluded to, and with it that spiritual leap which
    basically escapes consciousness. In the same way (this is my second
    comparison) the slaves of antiquity did not belong to themselves. But
    they knew that freedom which consists in not feeling responsible.[11]
    Death, too, has patrician hands which, while crushing, also liberate.
    Losing oneself in that bottomless certainty, feeling henceforth sufficiently
    remote from one’s own life to increase it and take a broad view
    of it—this involves the principle of a liberation. Such new independence
    has a definite time limit, like any freedom of action. It does not
    write a check on eternity. But it takes the place of the illusions of
    freedom, which all stopped with death. The divine availability of the
    condemned man before whom the prison doors open in a certain early
    dawn, that unbelievable disinterestedness with regard to everything
    except for the pure flame of life—it is clear that death and the absurd
    are here the principles of the only reasonable freedom: that which a
    human heart can experience and live. This is a second consequence.
    The absurd man thus catches sight of a burning and frigid, transparent
    and limited universe in which nothing is possible but everything is given,
    and beyond which all is collapse and nothingness. He can then decide
    to accept such a universe and draw from it his strength, his refusal
    to hope, and the unyielding evidence of a life without consolation.
    * * *
    But what does life mean in such a universe? Nothing else for the
    moment but indifference to the future and a desire to use up
    everything that is given. Belief in the meaning of life always implies a
    scale of values, a choice, our preferences. Belief in the absurd, according
    to our definitions, teaches the contrary. But this is worth examining.
    Knowing whether or not one can live without appeal is all that interests
    me. I do not want to get out of my depth. This aspect of life being
    given me, can I adapt myself to it? Now, faced with this particular
    concern, belief in the absurd is tantamount to substituting the quantity
    of experiences for the quality. If I convince myself that this life has
    no other aspect than that of the absurd, if I feel that its whole equilibrium
    depends on that perpetual opposition between my conscious revolt
    and the darkness in which it struggles, if I admit that my freedom
    has no meaning except in relation to its limited fate, then I must say
    that what counts is not the best living but the most living. It is not up
    to me to wonder if this is vulgar or revolting, elegant or deplorable.
    Once and for all, value judgments are discarded here in favor of factual
    judgments. I have merely to draw the conclusions from what I can see
    and to risk nothing that is hypothetical. Supposing that living in this
    way were not honorable, then true propriety would command me to be
    dishonorable.
    The most living; in the broadest sense, that rule means nothing. It
    calls for definition. It seems to begin with the fact that the notion of
    quantity has not been sufficiently explored. For it can account for a
    large share of human experience. A man’s rule of conduct and his scale
    of values have no meaning except through the quantity and variety of
    experiences he has been in a position to accumulate. Now, the conditions
    of modern life impose on the majority of men the same quantity
    of experiences and consequently the same profound experience. To be
    sure, there must also be taken into consideration the individual’s
    spontaneous contribution, the “given” element in him. But I cannot
    judge of that, and let me repeat that my rule here is to get along with
    the immediate evidence. I see, then, that the individual character of a
    common code of ethics lies not so much in the ideal importance of its
    basic principles as in the norm of an experience that it is possible to
    measure. To stretch a point somewhat, the Greeks had the code of
    their leisure just as we have the code of our eight-hour day. But
    already many men among the most tragic cause us to foresee that a
    longer experience changes this table of values. They make us imagine
    that adventurer of the everyday who through mere quantity of experiences
    would break all records (I am purposely using this sports expression)
    and would thus win his own code of ethics.[12] Yet let’s
    avoid romanticism and just ask ourselves what such an attitude may
    mean to a man with his mind made up to take up his bet and to observe
    strictly what he takes to be the rules of the game.
    Breaking all the records is first and foremost being faced with the
    world as often as possible. How can that be done without contradictions
    and without playing on words? For on the one hand the absurd
    teaches that all experiences are unimportant, and on the other it urges
    toward the greatest quantity of experiences. How, then, can one fail to
    do as so many of those men I was speaking of earlier—choose the form
    of life that brings us the most possible of that human matter, thereby
    introducing a scale of values that on the other hand one claims to reject?
    But again it is the absurd and its contradictory life that teaches us.
    For the mistake is thinking that that quantity of experiences depends
    on the circumstances of our life when it depends solely on us. Here we
    have to be over-simple. To two men living the same number of years,
    the world always provides the same sum of experiences. It is up to us
    to be conscious of them. Being aware of one’s life, one’s revolt, one’s
    freedom, and to the maximum, is living, and to the maximum. Where
    lucidity dominates, the scale of values becomes useless. Let’s be even
    more simple. Let us say that the sole obstacle, the sole deficiency to be
    made good, is constituted by premature death. Thus it is that no
    depth, no emotion, no passion, and no sacrifice could render equal in
    the eyes of the absurd man (even if he wished it so) a conscious life of
    forty years and a lucidity spread over sixty years.[13] Madness and
    death are his irreparables. Man does not choose. The absurd and the
    extra life it involves therefore do not depend on man’s will, but on its
    contrary, which is death.[14] Weighing words carefully, it is altogether
    a question of luck. One just has to be able to consent to this. There
    will never be any substitute for twenty years of life and experience.
    By what is an odd inconsistency in such an alert race, the Greeks
    claimed that those who died young were beloved of the gods. And that
    is true only if you are willing to believe that entering the ridiculous
    world of the gods is forever losing the purest of joys, which is feeling,
    and feeling on this earth. The present and the succession of presents
    before a constantly conscious soul is the ideal of the absurd man. But
    the word “ideal” rings false in this connection. It is not even his vocation,
    but merely the third consequence of his reasoning. Having started
    from an anguished awareness of the inhuman, the meditation on
    the absurd returns at the end of its itinerary to the very heart of the
    passionate flames of human revolt.[15]
    * * *
    Thus I draw from the absurd three consequences, which are my revolt,
    my freedom, and my passion. By the mere activity of consciousness
    I transform into a rule of life what was an invitation to
    death—and I refuse suicide. I know, to be sure, the dull resonance that
    vibrates throughout these days. Yet I have but a word to say: that it is
    necessary. When Nietzsche writes: “It clearly seems that the chief
    thing in heaven and on earth is to obey at length and in a single direction:
    in the long run there results something for which it is worth the
    trouble of living on this earth as, for example, virtue, art, music, the
    dance, reason, the mind— something that transfigures, something delicate,
    mad, or divine,” he elucidates the rule of a really distinguished
    code of ethics. But he also points the way of the absurd man. Obeying
    the flame is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do. However, it is
    good for man to judge himself occasionally. He is alone in being able
    to do so.
    “Prayer,” says Alain, “is when night descends over thought.”
    “But the mind must meet the night,” reply the mystics and the existentials.
    Yes, indeed, but not that night that is born under closed eyelids
    and through the mere will of man—dark, impenetrable night that
    the mind calls up in order to plunge into it. If it must encounter a
    night, let it be rather that of despair, which remains lucid—polar night,
    vigil of the mind, whence will arise perhaps that white and virginal
    brightness which outlines every object in the light of the intelligence.
    At that degree, equivalence encounters passionate understanding.
    Then it is no longer even a question of judging the existential leap. It
    resumes its place amid the age-old fresco of human attitudes. For the
    spectator, if he is conscious, that leap is still absurd. In so far as it
    thinks it solves the paradox, it reinstates it intact. On this score, it is
    stirring. On this score, everything resumes its place and the absurd
    world is reborn in all its splendor and diversity.
    But it is bad to stop, hard to be satisfied with a single way of seeing,
    to go without contradiction, perhaps the most subtle of all spiritual
    forces. The preceding merely defines a way of thinking. But the point
    is to live.


    THE ABSURD MAN

    If Stavrogin believes, he does not think he believes. If he does not
    believe, he does not think he does not believe.
    —The Possessed
    MY FIELD,” said Goethe, “is time.” That is indeed the absurd
    speech. What, in fact, is the absurd man? He who, without
    negating it, does nothing for the eternal. Not that nostalgia is foreign
    to him. But he prefers his courage and his reasoning. The first teaches
    him to live without appeal and to get along with what he has; the
    second informs him of his limits. Assured of his temporally limited
    freedom, of his revolt devoid of future, and of his mortal consciousness,
    he lives out his adventure within the span of his lifetime. That is
    his field, that is his action, which he shields from any judgment but his
    own. A greater life cannot mean for him another life. That would be
    unfair. I am not even speaking here of that paltry eternity that is called
    posterity. Mme Roland relied on herself. That rashness was taught a
    lesson. Posterity is glad to quote her remark, but forgets to judge it.
    Mme Roland is indifferent to posterity.
    There can be no question of holding forth on ethics. I have seen
    people behave badly with great morality and I note every day that integrity
    has no need of rules. There is but one moral code that the absurd
    man can accept, the one that is not separated from God: the one
    that is dictated. But it so happens that he lives outside that God. As for
    the others (I mean also immoralism), the absurd man sees nothing in
    them but justifications and he has nothing to justify. I start out here
    from the principle of his innocence.
    That innocence is to be feared. “Everything is permitted,” exclaims
    Ivan Karamazov. That, too, smacks of the absurd. But on condition
    that it not be taken in the vulgar sense. I don’t know whether or not it
    has been sufficiently pointed out that it is not an outburst of relief or
    of joy, but rather a bitter acknowledgment of a fact. The certainty of a
    God giving a meaning to life far surpasses in attractiveness the ability
    to behave badly with impunity. The choice would not be hard to make.
    But there is no choice, and that is where the bitterness comes in. The
    absurd does not liberate; it binds. It does not authorize all actions.
    “Everything is permitted” does not mean that nothing is forbidden.
    The absurd merely confers an equivalence on the consequences of
    those actions. It does not recommend crime, for this would be childish,
    but it restores to remorse its futility. Likewise, if all experiences
    are indifferent, that of duty is as legitimate as any other. One can be
    virtuous through a whim.
    All systems of morality are based on the idea that an action has consequences
    that legitimize or cancel it. A mind imbued with the absurd
    merely judges that those consequences must be considered calmly. It
    is ready to pay up. In other words, there may be responsible persons,
    but there are no guilty ones, in its opinion. At very most, such a mind
    will consent to use past experience as a basis for its future actions.
    Time will prolong time, and life will serve life. In this field that is both
    limited and bulging with possibilities, everything in himself, except his
    lucidity, seems unforeseeable to him. What rule, then, could emanate
    from that unreasonable order? The only truth that might seem instructive
    to him is not formal: it comes to life and unfolds in men. The
    absurd mind cannot so much expect ethical rules at the end of its reasoning
    as, rather, illustrations and the breath of human lives. The few
    following images are of this type. They prolong the absurd reasoning
    by giving it a specific attitude and their warmth.
    Do I need to develop the idea that an example is not necessarily an
    example to be followed (even less so, if possible, in the absurd world)
    and that these illustrations are not therefore models? Besides the fact
    that a certain vocation is required for this, one becomes ridiculous,
    with all due allowance, when drawing from Rousseau the conclusion
    that one must walk on all fours and from Nietzsche that one must maltreat
    one’s mother. “It is essential to be absurd,” writes a modern author,
    “it is not essential to be a dupe.” The attitudes of which I shall
    treat can assume their whole meaning only through consideration of
    their contraries. A sub- clerk in the post office is the equal of a conqueror
    if consciousness is common to them. All experiences are indifferent
    in this regard. There are some that do either a service or a disservice
    to man. They do him a service if he is conscious. Otherwise,
    that has no importance: a man’s failures imply judgment, not of circumstances,
    but of himself.
    I am choosing solely men who aim only to expend themselves or
    whom I see to be expending themselves. That has no further implications.
    For the moment I want to speak only of a world in which
    thoughts, like lives, are devoid of future. Everything that makes man
    work and get excited utilizes hope. The sole thought that is not mendacious
    is therefore a sterile thought. In the absurd world the value of
    a notion or of a life is measured by its sterility.
    Don Juanism
    If it were sufficient to love, things would be too easy. The more one
    loves, the stronger the absurd grows. It is not through lack of love that
    Don Juan goes from woman to woman. It is ridiculous to represent
    him as a mystic in quest of total love. But it is indeed because he loves
    them with the same passion and each time with his whole self that he
    must repeat his gift and his profound quest. Whence each woman
    hopes to give him what no one has ever given him. Each time they are
    utterly wrong and merely manage to make him feel the need of that repetition.
    “At last,” exclaims one of them, “I have given you love.” Can
    we be surprised that Don Juan laughs at this? “At last? No,” he says,
    “but once more.” Why should it be essential to love rarely in order to
    love much?
    Is Don Juan melancholy? This is not likely. I shall barely have recourse
    to the legend. That laugh, the conquering insolence, that playfulness
    and love of the theater are all clear and joyous. Every healthy
    creature tends to multiply himself. So it is with Don Juan. But, furthermore,
    melancholy people have two reasons for being so: they don’t
    know or they hope. Don Juan knows and does not hope. He reminds
    one of those artists who know their limits, never go beyond them, and
    in that precarious interval in which they take their spiritual stand enjoy
    all the wonderful ease of masters. And that is indeed genius: the
    intelligence that knows its frontiers. Up to the frontier of physical
    death Don Juan is ignorant of melancholy. The moment he knows, his
    laugh bursts forth and makes one forgive everything. He was melancholy
    at the time when he hoped. Today, on the mouth of that woman
    he recognizes the bitter and comforting taste of the only knowledge.
    Bitter? Barely: that necessary imperfection that makes happiness perceptible!
    It is quite false to try to see in Don Juan a man brought up on Ecclesiastes.
    For nothing is vanity to him except the hope of another life. He
    proves this because he gambles that other life against heaven itself.
    Longing for desire killed by satisfaction, that commonplace of the impotent
    man, does not belong to him. That is all right for Faust, who believed
    in God enough to sell himself to the devil. For Don Juan the
    thing is simpler. Molina’s Burlador ever replies to the threats of hell:
    “What a long respite you give me!” What comes after death is futile,
    and what a long succession of days for whoever knows how to be alive!
    Faust craved worldly goods; the poor man had only to stretch out his
    hand. It already amounted to selling his soul when he was unable to
    gladden it. As for satiety, Don Juan insists upon it, on the contrary. If
    he leaves a woman it is not absolutely because he has ceased to desire
    her. A beautiful woman is always desirable. But he desires another,
    and no, this is not the same thing.
    This life gratifies his every wish, and nothing is worse than losing it.
    This madman is a great wise man. But men who live on hope do not
    thrive in this universe where kindness yields to generosity, affection to
    virile silence, and communion to solitary courage. And all hasten to
    say: “He was a weakling, an idealist or a saint.” One has to disparage
    the greatness that insults.
    * * *
    People are sufficiently annoyed (or that smile of complicity that debases
    what it admires) by Don Juan’s speeches and by that same remark
    that he uses on all women. But to anyone who seeks quantity in
    his joys, the only thing that matters is efficacy. What is the use of complicating
    the passwords that have stood the test? No one, neither the
    woman nor the man, listens to them, but rather to the voice that pronounces
    them. They are the rule, the convention, and the courtesy.
    After they are spoken the most important still remains to be done. Don
    Juan is already getting ready for it. Why should he give himself a problem
    in morality? He is not like Milosz’s Manara, who damns himself
    through a desire to be a saint. Hell for him is a thing to be provoked.
    He has but one reply to divine wrath, and that is human honor: “I have
    honor,” he says to the Commander, “and I am keeping my promise because
    I am a knight.” But it would be just as great an error to make an
    immoralist of him. In this regard, he is “like everyone else”: he has the
    moral code of his likes and dislikes. Don Juan can be properly understood
    only by constant reference to what he commonly symbolizes: the
    ordinary seducer and the sexual athlete. He is an ordinary seducer.[
    16] Except for the difference that he is conscious, and that is why
    he is absurd. A seducer who has become lucid will not change for all
    that. Seducing is his condition in life. Only in novels does one change
    condition or become better. Yet it can be said that at the same time
    nothing is changed and everything is transformed. What Don Juan
    realizes in action is an ethic of quantity, whereas the saint, on the
    contrary, tends toward quality. Not to believe in the profound meaning
    of things belongs to the absurd man. As for those cordial or wonderstruck
    faces, he eyes them, stores them up, and does not pause over
    them. Time keeps up with him. The absurd man is he who is not apart
    from time. Don Juan does not think of “collecting” women. He exhausts
    their number and with them his chances of life. “Collecting”
    amounts to being capable of living off one’s past. But he rejects regret,
    that other form of hope. He is incapable of looking at portraits.
    * * *
    Is he selfish for all that? In his way, probably. But here, too, it is essential
    to understand one another.
    There are those who are made for living and those who are made for
    loving. At least Don Juan would be inclined to say so. But he would do
    so in a very few words such as he is capable of choosing. For the love
    we are speaking of here is clothed in illusions of the eternal. As all the
    specialists in passion teach us, there is no eternal love but what is
    thwarted. There is scarcely any passion without struggle. Such a love
    culminates only in the ultimate contradiction of death. One must be
    Werther or nothing. There, too, there are several ways of committing
    suicide, one of which is the total gift and forget-fulness of self. Don
    Juan, as well as anyone else, knows that this can be stirring. But he is
    one of the very few who know that this is not the important thing. He
    knows just as well that those who turn away from all personal life
    through a great love enrich themselves perhaps but certainly impoverish
    those their love has chosen. A mother or a passionate wife necessarily
    has a closed heart, for it is turned away from the world. A single
    emotion, a single creature, a single face, but all is devoured. Quite a
    different love disturbs Don Juan, and this one is liberating. It brings
    with it all the faces in the world, and its tremor comes from the fact
    that it knows itself to be mortal. Don Juan has chosen to be nothing.
    For him it is a matter of seeing clearly. We call love what binds us to
    certain creatures only by reference to a collective way of seeing for
    which books and legends are responsible. But of love I know only that
    mixture of desire, affection, and intelligence that binds me to this or
    that creature. That compound is not the same for another person. I do
    not have the right to cover all these experiences with the same name.
    This exempts one from conducting them with the same gestures. The
    absurd man multiplies here again what he cannot unify. Thus he discovers
    a new way of being which liberates him at least as much as it
    liberates those who approach him. There is no noble love but that
    which recognizes itself to be both short-lived and exceptional. All
    those deaths and all those rebirths gathered together as in a sheaf
    make up for Don Juan the flowering of his life. It is his way of giving
    and of vivifying. I let it be decided whether or not one can speak of
    selfishness.
    * * *
    I think at this point of all those who absolutely insist that Don Juan
    be punished. Not only in another life, but even in this one. I think of
    all those tales, legends, and laughs about the aged Don Juan. But Don
    Juan is already ready. To a conscious man old age and what it portends
    are not a surprise. Indeed, he is conscious only in so far as he
    does not conceal its horror from himself. There was in Athens a temple
    dedicated to old age. Children were taken there. As for Don Juan, the
    more people laugh at him, the more his figure stands out. Thereby he
    rejects the one the romantics lent him. No one wants to laugh at that
    tormented, pitiful Don Juan. He is pitied; heaven itself will redeem
    him? But that’s not it. In the universe of which Don Juan has a
    glimpse, ridicule too is included. He would consider it normal to be
    chastised. That is the rule of the game. And, indeed, it is typical of his
    nobility to have accepted all the rules of the game. Yet he knows he is
    right and that there can be no question of punishment. A fate is not a
    punishment.
    That is his crime, and how easy it is to understand why the men of
    God call down punishment on his head. He achieves a knowledge
    without illusions which negates everything they profess. Loving and
    possessing, conquering and consuming—that is his way of knowing.
    (There is significance in that favorite Scriptural word that calls the carnal
    act “knowing.”) He is their worst enemy to the extent that he is ignorant
    of them. A chronicler relates that the true Burlador died assassinated
    by Fransciscans who wanted “to put an end to the excesses and
    blasphemies of Don Juan, whose birth assured him impunity.” Then
    they proclaimed that heaven had struck him down. No one has proved
    that strange end. Nor has anyone proved the contrary. But without
    wondering if it is probable, I can say that it is logical. I want merely to
    single out at this point the word “birth” and to play on words: it was
    the fact of living that assured his innocence. It was from death alone
    that he derived a guilt now become legendary.
    What else does that stone Commander signify, that cold statue set in
    motion to punish the blood and courage that dared to think? All the
    powers of eternal Reason, of order, of universal morality, all the foreign
    grandeur of a God open to wrath are summed up in him. That gigantic
    and soulless stone merely symbolizes the forces that Don Juan
    negated forever. But the Commander’s mission stops there. The thunder
    and lightning can return to the imitation heaven whence they were
    called forth. The real tragedy takes place quite apart from them. No, it
    was not under a stone hand that Don Juan met his death. I am inclined
    to believe in the legendary bravado, in that mad laughter of the
    healthy man provoking a non- existent God. But, above all, I believe
    that on that evening when Don Juan was waiting at Anna’s the Commander
    didn’t come, and that after midnight the blasphemer must
    have felt the dreadful bitterness of those who have been right. I accept
    even more readily the account of his life that has him eventually burying
    himself in a monastery. Not that the edifying aspect of the story
    can he considered probable. What refuge can he go ask of God? But
    this symbolizes rather the logical outcome of a life completely imbued
    with the absurd, the grim ending of an existence turned toward short
    lived joys. At this point sensual pleasure winds up in asceticism. It is
    essential to realize that they may be, as it were, the two aspects of the
    same destitution. What more ghastly image can be called up than that
    of a man betrayed by his body who, simply because he did not die in
    time, lives out the comedy while awaiting the end, face to face with
    that God he does not adore, serving him as he served life, kneeling before
    a void and arms outstretched toward a heaven without eloquence
    that he knows to he also without depth?
    I see Don Juan in a cell of one of those Spanish monasteries lost on
    a hilltop. And if he contemplates anything at all, it is not the ghosts of
    past loves, but perhaps, through a narrow slit in the sun- baked wall,
    some silent Spanish plain, a noble, soulless land in which he recognizes
    himself. Yes, it is on this melancholy and radiant image that the
    curtain must be rung down. The ultimate end, awaited but never desired,
    the ultimate end is negligible.
    Drama
    “The play’s the thing,” says Hamlet, “wherein I’ll catch the conscience
    of the king.”
    “Catch” is indeed the word. For conscience moves swiftly or withdraws
    within itself. It has to be caught on the wing, at that barely perceptible
    moment when it glances fleetingly at itself. The everyday man
    does not enjoy tarrying. Everything, on the contrary, hurries him onward.
    But at the same time nothing interests him more than himself,
    especially his potentialities. Whence his interest in the theater, in the
    show, where so many fates are offered him, where he can accept the
    poetry without feeling the sorrow. There at least can be recognized the
    thoughtless man, and he continues to hasten toward some hope or
    other. The absurd man begins where that one leaves off, where,
    ceasing to admire the play, the mind wants to enter in. Entering into
    all these lives, experiencing them in their diversity, amounts to acting
    them out. I am not saying that actors in general obey that impulse,
    that they are absurd men, but that their fate is an absurd fate which
    might charm and attract a lucid heart. It is necessary to establish this
    in order to grasp without misunderstanding what will follow.
    The actor’s realm is that of the fleeting. Of all kinds of fame, it is
    known, his is the most ephemeral. At least, this is said in conversation.
    But all kinds of fame are ephemeral. From the point of view of Sirius,
    Goethe’s works in ten thousand years will be dust and his name forgotten.
    Perhaps a handful of archaeologists will look for “evidence” as
    to our era. That idea has always contained a lesson. Seriously meditated
    upon, it reduces our perturbations to the profound nobility that is
    found in indifference. Above all, it directs our concerns toward what is
    most certain— that is, toward the immediate. Of all kinds of fame the
    least deceptive is the one that is lived.
    Hence the actor has chosen multiple fame, the fame that is hallowed
    and tested. From the fact that everything is to die someday he draws
    the best conclusion. An actor succeeds or does not succeed. A writer
    has some hope even if he is not appreciated. He assumes that his
    works will bear witness to what he was. At best the actor will leave us a
    photograph, and nothing of what he was himself, his gestures and his
    silences, his gasping or his panting with love, will come down to us.
    For him, not to be known is not to act, and not acting is dying a hundred
    times with all the creatures he would have brought to life or
    resuscitated.
    * * *
    Why should we be surprised to find a fleeting fame built upon the
    most ephemeral of creations? The actor has three hours to be Iago or
    Alceste, Phedre or Gloucester. In that short space of time he makes
    them come to life and die on fifty square yards of boards. Never has
    the absurd been so well illustrated or at such length. What more revelatory
    epitome can be imagined than those marvelous lives, those exceptional
    and total destinies unfolding for a few hours within a stage
    set? Off the stage, Sigismundo ceases to count. Two hours later he is
    seen dining out. Then it is, perhaps, that life is a dream. But after Sigismundo
    comes another. The hero suffering from uncertainty takes
    the place of the man roaring for his revenge. By thus sweeping over
    centuries and minds, by miming man as he can be and as he is, the
    actor has much in common with that other absurd individual, the traveler.
    Like him, he drains something and is constantly on the move. He
    is a traveler in time and, for the best, the hunted traveler, pursued by
    souls. If ever the ethics of quantity could find sustenance, it is indeed
    on that strange stage. To what degree the actor benefits from the characters
    is hard to say. But that is not the important thing. It is merely a
    matter of knowing how far he identifies himself with those irreplaceable
    lives. It often happens that he carries them with him, that they
    somewhat overflow the time and place in which they were born. They
    accompany the actor, who cannot very readily separate himself from
    what he has been. Occasionally when reaching for his glass he resumes
    Hamlet’s gesture of raising his cup. No, the distance separating him
    from the creatures into whom he infuses life is not so great. He abundantly
    illustrates every month or every day that so suggestive truth that
    there is no frontier between what a man wants to be and what he is.
    Always concerned with better representing, he demonstrates to what a
    degree appearing creates being. For that is his art—to simulate absolutely,
    to project himself as deeply as possible into lives that are not
    his own. At the end of his effort his vocation becomes clear: to apply
    himself wholeheartedly to being nothing or to being several. The narrower
    the limits allotted him for creating his character, the more necessary
    his talent. He will die in three hours under the mask he has assumed
    today. Within three hours he must experience and express a
    whole exceptional life. That is called losing oneself to find oneself. In
    those three hours he travels the whole course of the dead-end path
    that the man in the audience takes a lifetime to cover.
    * * *
    A mime of the ephemeral, the actor trains and perfects himself only
    in appearances. The theatrical convention is that the heart expresses
    itself and communicates itself only through gestures and in the
    body—or through the voice, which is as much of the soul as of the
    body. The rule of that art insists that everything be magnified and
    translated into flesh. If it were essential on the stage to love as people
    really love, to employ that irreplaceable voice of the heart, to look as
    people contemplate in life, our speech would be in code. But here silences
    must make themselves heard. Love speaks up louder, and immobility
    itself becomes spectacular. The body is king, Not everyone
    can be “theatrical,” and this unjustly maligned word covers a whole
    aesthetic and a whole ethic. Half a man’s life is spent in implying, in
    turning away, and in keeping silent. Here the actor is the intruder. He
    breaks the spell chaining that soul, and at last the passions can rush
    onto their stage. They speak in every gesture; they live only through
    shouts and cries. Thus the actor creates his characters for display. He
    outlines or sculptures them and slips into their imaginary form, transfusing
    his blood into their phantoms. I am of course speaking of great
    drama, the kind that gives the actor an opportunity to fulfill his wholly
    physical fate. Take Shakespeare, for instance. In that impulsive drama
    the physical passions lead the dance. They explain everything. Without
    them all would collapse. Never would King Lear keep the appointment
    set by madness without the brutal gesture that exiles Cordelia and
    condemns Edgar. It is just that the unfolding of that tragedy should
    thenceforth be dominated by madness. Souls are given over to the
    demons and their saraband. No fewer than four madmen: one by
    trade, another by intention, and the last two through suffering—four
    disordered bodies, four unutterable aspects of a single condition.
    The very scale of the human body is inadequate. The mask and the
    buskin, the make-up that reduces and accentuates the face in its essential
    elements, the costume that exaggerates and simplifies— that
    universe sacrifices everything to appearance and is made solely for the
    eye. Through an absurd miracle, it is the body that also brings knowledge.
    I should never really understand Iago unless I played his part. It
    is not enough to hear him, for I grasp him only at the moment when I
    see him. Of the absurd character the actor consequently has the monotony,
    that single, oppressive silhouette, simultaneously strange and familiar,
    that he carries about from hero to hero. There, too, the great
    dramatic work contributes to this unity of tone.[17] This is where the
    actor contradicts himself: the same and yet so various, so many souls
    summed up in a single body. Yet it is the absurd contradiction itself,
    that individual who wants to achieve everything and live everything,
    that useless attempt, that ineffectual persistence. What always contradicts
    itself nevertheless joins in him. He is at that point where body
    and mind converge, where the mind, tired of its defeats, turns toward
    its most faithful ally. “And blest are those,” says Hamlet, “whose blood
    and judgment are so well commingled that they are not a pipe for fortune’s
    finger to sound what stop she please.”
    How could the Church have failed to condemn such a practice on the
    part of the actor? She repudiated in that art the heretical multiplication
    of souls, the emotional debauch, the scandalous presumption of a
    mind that objects to living but one life and hurls itself into all forms of
    excess. She proscribed in them that preference for the present and that
    triumph of Proteus which are the negation of everything she teaches.
    Eternity is not a game. A mind foolish enough to prefer a comedy to
    eternity has lost its salvation. Between “everywhere” and “forever”
    there is no compromise. Whence that much maligned profession can
    give rise to a tremendous spiritual conflict. “What matters,” said Nietzsche,
    “is not eternal life but eternal vivacity.” All drama is, in fact, in
    this choice. Celimene against Elianthe, the whole subject in the absurd
    consequence of a nature carried to its extreme, and the verse itself, the
    “bad verse,” barely accented like the monotony of the character’s
    nature.
    Adrienne Lecouvreur on her deathbed was willing to confess and receive
    communion, but refused to abjure her profession. She thereby
    lost the benefit of the confession. Did this not amount, in effect, to
    choosing her absorbing passion in preference to God? And that woman
    in the death throes refusing in tears to repudiate what she called
    her art gave evidence of a greatness that she never achieved behind the
    footlights. This was her finest role and the hardest one to play. Choosing
    between heaven and a ridiculous fidelity, preferring oneself to
    eternity or losing oneself in God is the age-old tragedy in which each
    must play his part.
    The actors of the era knew they were excommunicated. Entering the
    profession amounted to choosing Hell. And the Church discerned in
    them her worst enemies. A few men of letters protest: “What! Refuse
    the last rites to Moliere!” But that was just, and especially in one who
    died onstage and finished under the actor’s make-up a life entirely devoted
    to dispersion. In his case genius is invoked, which excuses
    everything. But genius excuses nothing, just because it refuses to do
    so.
    The actor knew at that time what punishment was in store for him.
    But what significance could such vague threats have compared to the
    final punishment that life itself was reserving for him? This was the
    one that he felt in advance and accepted wholly. To the actor as to the
    absurd man, a premature death is irreparable. Nothing can make up
    for the sum of faces and centuries he would otherwise have traversed.
    But in any case, one has to die. For the actor is doubtless everywhere,
    but time sweeps him along, too, and makes its impression with him.
    It requires but a little imagination to feel what an actor’s fate means.
    It is in time that he makes up and enumerates his characters. It is in
    time likewise that he learns to dominate them. The greater number of
    different lives he has lived, the more aloof he can be from them. The
    time comes when he must die to the stage and for the world. What he
    has lived faces him. He sees clearly. He feels the harrowing and irreplaceable
    quality of that adventure. He knows and can now die. There
    are homes for aged actors.
    Conquest
    “No,” says the conqueror, “don’t assume that because I love action I
    have had to forget how to think. On the contrary I can throughly
    define what I believe. For I believe it firmly and I see it surely and
    clearly. Beware of those who say: ‘I know this too well to be able to express
    it.’ For if they cannot do so, this is because they don’t know it or
    because out of laziness they stopped at the outer crust.
    “I have not many opinions. At the end of a life man notices that he
    has spent years becoming sure of a single truth. But a single truth, if it
    is obvious, is enough to guide an existence. As for me, I decidedly have
    something to say about the individual. One must speak of him bluntly
    and, if need be, with the appropriate contempt.
    “A man is more a man through the things he keeps to himself than
    through those he says. There are many that I shall keep to myself. But
    I firmly believe that all those who have judged the individual have
    done so with much less experience than we on which to base their
    judgment. The intelligence, the stirring intelligence perhaps foresaw
    what it was essential to note. But the era, its ruins, and its blood overwhelm
    us with facts. It was possible for ancient nations, and even for
    more recent ones down to our machine age, to weigh one against the
    other the virtues of society and of the individual, to try to find out
    which was to serve the other. To begin with, that was possible by virtue
    of that stubborn aberration in man’s heart according to which human
    beings were created to serve or be served. In the second place, it
    was possible because neither society nor the individual had yet revealed
    all their ability.
    “I have seen bright minds express astonishment at the masterpieces
    of Dutch painters born at the height of the bloody wars in Flanders, be
    amazed by the prayers of Silesian mystics brought up during the
    frightful Thirty Years’ War. Eternal values survive secular turmoils before
    their astonished eyes. But there has been progress since. The
    painters of today are deprived of such serenity. Even if they have basically
    the heart the creator needs—I mean the closed heart—it is of no
    use; for everyone, including the saint himself, is mobilized. This is perhaps
    what I have felt most deeply. At every form that miscarries in the
    trenches, at every outline, metaphor, or prayer crushed under steel,
    the eternal loses a round. Conscious that I cannot stand aloof from my
    time, I have decided to be an integral part of it. This is why I esteem
    the individual only because he strikes me as ridiculous and humiliated.
    Knowing that there are no victorious causes, I have a liking for
    lost causes: they require an uncontaminated soul, equal to its defeat as
    to its temporary victories. For anyone who feels bound up with this
    world’s fate, the clash of civilizations has something agonizing about
    it. I have made that anguish mine at the same time that I wanted to
    join in. Between history and the eternal I have chosen history because
    I like certainties. Of it, at least, I am certain, and how can I deny this
    force crushing me?
    “There always comes a time when one must choose between contemplation
    and action. This is called becoming a man. Such wrenches
    are dreadful. But for a proud heart there can be no compromise. There
    is God or time, that cross or this sword. This world has a higher meaning
    that transcends its worries, or nothing is true but those worries.
    One must live with time and die with it, or else elude it for a greater
    life. I know that one can compromise and live in the world while believing
    in the eternal. That is called accepting. But I loathe this term
    and want all or nothing. If I choose action, don’t think that contemplation
    is like an unknown country to me. But it cannot give me
    everything, and, deprived of the eternal, I want to ally myself with
    time. I do not want to put down to my account either nostalgia or
    bitterness, and I merely want to see clearly. I tell you, tomorrow you
    will be mobilized. For you and for me that is a liberation. The individual
    can do nothing and yet he can do everything. In that wonderful
    unattached state you understand why I exalt and crush him at one and
    the same time. It is the world that pulverizes him and I who liberate
    him. I provide him with all his rights.
    “Conquerors know that action is in itself useless. There is but one
    useful action, that of remaking man and the earth. I shall never remake
    men. But one must do ’as if.’ For the path of struggle leads me to
    the flesh. Even humiliated, the flesh is my only certainty. I can live
    only on it. The creature is my native land. This is why I have chosen
    this absurd and ineffectual effort. This is why I am on the side of the
    struggle. The epoch lends itself to this, as I have said. Hitherto the
    greatness of a conqueror was geographical. It was measured by the extent
    of the conquered territories. There is a reason why the word has
    changed in meaning and has ceased to signify the victorious general.
    The greatness has changed camp. It lies in protest and the blind-alley
    sacrifice. There, too, it is not through a preference for defeat. Victory
    would be desirable. But there is but one victory, and it is eternal. That
    is the one I shall never have. That is where I stumble and cling. A revolution
    is always accomplished against the gods, beginning with the
    revolution of Prometheus, the first of modern conquerors. It is man’s
    demands made against his fate; the demands of the poor are but a pretext.
    Yet I can seize that spirit only in its historical act, and that is
    where I make contact with it. Don’t assume, however, that I take
    pleasure in it: opposite the essential contradiction, I maintain my human
    contradiction. I establish my lucidity in the midst of what negates
    it. I exalt man be-fore what crushes him, and my freedom, my revolt,
    and my passion come together then in that tension, that lucidity, and
    that vast repetition.
    “Yes, man is his own end. And he is his only end. If he aims to be
    something, it is in this life. Now I know it only too well. Conquerors
    sometimes talk of vanquishing and overcoming. But it is always
    ‘overcoming oneself’ that they mean. You are well aware of what that
    means. Every man has felt himself to be the equal of a god at certain
    moments. At least, this is the way it is expressed. But this comes from
    the fact that in a flash he felt the amazing grandeur of the human
    mind. The conquerors are merely those among men who are conscious
    enough of their strength to be sure of living constantly on those
    heights and fully aware of that grandeur. It is a question of arithmetic,
    of more or less. The conquerors are capable of the more. But they are
    capable of no more than man himself when he wants. This is why they
    never leave the human crucible, plunging into the seething soul of revolutions.
    “There they find the creature mutilated, but they also encounter
    there the only values they like and admire, man and his silence. This is
    both their destitution and their wealth. There is but one luxury for
    them—that of human relations. How can one fail to realize that in this
    vulnerable universe everything that is human and solely human assumes
    a more vivid meaning? Taut faces, threatened fraternity, such
    strong and chaste friendship among men—these are the true riches because
    they are transitory. In their midst the mind is most aware of its
    powers and limitations. That is to say, its efficacity. Some have spoken
    of genius. But genius is easy to say; I prefer the intelligence. It must be
    said that it can be magnificent then. It lights up this desert and dominates
    it. It knows its obligations and illustrates them. It will die at the
    same time as this body. But knowing this constitutes its freedom.
    “We are not ignorant of the fact that all churches are against us. A
    heart so keyed up eludes the eternal, and all churches, divine or political,
    lay claim to the eternal. Happiness and courage, retribution or
    justice are secondary ends for them. It is a doctrine they bring, and
    one must subscribe to it. But I have no concern with ideas or with the
    eternal. The truths that come within my scope can be touched with the
    hand. I cannot separate from them. This is why you cannot base anything
    on me: nothing of the conqueror lasts, not even his doctrines.
    “At the end of all that, despite everything, is death. We know also
    that it ends everything. This is why those cemeteries all over Europe,
    which obsess some among us, are hideous. People beautify only what
    they love, and death repels us and tires our patience. It, too, is to be
    conquered. The last Carrara, a prisoner in Padua emptied by the
    plague and besieged by the Venetians, ran screaming through the halls
    of his deserted palace: he was calling on the devil and asking him for
    death. This was a way of overcoming it. And it is likewise a mark of
    courage characteristic of the Occident to have made so ugly the places
    where death thinks itself honored. In the rebel s universe, death exalts
    injustice. It is the supreme abuse.
    “Others, without compromising either, have chosen the eternal and
    denounced the illusion of this world. Their cemeteries smile amid numerous
    flowers and birds. That suits the conqueror and gives him a
    clear image of what he has rejected. He has chosen, on the contrary,
    the black iron fence or the potter’s field. The best among the men of
    God occasionally are seized with fright mingled with consideration
    and pity for minds that can live with such an image of their death. Yet
    those minds derive their strength and justification from this. Our fate
    stands before us and we provoke him. Less out of pride than out of
    awareness of our ineffectual condition. We, too, sometimes feel pity
    for ourselves. It is the only compassion that seems acceptable to us: a
    feeling that perhaps you hardly understand and that seems to you
    scarcely virile. Yet the most daring among us are the ones who feel it.
    But we call the lucid ones virile and we do not want a strength that is
    apart from lucidity.”
    * * *
    Let me repeat that these images do not propose moral codes and involve
    no judgments: they are sketches. They merely represent a style
    of life. The lover, the actor, or the adventurer plays the absurd. But
    equally well, if he wishes, the chaste man, the civil servant, or the president
    of the Republic. It is enough to know and to mask nothing. In
    Italian museums are sometimes found little painted screens that the
    priest used to hold in front of the face of condemned men to hide the
    scaffold from them. The leap in all its forms, rushing into the divine or
    the eternal, surrendering to the illusions of the everyday or of the
    idea—all these screens hide the absurd. But there are civil servants
    without screens, and they are the ones of whom I mean to speak. I
    have chosen the most extreme ones. At this level the absurd gives
    them a royal power. It is true that those princes are without a kingdom.
    But they have this advantage over others: they know that all royalties
    are illusory. They know that is their whole nobility, and it is useless
    to speak in relation to them of hidden misfortune or the ashes of
    disillusion. Being deprived of hope is not despairing. The flames of
    earth are surely worth celestial perfumes. Neither I nor anyone can
    judge them here. They are not striving to be better; they are attempting
    to be consistent. If the term “wise man” can be applied to the man
    who lives on what he has without speculating on what he has not, then
    they are wise men. One of them, a conqueror but in the realm of mind,
    a Don Juan but of knowledge, an actor but of the intelligence, knows
    this better than anyone: “You nowise deserve a privilege on earth and
    in heaven for having brought to perfection your dear little meek sheep;
    you nonetheless continue to be at best a ridiculous dear little sheep
    with horns and nothing more—even supposing that you do not burst
    with vanity and do not create a scandal by posing as a judge.”
    In any case, it was essential to restore to the absurd reasoning more
    cordial examples. The imagination can add many others, inseparable
    from time and exile, who likewise know how to live in harmony with a
    universe without future and without weakness. This absurd, godless
    world is, then, peopled with men who think clearly and have ceased to
    hope. And I have not yet spoken of the most absurd character, who is
    the creator.

    ABSURD CREATION
    Philosophy and Fiction

    ALL THOSE lives maintained in the rarefied air of the absurd
    could not persevere without some profound and constant
    thought to infuse its strength into them. Right here, it can be only a
    strange feeling of fidelity. Conscious men have been seen to fulfill their
    task amid the most stupid of wars without considering themselves in
    contradiction. This is because it was essential to elude nothing. There
    is thus a metaphysical honor in enduring the world’s absurdity. Conquest
    or play-acting, multiple loves, absurd revolt are tributes that
    man pays to his dignity in a campaign in which he is defeated in advance.
    It is merely a matter of being faithful to the rule of the battle. That
    thought may suffice to sustain a mind; it has supported and still supports
    whole civilizations. War cannot be negated. One must live it or
    die of it. So it is with the absurd: it is a question of breathing with it, of
    recognizing its lessons and recovering their flesh. In this regard the
    absurd joy par excellence is creation. “Art and nothing but art,” said
    Nietzsche; “we have art in order not to die of the truth.”
    In the experience that I am attempting to describe and to stress on
    several modes, it is certain that a new torment arises wherever another
    dies. The childish chasing after forgetfulness, the appeal of satisfaction
    are now devoid of echo. But the constant tension that keeps man face
    to face with the world, the ordered delirium that urges him to be receptive
    to everything leave him another fever. In this universe the
    work of art is then the sole chance of keeping his consciousness and of
    fixing its adventures. Creating is living doubly. The groping, anxious
    quest of a Proust, his meticulous collecting of flowers, of wallpapers,
    and of anxieties, signifies nothing else. At the same time, it has no
    more significance than the continual and imperceptible creation in
    which the actor, the conqueror, and all absurd men indulge every day
    of their lives. All try their hands at miming, at repeating, and at recreating
    the reality that is theirs. We always end up by having the appearance
    of our truths. All existence for a man turned away from the eternal
    is but a vast mime under the mask of the absurd. Creation is the
    great mime.
    Such men know to begin with, and then their whole effort is to examine,
    to enlarge, and to enrich the ephemeral island on which they
    have just landed. But first they must know. For the absurd discovery
    coincides with a pause in which future passions are prepared and justified.
    Even men without a gospel have their Mount of Olives. And one
    must not fall asleep on theirs either. For the absurd man it is not a
    matter of explaining and solving, but of experiencing and describing.
    Everything begins with lucid indifference.
    Describing—that is the last ambition of an absurd thought. Science
    likewise, having reached the end of its paradoxes, ceases to propound
    and stops to contemplate and sketch the ever virgin landscape of phenomena.
    The heart learns thus that the emotion delighting us when we
    see the world’s aspects comes to us not from its depth but from their
    diversity. Explanation is useless, but the sensation remains and, with
    it, the constant attractions of a universe inexhaustible in quantity. The
    place of the work of art can be understood at this point.
    It marks both the death of an experience and its multiplication. It is
    a sort of monotonous and passionate repetition of the themes already
    orchestrated by the world: the body, inexhaustible image on the pediment
    of temples, forms or colors, number or grief. It is therefore not
    indifferent, as a conclusion, to encounter once again the principal
    themes of this essay in the wonderful and childish world of the creator.
    It would be wrong to see a symbol in it and to think that the work of
    art can be considered at last as a refuge for the absurd. It is itself an
    absurd phenomenon, and we are concerned merely with its description.
    It does not offer an escape for the intellectual ailment. Rather, it
    is one of the symptoms of that ailment which reflects it throughout a
    man’s whole thought. But for the first time it makes the mind get outside
    of itself and places it in opposition to others, not for it to get lost
    but to show it clearly the blind path that all have entered upon. In the
    time of the absurd reasoning, creation follows indifference and discovery.
    It marks the point from which absurd passions spring and where
    the reasoning stops. Its place in this essay is justified in this way.
    It will suffice to bring to light a few themes common to the creator
    and the thinker in order to find in the work of art all the contradictions
    of thought involved in the absurd. Indeed, it is not so much identical
    conclusions that prove minds to be related as the contradictions that
    are common to them. So it is with thought and creation. I hardly need
    to say that the same anguish urges man to these two attitudes. This is
    where they coincide in the beginning. But among all the thoughts that
    start from the absurd, I have seen that very few remain within it. And
    through their deviations or infidelities I have best been able to measure
    what belonged to the absurd. Similarly I must wonder: is an absurd
    work of art possible?
    * * *
    It would be impossible to insist too much on the arbitrary nature of
    the former opposition between art and philosophy. If you insist on
    taking it in too limited a sense, it is certainly false. If you mean merely
    that these two disciplines each have their peculiar climate, that is
    probably true but remains vague. The only acceptable argument used
    to lie in the contradiction brought up between the philosopher enclosed
    within his system and the artist placed before his work. But this
    was pertinent for a certain form of art and of philosophy which we
    consider secondary here. The idea of an art detached from its creator
    is not only outmoded; it is false. In opposition to the artist, it is pointed
    out that no philosopher ever created several systems. But that is
    true in so far, indeed, as no artist ever expressed more than one thing
    under different aspects. The instantaneous perfection of art, the necessity
    for its renewal— this is true only through a preconceived notion.
    For the work of art likewise is a construction and everyone knows how
    monotonous the great creators can be. For the same reason as the
    thinker, the artist commits himself and becomes himself in his work.
    That osmosis raises the most important of aesthetic problems.
    Moreover, to anyone who is convinced of the mind’s singleness of purpose,
    nothing is more futile than these distinctions based on methods
    and objects. There are no frontiers between the disciplines that man
    sets himself for understanding and loving. They interlock, and the
    same anxiety merges them.
    It is necessary to state this to begin with. For an absurd work of art
    to be possible, thought in its most lucid form must be involved in it.
    But at the same time thought must not be apparent except as the regulating
    intelligence. This paradox can be explained according to the absurd.
    The work of art is born of the intelligence’s refusal to reason the
    concrete. It marks the triumph of the carnal. It is lucid thought that
    provokes it, but in that very act that thought repudiates itself. It will
    not yield to the temptation of adding to what is described a deeper
    meaning that it knows to be illegitimate. The work of art embodies a
    drama of the intelligence, but it proves this only indirectly. The absurd
    work requires an artist conscious of these limitations and an art in
    which the concrete signifies nothing more than itself. It cannot be the
    end, the meaning, and the consolation of a life. Creating or not creating
    changes nothing. The absurd creator does not prize his work. He
    could repudiate it. He does sometimes repudiate it. An Abyssinia suffices
    for this, as in the case of Rimbaud.
    At the same time a rule of aesthetics can be seen in this. The true
    work of art is always on the human scale. It is essentially the one that
    says “less.” There is a certain relationship between the global experience
    of the artist and the work that reflects that experience, between
    Wilhelm Meister and Goethe’s maturity. That relationship is bad when
    the work aims to give the whole experience in the lace-paper of an
    explanatory literature. That relationship is good when the work is but
    a piece cut out of experience, a facet of the diamond in which the inner
    luster is epitomized without being limited. In the first case there is
    overloading and pretension to the eternal. In the second, a fecund
    work because of a whole implied experience, the wealth of which is
    suspected. The problem for the absurd artist is to acquire this savoirvivre
    which transcends savoir-faire. And in the end, the great artist
    under this climate is, above all, a great living being, it being understood
    that living in this case is just as much experiencing as reflecting.
    The work then embodies an intellectual drama. The absurd work illustrates
    thought’s renouncing of its prestige and its resignation to being
    no more than the intelligence that works up appearances and covers
    with images what has no reason. If the world were clear, art would not
    exist.
    I am not speaking here of the arts of form or color in which description
    alone prevails in its splendid modesty.[18] Expression begins
    where thought ends. Those adolescents with empty eyesockets who
    people temples and museums—their philosophy has been expressed in
    gestures. For an absurd man it is more educative than all libraries.
    Under another aspect the same is true for music. If any art is devoid of
    lessons, it is certainly music. It is too closely related to mathematics
    not to have borrowed their gratuitousness. That game the mind plays
    with itself according to set and measured laws takes place in the sonorous
    compass that belongs to us and beyond which the vibrations
    nevertheless meet in an inhuman universe. There is no purer sensation.
    These examples are too easy. The absurd man recognizes as his
    own these harmonies and these forms.
    But I should like to speak here of a work in which the temptation to
    explain remains greatest, in which illusion offers itself automatically,
    in which conclusion is almost inevitable. I mean fictional creation. I
    propose to inquire whether or not the absurd can hold its own there.
    * * *
    To think is first of all to create a world (or to limit one’s own world,
    which comes to the same thing). It is starting out from the basic disagreement
    that separates man from his experience in order to find a
    common ground according to one’s nostalgia, a universe hedged with
    reasons or lighted up with analogies but which, in any case, gives an
    opportunity to rescind the unbearable divorce. The philosopher, even
    if he is Kant, is a creator. He has his characters, his symbols, and his
    secret action. He has his plot endings. On the contrary, the lead taken
    by the novel over poetry and the essay merely represents, despite appearances,
    a greater intellectualiza- tion of the art. Let there be no
    mistake about it; I am speaking of the greatest. The fecundity and the
    importance of a literary form are often measured by the trash it contains.
    The number of bad novels must not make us forget the value of
    the best. These, indeed, carry with them their universe. The novel has
    its logic, its reasonings, its intuition, and its postulates. It also has its
    requirements of clarity.[19]
    The classical opposition of which I was speaking above is even less
    justified in this particular case. It held in the time when it was easy to
    separate philosophy from its authors. Today when thought has ceased
    to lay claim to the universal, when its best history would be that of its
    repentances, we know that the system, when it is worth while, cannot
    be separated from its author. The Ethics itself, in one of its aspects, is
    but a long and reasoned personal confession. Abstract thought at last
    returns to its prop of flesh. And, likewise, the fictional activities of the
    body and of the passions are regulated a little more according to the
    requirements of a vision of the world. The writer has given up telling
    “stories” and creates his universe. The great novelists are philosophical
    novelists—that is, the contrary of thesis-writers. For instance,
    Balzac, Sade, Melville, Stendhal, Dostoevsky, Proust, Malraux, Kafka,
    to cite but a few.
    But in fact the preference they have shown for writing in images
    rather than in reasoned arguments is revelatory of a certain thought
    that is common to them all, convinced of the uselessness of any
    principle of explanation and sure of the educative message of perceptible
    appearance. They consider the work of art both as an end and a
    beginning. It is the outcome of an often unexpressed philosophy, its illustration
    and its consummation. But it is complete only through the
    implications of that philosophy. It justifies at last that variant of an old
    theme that a little thought estranges from life whereas much thought
    reconciles to life. Incapable of refining the real, thought pauses to
    mimic it. The novel in question is the instrument of that simultaneously
    relative and inexhaustible knowledge, so like that of love. Of
    love, fictional creation has the initial wonder and the fecund
    rumination.
    * * *
    These at least are the charms I see in it at the outset. But I saw them
    likewise in those princes of humiliated thought whose suicides I was
    later able to witness.
    What interests me, indeed, is knowing and describing the force that
    leads them back toward the common path of illusion. The same method
    will consequently help me here. The fact of having already utilized
    it will allow me to shorten my argument and to sum it up without
    delay in a particular example. I want to know whether, accepting a life
    without appeal, one can also agree to work and create without appeal
    and what is the way leading to these liberties. I want to liberate my
    universe of its phantoms and to people it solely with flesh-and-blood
    truths whose presence I cannot deny. I can perform absurd work,
    choose the creative attitude rather than another. But an absurd attitude,
    if it is to remain so, must remain aware of its gratuitousness. So
    it is with the work of art. If the commandments of the absurd are not
    respected, if the work does not illustrate divorce and revolt, if it sacrifices
    to illusions and arouses hope, it ceases to be gratuitous. I can no
    longer detach myself from it. My life may find a meaning in it, but that
    is trifling. It ceases to be that exercise in detachment and passion
    which crowns the splendor and futility of a man’s life.
    In the creation in which the temptation to explain is the strongest,
    can one overcome that temptation? In the fictional world in which
    awareness of the real world is keenest, can I remain faithful to the absurd
    without sacrificing to the desire to judge? So many questions to
    be taken into consideration in a last effort. It must be already clear
    what they signify. They are the last scruples of an awareness that fears
    to forsake its initial and difficult lesson in favor of a final illusion.
    What holds for creation, looked upon as one of the possible attitudes
    for the man conscious of the absurd, holds for all the styles of life open
    to him. The conqueror or the actor, the creator or Don Juan may forget
    that their exercise in living could not do without awareness of its
    mad character. One becomes accustomed so quickly. A man wants to
    earn money in order to be happy, and his whole effort and the best of a
    life are devoted to the earning of that money. Happiness is forgotten;
    the means are taken for the end. Likewise, the whole effort of this conqueror
    will be diverted to ambition, which was but a way toward a
    greater life. Don Juan in turn will likewise yield to his fate, be satisfied
    with that existence whose nobility is of value only through revolt. For
    one it is awareness and for the other, revolt; in both cases the absurd
    has disappeared. There is so much stubborn hope in the human heart.
    The most destitute men often end up by accepting illusion. That approval
    prompted by the need for peace inwardly parallels the existential
    consent. There are thus gods of light and idols of mud. But it is essential
    to find the middle path leading to the faces of man.
    So far, the failures of the absurd exigence have best informed us as
    to what it is. In the same way, if we are to be informed, it will suffice to
    notice that fictional creation can present the same ambiguity as certain
    philosophies. Hence I can choose as illustration a work comprising
    everything that denotes awareness of the absurd, having a clear
    starting-point and a lucid climate. Its consequences will enlighten us.
    If the absurd is not respected in it, we shall know by what expedient illusion
    enters in. A particular example, a theme, a creator’s fidelity will
    suffice, then. This involves the same analysis that has already been
    made at greater length.
    I shall examine a favorite theme of Dostoevsky. I might just as well
    have studied other works.[20] But in this work the problem is treated
    directly, in the sense of nobility and emotion, as for the existential
    philosophies already discussed. This parallelism serves my purpose.
    Kirilov
    All of Dostoevsky’s heroes question themselves as to the meaning of
    life. In this they are modern: they do not fear ridicule. What distinguishes
    modern sensibility from classical sensibility is that the latter
    thrives on moral problems and the former on metaphysical problems.
    In Dostoevsky’s novels the question is propounded with such intensity
    that it can only invite extreme solutions. Existence is illusory or it is
    eternal. If Dostoevsky were satisfied with this inquiry, he would be a
    philosopher. But he illustrates the consequences that such intellectual
    pastimes may have in a man’s life, and in this regard he is an artist.
    Among those consequences, his attention is arrested particularly by
    the last one, which he himself calls logical suicide in his Diary of a
    Writer. In the installments for December 1876, indeed, he imagines
    the reasoning of “logical suicide.” Convinced that human existence is
    an utter absurdity for anyone without faith in immortality, the desperate
    man comes to the following conclusions:
    “Since in reply to my questions about happiness, I am told, through
    the intermediary of my consciousness, that I cannot be happy except
    in harmony with the great all, which I cannot conceive and shall never
    be in a position to conceive, it is evident ...”
    “Since, finally, in this connection, I assume both the role of the
    plaintiff and that of the defendant, of the accused and of the judge,
    and since I consider this comedy perpetrated by nature altogether
    stupid, and since I even deem it humiliating for me to deign to play it
    ...”
    “In my indisputable capacity of plaintiff and defendant, of judge and
    accused, I condemn that nature which, with such impudent nerve,
    brought me into being in order to suffer—I condemn it to be annihilated
    with me.”
    There remains a little humor in that position. This suicide kills himself
    because, on the metaphysical plane, he is vexed. In a certain sense
    he is taking his revenge. This is his way of proving that he “will not be
    had.” It is known, however, that the same theme is embodied, but with
    the most wonderful generality, in Kirilov of The Possessed, likewise an
    advocate of logical suicide. Kirilov the engineer declares somewhere
    that he wants to take his own life because it “is his idea.” Obviously the
    word must be taken in its proper sense. It is for an idea, a thought,
    that he is getting ready for death. This is the superior suicide. Progressively,
    in a series of scenes in which Kirilov’s mask is gradually illuminated,
    the fatal thought driving him is revealed to us. The engineer,
    in fact, goes back to the arguments of the Diary. He feels that God
    is necessary and that he must exist. But he knows that he does not and
    cannot exist. “Why do you not realize,” he exclaims, “that this is sufficient
    reason for killing oneself?” That attitude involves likewise for
    him some of the absurd consequences. Through indifference he accepts
    letting his suicide be used to the advantage of a cause he despises.
    “I decided last night that I didn’t care.” And finally he prepares
    his deed with a mixed feeling of revolt and freedom. “I shall kill myself
    in order to assert my insubordination, my new and dreadful liberty.” It
    is no longer a question of revenge, but of revolt. Kirilov is consequently
    an absurd character—yet with this essential reservation: he
    kills himself. But he himself explains this contradiction, and in such a
    way that at the same time he reveals the absurd secret in all its purity.
    In truth, he adds to his fatal logic an extraordinary ambition which
    gives the character its full perspective: he wants to kill himself to become
    god.
    The reasoning is classic in its clarity. If God does not exist, Kirilov is
    god. If God does not exist, Kirilov must kill himself. Kirilov must
    therefore kill himself to become god. That logic is absurd, but it is
    what is needed. The interesting thing, however, is to give a meaning to
    that divinity brought to earth. That amounts to clarifying the premise:
    “If God does not exist, I am god,” which still remains rather obscure. It
    is important to note at the outset that the man who flaunts that mad
    claim is indeed of this world. He performs his gymnastics every morning
    to preserve his health. He is stirred by the joy of Chatov recovering
    his wife. On a sheet of paper to be found after his death he wants to
    draw a face sticking out his tongue at “them.” He is childish and irascible,
    passionate, methodical, and sensitive. Of the superman he has
    nothing but the logic and the obsession, whereas of man he has the
    whole catalogue. Yet it is he who speaks calmly of his divinity. He is
    not mad, or else Dostoevsky is. Consequently it is not a megalomaniac’s
    illusion that excites him. And taking the words in their specific
    sense would, in this instance, be ridiculous.
    Kirilov himself helps us to understand. In reply to a question from
    Stavrogin, he makes clear that he is not talking of a god-man. It might
    be thought that this springs from concern to distinguish himself from
    Christ. But in reality it is a matter of annexing Christ. Kirilov in fact
    fancies for a moment that Jesus at his death did not find himself in
    Paradise. He found out then that his torture had been useless. “The
    laws of nature,” says the engineer, “made Christ live in the midst of
    falsehood and die for a falsehood.” Solely in this sense Jesus indeed
    personifies the whole human drama. He is the complete man, being
    the one who realized the most absurd condition. He is not the Godman
    but the man-god. And, like him, each of us can be crucified and
    victimized—and is to a certain degree.
    The divinity in question is therefore altogether terrestrial. “For three
    years,” says Kirilov, “I sought the attribute of my divinity and I have
    found it. The attribute of my divinity is independence.” Now can be
    seen the meaning of Kirilov’s premise: “If God does not exist, I am
    god.” To become god is merely to be free on this earth, not to serve an
    immortal being. Above all, of course, it is drawing all the inferences
    from that painful independence. If God exists, all depends on him and
    we can do nothing against his will. If he does not exist, everything depends
    on us. For Kirilov, as for Nietzsche, to kill God is to become god
    oneself; it is to realize on this earth the eternal life of which the Gospel
    speaks.[21] But if this metaphysical crime is enough for man’s fulfillment,
    why add suicide? Why kill oneself and leave this world after
    having won freedom? That is contradictory. Kirilov is well aware of
    this, for he adds: “If you feel that, you are a tsar and, far from killing
    yourself, you will live covered with glory.” But men in general do not
    know it. They do not feel “that.” As in the time of Prometheus, they entertain
    blind hopes.[22] They need to be shown the way and cannot
    do without preaching. Consequently, Kirilov must kill himself out of
    love for humanity. He must show his brothers a royal and difficult
    path on which he will be the first. It is a pedagogical suicide. Kirilov
    sacrifices himself, then. But if he is crucified, he will not be victimized.
    He remains the man-god, convinced of a death without future, imbued
    with evangelical melancholy. “I,” he says, “am unhappy because I am
    obliged to assert my freedom.”
    But once he is dead and men are at last enlightened, this earth will
    be peopled with tsars and lighted up with human glory. Kirilov’s pistol
    shot will be the signal for the last revolution. Thus, it is not despair
    that urges him to death, but love of his neighbor for his own sake. Before
    terminating in blood an indescribable spiritual adventure, Kirilov
    makes a remark as old as human suffering: “All is well.”
    This theme of suicide in Dostoevsky, then, is indeed an absurd
    theme. Let us merely note before going on that Kirilov reappears in
    other characters who themselves set in motion additional absurd
    themes. Stavrogin and Ivan Karamazov try out the absurd truths in
    practical life. They are the ones liberated by Kirilov’s death. They try
    their skill at being tsars. Stavrogin leads an “ironic” life, and it is well
    known in what regard. He arouses hatred around him. And yet the key
    to the character is found in his farewell letter: “I have not been able to
    detest anything.” He is a tsar in indifference. Ivan is likewise by refusing
    to surrender the royal powers of the mind. To those who, like his
    brother, prove by their lives that it is essential to humiliate oneself in
    order to believe, he might reply that the condition is shameful. His key
    word is: “Everything is permitted,” with the appropriate shade of melancholy.
    Of course, like Nietzsche, the most famous of God’s assassins,
    he ends in madness. But this is a risk worth running, and, faced with
    such tragic ends, the essential impulse of the absurd mind is to ask:
    “What does that prove?”
    * * *
    Thus the novels, like the Diary, propound the absurd question. They
    establish logic unto death, exaltation, “dreadful” freedom, the glory of
    the tsars become human. All is well, everything is permitted, and
    nothing is hateful—these are absurd judgments. But what an amazing
    creation in which those creatures of fire and ice seem so familiar to us.
    The passionate world of indifference that rumbles in their hearts does
    not seem at all monstrous to us. We recognize in it our everyday anxieties.
    And probably no one so much as Dostoevsky has managed to
    give the absurd world such familiar and tormenting charms.
    Yet what is his conclusion? Two quotations will show the complete
    metaphysical reversal that leads the writer to other revelations. The
    argument of the one who commits logical suicide having provoked
    protests from the critics, Dostoevsky in the following installments of
    the Diary amplifies his position and concludes thus: “If faith in immortality
    is so necessary to the human being (that without it he comes
    to the point of killing himself), it must therefore be the normal state of
    humanity. Since this is the case, the immortality of the human soul exists
    without any doubt.” Then again in the last pages of his last novel,
    at the conclusion of that gigantic combat with God, some children ask
    Aliocha: “Karamazov, is it true what religion says, that we shall rise
    from the dead, that we shall see one another again?” And Aliocha answers:
    “Certainly, we shall see one another again, we shall joyfully tell
    one another everything that has happened.”
    Thus Kirilov, Stavrogin, and Ivan are defeated. The Brothers Karamazov
    replies to The Possessed. And it is indeed a conclusion.
    Aliocha’s case is not ambiguous, as is that of Prince Muichkin. Ill, the
    latter lives in a perpetual present, tinged with smiles and indifference,
    and that blissful state might be the eternal life of which the Prince
    speaks. On the contrary, Aliocha clearly says: “We shall meet again.”
    There is no longer any question of suicide and of madness. What is the
    use, for anyone who is sure of immortality and of its joys? Man exchanges
    his divinity for happiness. “We shall joyfully tell one another
    everything that has happened.” Thus again Kirilov’s pistol rang out
    somewhere in Russia, but the world continued to cherish its blind
    hopes. Men did not understand “that.”
    Consequently, it is not an absurd novelist addressing us, but an existential
    novelist. Here, too, the leap is touching and gives its nobility
    to the art that inspires it. It is a stirring acquiescence, riddled with
    doubts, uncertain and ardent. Speaking of The Brothers Karamazov,
    Dostoevsky wrote: “The chief question that will be pursued throughout
    this book is the very one from which I have suffered consciously or unconsciously
    all life long: the existence of God.” It is hard to believe that
    a novel sufficed to transform into joyful certainty the suffering of a
    lifetime. One commentator[23] correctly pointed out that Dostoevsky
    is on Ivan’s side and that the affirmative chapters took three months of
    effort whereas what he called “the blasphemies” were written in three
    weeks in a state of excitement. There is not one of his characters who
    does not have that thorn in the flesh, who does not aggravate it or seek
    a remedy for it in sensation or immortality.[24] In any case, let us remain
    with this doubt. Here is a work which, in a chiaroscuro more
    gripping than the light of day, permits us to seize man’s struggle
    against his hopes. Having reached the end, the creator makes his
    choice against his characters. That contradiction thus allows us to
    make a distinction. It is not an absurd work that is involved here, but a
    work that propounds the absurd problem.
    Dostoevsky’s reply is humiliation, “shame” according to Stavrogin.
    An absurd work, on the contrary, does not provide a reply; that is the
    whole difference. Let us note this carefully in conclusion: what contradicts
    the absurd in that work is not its Christian character, but rather
    its announcing a future life. It is possible to be Christian and absurd.
    There are examples of Christians who do not believe in a future life. In
    regard to the work of art, it should therefore be possible to define one
    of the directions of the absurd analysis that could have been anticipated
    in the preceding pages. It leads to propounding “the absurdity of
    the Gospel.” It throws light upon this idea, fertile in repercussions,
    that convictions do not prevent incredulity. On the contrary, it is easy
    to see that the author of The Possessed, familiar with these paths, in
    conclusion took a quite different way. The surprising reply of the creator
    to his characters, of Dostoevsky to Kirilov, can indeed be summed
    up thus: existence is illusory and it is eternal.
    Ephemeral Creation
    At this point I perceive, therefore, that hope cannot be eluded
    forever and that it can beset even those who wanted to be free of it.
    This is the interest I find in the works discussed up to this point. I
    could, at least in the realm of creation, list some truly absurd
    works.[25] But everything must have a beginning. The object of this
    quest is a certain fidelity. The Church has been so harsh with heretics
    only because she deemed that there is no worse enemy than a child
    who has gone astray. But the record of Gnostic effronteries and the
    persistence of Manichean currents have contributed more to the construction
    of orthodox dogma than all the prayers. With due allowance,
    the same is true of the absurd. One recognizes one’s course by
    discovering the paths that stray from it. At the very conclusion of the
    absurd reasoning, in one of the attitudes dictated by its logic, it is not a
    matter of indifference to find hope coming back in under one of its
    most touching guises. That shows the difficulty of the absurd ascesis.
    Above all, it shows the necessity of unfailing alertness and thus confirms
    the general plan of this essay.
    But if it is still too early to list absurd works, at least a conclusion
    can be reached as to the creative attitude, one of those which can complete
    absurd existence. Art can never be so well served as by a negative
    thought. Its dark and humiliated proceedings are as necessary to the
    understanding of a great work as black is to white. To work and create
    “for nothing,” to sculpture in clay, to know that 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, is the way open to the absurd creator. He
    must give the void its colors.
    This leads to a special conception of the work of art. Too often the
    work of a creator is looked upon as a series of isolated testimonies.
    Thus, artist and man of letters are confused. A profound thought is in
    a constant state of becoming; it adopts the experience of a life and assumes
    its shape, likewise, a man’s sole creation is strengthened in its
    successive and multiple aspects: his works. One after another, they
    complement one an-other, 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 experience
    and the book of his genius.
    That effort, that superhuman consciousness are not necessarily apparent
    to the reader. There is no mystery in human creation. Will performs
    this miracle. But at least there is no true creation without a
    secret. To be sure, a succession of works can be but a series of
    approximations of the same thought. But it is possible to conceive of
    another type of creator proceeding by juxtaposition. Their works may
    seem to be devoid of interrelations. To a certain degree, they are contradictory.
    But viewed all together, they resume their natural grouping. From
    death, for instance, they derive their definitive significance. They receive
    their most obvious light from the very life of their author. At the
    moment of death, the succession of his works is but a collection of failures.
    But if those failures all have the same resonance, the creator has
    managed to repeat the image of his own condition, to make the air
    echo with the sterile secret he possesses.
    The effort to dominate is considerable here. But human intelligence
    is up to much more. It will merely indicate clearly the voluntary aspect
    of creation. Elsewhere I have brought out the fact that human will had
    no other purpose than to maintain awareness. But that could not do
    without discipline. Of all the schools of patience and lucidity, creation
    is the most effective. It is also the staggering evidence of man’s sole
    dignity: the dogged revolt against his condition, perseverance in an effort
    considered sterile. It calls for a daily effort, self-mastery, a precise
    estimate of the limits of truth, measure, and strength. It constitutes an
    ascesis. All that “for nothing,” in order to repeat and mark time. 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.
    * * *
    Let there be no mistake in aesthetics. It is not patient inquiry, the
    unceasing, sterile illustration of a thesis that I am calling for here.
    Quite the contrary, if I have made myself clearly understood. The
    thesis-novel, the work that proves, the most hateful of all, is the one
    that most often is inspired by a smug thought. You demonstrate the
    truth you feel sure of possessing. But those are ideas one launches,
    and ideas are the contrary of thought. Those creators are philosophers,
    ashamed of themselves. Those I am speaking of or whom I imagine
    are, on the contrary, lucid thinkers. At a certain point where thought
    turns back on itself, they raise up the images of their works like the obvious
    symbols of a limited, mortal, and rebellious thought.
    They perhaps prove something. But those proofs are ones that the
    novelists provide for themselves rather than for the world in general.
    The essential is that the novelists should triumph in the concrete and
    that this constitute their nobility. This wholly carnal triumph has been
    prepared for them by a thought in which abstract powers have been
    humiliated. When they are completely so, at the same time the flesh
    makes the creation shine forth in all its absurd luster. After all, ironic
    philosophies produce passionate works.
    Any thought that abandons unity glorifies diversity. And diversity is
    the home of art. The only thought to liberate the mind is that which
    leaves it alone, certain of its limits and of its impending end. No doctrine
    tempts it. It awaits the ripening of the work and of life. Detached
    from it, the work will once more give a barely muffled voice to a soul
    Forever freed from hope. Or it will give voice to nothing if the creator,
    tired of his activity, intends to turn away. That is equivalent.
    * * *
    Thus, I ask of absurd creation what I required from thought— revolt,
    freedom, and diversity. Later on it will manifest its utter futility. In
    that daily effort in which intelligence and passion mingle and delight
    each other, the absurd man discovers a discipline that will make up
    the greatest of his strengths. The required diligence, the doggedness
    and lucidity thus resemble the conqueror’s attitude. 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.
    Let me repeat. None of all this has any real meaning. On the way to
    that liberty, there is still a progress to be made. The final effort for
    these related minds, creator or conqueror, is to manage to free themselves
    also from their undertakings: succeed in granting that the very
    work, whether it be conquest, love, or creation, may well not be; consummate
    thus the utter futility of any individual life. Indeed, that gives
    them more freedom in the realization of that work, just as becoming
    aware of the absurdity of life authorized them to plunge into it with
    every excess.
    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 MYTH OF SYSIPHUS

    THE GODS had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock
    to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of
    its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no
    more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.
    If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of
    mortals. According to another tradition, however, he was disposed to
    practice the profession of highwayman. I see no contradiction in this.
    Opinions differ as to the reasons why he became the futile laborer of
    the underworld. To begin with, he is accused of a certain levity in regard
    to the gods. He stole their secrets. Ăgina, the daughter of
    Ăsopus, was carried off by Jupiter. The father was shocked by that
    disappearance and complained to Sisyphus. He, who knew of the abduction,
    offered to tell about it on condition that Ăsopus would give
    water to the citadel of Corinth. To the celestial thunderbolts he preferred
    the benediction of water. He was punished for this in the underworld.
    Homer tells us also that Sisyphus had put Death in chains.
    Pluto could not endure the sight of his deserted, silent empire. He dispatched
    the god of war, who liberated Death from the hands of her
    conqueror.
    It is said also that Sisyphus, being near to death, rashly wanted to
    test his wife’s love. He ordered her to cast his unburied body into the
    middle of the public square. Sisyphus woke up in the underworld. And
    there, annoyed by an obedience so contrary to human love, he obtained
    from Pluto permission to return to earth in order to chastise his
    wife. But when he had seen again the face of this world, enjoyed water
    and sun, warm stones and the sea, he no longer wanted to go back to
    the infernal darkness. Recalls, signs of anger, warnings were of no
    avail. Many years more he lived facing the curve of the gulf, the
    sparkling sea, and the smiles of earth. A decree of the gods was necessary.
    Mercury came and seized the impudent man by the collar and,
    snatching him from his joys, led him forcibly back to the underworld,
    where his rock was ready for him.
    You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is, as
    much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the
    gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable
    penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing
    nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of
    this earth. Nothing is told us about Sisyphus in the underworld. Myths
    are made for the imagination to breathe life into them. As for this
    myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the
    huge stone, to roll it and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one
    sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the
    shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh
    start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earthclotted
    hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless
    space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus
    watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower
    world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He
    goes back down to the plain.
    It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A
    face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man
    going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment
    of which he will never know the end. That hour like a breathing-space
    which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness.
    At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually
    sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is
    stronger than his rock.
    If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where
    would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding
    upheld him? The workman of today works every day in his life at the
    same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the
    rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the
    gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his
    wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity
    that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his
    victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.
    * * *
    If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also
    take place in joy. This word is not too much. Again I fancy Sisyphus returning
    toward his rock, and the sorrow was in the beginning. When
    the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of happiness
    becomes too insistent, it happens that melancholy rises in
    man’s heart: this is the rock’s victory, this is the rock itself. The boundless
    grief is too heavy to bear. These are our nights of Gethsemane. But
    crushing truths perish from being acknowledged. Thus, OEdipus at the
    outset obeys fate without knowing it. But from the moment he knows,
    his tragedy begins. Yet at the same moment, blind and desperate, he
    realizes that the only bond linking him to the world is the cool hand of
    a girl. Then a tremendous remark rings out: “Despite so many ordeals,
    my advanced age and the nobility of my soul make me conclude that
    all is well.” Sophocles’ OEdipus, like Dostoevsky’s Kirilov, thus gives
    the recipe for the absurd victory. Ancient wisdom confirms modern
    heroism.
    One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a
    manual of happiness. “What! by such narrow ways—?” There is but
    one world, however. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the
    same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that
    happiness necessarily springs from the absurd discovery. It happens
    as well that the feeling of the absurd springs from happiness. “I conclude
    that all is well,” says OEdipus, and that remark is sacred. It
    echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. It teaches that all is
    not, has not been, exhausted. It drives out of this world a god who had
    come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile sufferings.
    It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men.
    All Sisyphus’ silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him.
    His rock is his thing. Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates
    his torment, silences all the idols. In the universe suddenly restored to
    its silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. Unconscious,
    secret calls, invitations from all the faces, they are the necessary
    reverse and price of victory. There is no sun without shadow,
    and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his
    effort will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is
    no higher destiny, or at least there is but one which he concludes is inevitable
    and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be the master
    of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward
    over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting
    he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which becomes his
    fate, created by him, combined under his memory’s eye and soon
    sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all
    that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has
    no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.
    I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s
    burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the
    gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe
    henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile.
    Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain,
    in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is
    enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

    APPENDIX: HOPE AND THE
    ABSURD IN THE WORK OF
    FRANZ KAFKA

    THE WHOLE art of Kafka consists in forcing the reader to reread.
    His endings, or his absence of endings, suggest explanations
    which, however, are not revealed in clear language but, before they
    seem justified, require that the story be reread from another point of
    view. Sometimes there is a double possibility of interpretation, whence
    appears the necessity for two readings. This is what the author
    wanted. But it would be wrong to try to interpret everything in Kafka
    in detail. A symbol is always in general and, however precise its translation,
    an artist can restore to it only its movement: there is no wordfor-
    word rendering. Moreover, nothing is harder to understand than a
    symbolic work. A symbol always transcends the one who makes use of
    it and makes him say in reality more than he is aware of expressing. In
    this regard, the surest means of getting hold of it is not to provoke it,
    to begin the work without a preconceived attitude and not to look for
    its hidden currents. For Kafka in particular it is fair to agree to his
    rules, to approach the drama through its externals and the novel
    through its form.
    At first glance and for a casual reader, they are disturbing adventures
    that carry off quaking and dogged characters into pursuit of
    problems they never formulate. In The Trial, Joseph K. is accused. But
    he doesn’t know of what. He is doubtless eager to defend himself, but
    he doesn’t know why. The lawyers find his case difficult. Meanwhile,
    he does not neglect to love, to eat, or to read his paper. Then he is
    judged. But the courtroom is very dark. He doesn’t understand much.
    He merely assumes that he is condemned, but to what he barely
    wonders. At times he suspects just the same, and he continues living.
    Some time later two well- dressed and polite gentlemen come to get
    him and invite him to follow them. Most courteously they lead him into
    a wretched suburb, put his head on a stone, and slit his throat. Before
    dying the condemned man says merely: “Like a dog.”
    You see that it is hard to speak of a symbol in a tale whose most obvious
    quality just happens to be naturalness. But naturalness is a hard
    category to understand. There are works in which the event seems natural
    to the reader. But there are others (rarer, to be sure) in which the
    character considers natural what happens to him. By an odd but obvious
    paradox, the more extraordinary the character’s adventures are,
    the more noticeable will be the naturalness of the story: it is in proportion
    to the divergence we feel between the strangeness of a man’s life
    and the simplicity with which that man accepts it. It seems that this
    naturalness is Kafka’s. And, precisely, one is well aware what The Trial
    means. People have spoken of an image of the human condition. To be
    sure. Yet it is both simpler and more complex. I mean that the significance
    of the novel is more particular and more personal to Kafka. To a
    certain degree, he is the one who does the talking, even though it is me
    he confesses. He lives and he is condemned. He learns this on the first
    pages of the novel he is pursuing in this world, and if he tries to cope
    with this, he nonetheless does so without surprise. He will never show
    sufficient astonishment at this lack of astonishment. It is by such contradictions
    that the first signs of the absurd work are recognized. The
    mind projects into the concrete its spiritual tragedy. And it can do so
    solely by means of a perpetual paradox which confers on colors the
    power to express the void and on daily gestures the strength to translate
    eternal ambitions.
    Likewise, The Castle is perhaps a theology in action, but it is first of
    all the individual adventure of a soul in quest of its grace, of a man
    who asks of this world’s objects their royal secret and of women the
    signs of the god that sleeps in them. Metamorphosis, in turn, certainly
    represents the horrible imagery of an ethic of lucidity. But it is also the
    product of that incalculable amazement man feels at being conscious
    of the beast he becomes effortlessly. In this fundamental ambiguity
    lies Kafka’s secret. These perpetual oscillations between the natural
    and the extraordinary, the individual and the universal, the tragic and
    the everyday, the absurd and the logical, are found throughout his
    work and give it both its resonance and its meaning. These are the
    paradoxes that must be enumerated, the contradictions that must be
    strengthened, in order to understand the absurd work.
    A symbol, indeed, assumes two planes, two worlds of ideas and sensations,
    and a dictionary of correspondences between them. This lexicon
    is the hardest thing to draw up. But awaking to the two worlds
    brought face to face is tantamount to getting on the trail of their secret
    relationships. In Kafka these two worlds are that of everyday life on
    the one hand and, on the other, that of supernatural anxiety.[26] It
    seems that we are witnessing here an interminable exploitation of Nietzsche’s
    remark: “Great problems are in the street.”
    There is in the human condition (and this is a commonplace of all
    literatures) a basic absurdity as well as an implacable nobility. The two
    coincide, as is natural. Both of them are represented, let me repeat, in
    the ridiculous divorce separating our spiritual excesses and the ephemeral
    joys of the body. The absurd thing is that it should be the soul
    of this body which it transcends so inordinately. Whoever would like
    to represent this absurdity must give it life in a series of parallel contrasts.
    Thus it is that Kafka expresses tragedy by the everyday and the
    absurd by the logical.
    An actor lends more force to a tragic character the more careful he is
    not to exaggerate it. If he is moderate, the horror he inspires will be
    immoderate. In this regard Greek tragedy is rich in lessons. In a tragic
    work fate always makes itself felt better in the guise of logic and naturalness.
    OEdipus’s fate is announced in advance. It is decided supernaturally
    that he will commit the murder and the incest. The drama’s
    whole effort is to show the logical system which, from deduction to deduction,
    will crown the hero’s misfortune. Merely to announce to us
    that uncommon fate is scarcely horrible, because it is improbable. But
    if its necessity is demonstrated to us in the framework of everyday life,
    society, state, familiar emotion, then the horror is hallowed. In that revolt
    that shakes man and makes him say: “That is not possible,” there
    is an element of desperate certainty that “that” can be.
    This is the whole secret of Greek tragedy, or at least of one of its aspects.
    For there is another which, by a reverse method, would help us
    to understand Kafka better. The human heart has a tiresome tendency
    to label as fate only what crushes it. But happiness likewise, in its way,
    is without reason, since it is inevitable. Modern man, however, takes
    the credit for it himself, when he doesn’t fail to recognize it. Much
    could be said, on the contrary, about the privileged fates of Greek
    tragedy and those favored in legend who, like Ulysses, in the midst of
    the worst adventures are saved from themselves. It was not so easy to
    return to Ithaca.
    What must be remembered in any case is that secret complicity that
    joins the logical and the everyday to the tragic. This is why Samsa, the
    hero of Metamorphosis, is a traveling salesman. This is why the only
    thing that disturbs him in the strange adventure that makes a vermin
    of him is that his boss will be angry at his absence. Legs and feelers
    grow out on him, his spine arches up, white spots appear on his belly
    and—I shall not say that this does not astonish him, for the effect
    would be spoiled—but it causes him a “slight annoyance.” The whole
    art of Kafka is in that distinction. In his central work, The Castle, the
    details of everyday life stand out, and yet in that strange novel in
    which nothing concludes and everything begins over again, it is the essential
    adventure of a soul in quest of its grace that is represented.
    That translation of the problem into action, that coincidence of the
    general and the particular are recognized likewise in the little artifices
    that belong to every great creator. In The Trial the hero might have
    been named Schmidt or Franz Kafka. But he is named Joseph K. He is
    not Kafka and yet he is Kafka. He is an average European. He is like
    everybody else. But he is also the entity K. who is the x of this flesh-
    and-blood equation.
    Likewise, if Kafka wants to express the absurd, he will make use of
    consistency. You know the story of the crazy man who was fishing in a
    bathtub. A doctor with ideas as to psychiatric treatments asked him “if
    they were biting,” to which he received the harsh reply: “Of course not,
    you fool, since this is a bathtub.” That story belongs to the baroque
    type. But in it can be grasped quite clearly to what a degree the absurd
    effect is linked to an excess of logic. Kafka’s world is in truth an indescribable
    universe in which man allows himself the tormenting luxury
    of fishing in a bathtub, knowing that nothing will come of it.
    Consequently, I recognize here a work that is absurd in its principles.
    As for The Trial, for instance, I can indeed say that it is a complete
    success. Flesh wins out.
    Nothing is lacking, neither the unexpressed revolt (but it is what is
    writing), nor lucid and mute despair (but it is what is creating), nor
    that amazing freedom of manner which the characters of the novel exemplify
    until their ultimate death.
    * * *
    Yet this world is not so closed as it seems. Into this universe devoid
    of progress, Kafka is going to introduce hope in a strange form. In this
    regard The Trial and The Castle do not follow the same direction.
    They complement each other. The barely perceptible progression from
    one to the other represents a tremendous conquest in the realm of
    evasion. The Trial propounds a problem which The Castle, to a certain
    degree, solves. The first describes according to a quasi scientific method
    and without concluding. The second, to a certain degree, explains.
    The Trial diagnoses, and The Castle imagines a treatment. But the
    remedy proposed here does not cure. It merely brings the malady back
    into normal life. It helps to accept it. In a certain sense (let us think of
    Kierkegaard), it makes people cherish it. The Land Surveyor K. cannot
    imagine another anxiety than the one that is tormenting him. The very
    people around him become attached to that void and that nameless
    pain, as if suffering assumed in this case a privileged aspect. “How I
    need you,” Frieda says to K. “How forsaken I feel, since knowing you,
    when you are not with me.” This subtle remedy that makes us love
    what crushes us and makes hope spring up in a world without issue,
    this sudden “leap” through which everything is changed, is the secret
    of the existential revolution and of The Castle itself.
    Few works are more rigorous in their development than The Castle.
    K. is named Land Surveyor to the Castle and he arrives in the village.
    But from the village to the Castle it is impossible to communicate. For
    hundreds of pages K. persists in seeking his way, makes every advance,
    uses trickery and expedients, never gets angry, and with disconcerting
    good will tries to assume the duties entrusted to him. Each
    chapter is a new frustration. And also a new beginning. It is not logic,
    but consistent method. The scope of that insistence constitutes the
    work’s tragic quality. When K. telephones to the Castle, he hears confused,
    mingled voices, vague laughs, distant invitations. That is
    enough to feed his hope, like those few signs appearing in summer
    skies or those evening anticipations which make up our reason for living.
    Here is found the secret of the melancholy peculiar to Kafka. The
    same, in truth, that is found in Proust’s work or in the landscape of
    Plotinus: a nostalgia for a lost paradise. “I become very sad,” says
    Olga, “when Barnabas tells me in the morning that he is going to the
    Castle: that probably futile trip, that probably wasted day, that probably
    empty hope.”
    “Probably”—on this implication Kafka gambles his entire work. But
    nothing avails; the quest of the eternal here is meticulous. And those
    inspired automata, Kafka’s characters, provide us with a precise image
    of what we should be if we were deprived of our distractions[27] and
    utterly consigned to the humiliations of the divine.
    In The Castle that surrender to the everyday becomes an ethic. The
    great hope of K. is to get the Castle to adopt him. Unable to achieve
    this alone, his whole effort is to deserve this favor by becoming an
    inhabitant of the village, by losing the status of foreigner that everyone
    makes him feel. What he wants is an occupation, a home, the life of a
    healthy, normal man. He can’t stand his madness any longer. He
    wants to be reasonable. He wants to cast off the peculiar curse that
    makes him a stranger to the village. The episode of Frieda is significant
    in this regard. If he takes as his mistress this woman who has
    known one of the Castle’s officials, this is because of her past. He derives
    from her something that transcends him while being aware of
    what makes her forever unworthy of the Castle. This makes one think
    of Kierkegaard’s strange love for Regina Olsen. In certain men, the fire
    of eternity consuming them is great enough for them to burn in it the
    very heart of those closest to them. The fatal mistake that consists in
    giving to God what is not God’s is likewise the subject of this episode
    of The Castle. But for Kafka it seems that this is not a mistake. It is a
    doctrine and a “leap.” There is nothing that is not God’s.
    Even more significant is the fact that the Land Surveyor breaks with
    Frieda in order to go toward the Barnabas sisters. For the Barnabas
    family is the only one in the village that is utterly forsaken by the
    Castle and by the village itself. Amalia, the elder sister, has rejected
    the shameful propositions made her by one of the Castle’s officials.
    The immoral curse that followed has forever cast her out from the love
    of God. Being incapable of losing one’s honor for God amounts to
    making oneself unworthy of his grace. You recognize a theme familiar
    to existential philosophy: truth contrary to morality. At this point
    things are far-reaching. For the path pursued by Kafka’s hero from
    Frieda to the Barnabas sisters is the very one that leads from trusting
    love to the deification of the absurd. Here again Kafka’s thought runs
    parallel to Kierkegaard. It is not surprising that the “Barnabas story” is
    placed at the end of the book. The Land Surveyor’s last attempt is to
    recapture God through what negates him, to recognize him, not according
    to our categories of goodness and beauty, but behind the
    empty and hideous aspects of his indifference, of his injustice, and of
    his hatred. That stranger who asks the Castle to adopt him is at the
    end of his voyage a little more exiled because this time he is unfaithful
    to himself, forsaking morality, logic, and intellectual truths in order to
    try to enter, endowed solely with his mad hope, the desert of divine
    grace.[28]
    * * *
    The word “hope” used here is not ridiculous. On the contrary, the
    more tragic the condition described by Kafka, the firmer and more aggressive
    that hope becomes. The more truly absurd The Trial is, the
    more moving and illegitimate the impassioned “leap” of The Castle
    seems. But we find here again in a pure state the paradox of existential
    thought as it is expressed, for instance, by Kierkegaard: “Earthly hope
    must be killed; only then can one be saved by true hope,” [29] which
    can be translated: “One has to have written The Trial to undertake The
    Castle.”
    Most of those who have spoken of Kafka have indeed defined his
    work as a desperate cry with no recourse left to man. But this calls for
    review. There is hope and hope. To me the optimistic work of Henri
    Bordeaux seems peculiarly discouraging. This is because it has nothing
    for the discriminating. Malraux’s thought, on the other hand, is always
    bracing. But in these two cases neither the same hope nor the
    same despair is at issue. I see merely that the absurd work itself may
    lead to the infidelity I want to avoid. The work which was but an ineffectual
    repetition of a sterile condition, a lucid glorification of the ephemeral,
    becomes here a cradle of illusions. It explains, it gives a shape
    to hope. The creator can no longer divorce himself from it. It is not the
    tragic game it was to be. It gives a meaning to the author’s life.
    It is strange in any case that works of related inspiration like those
    of Kafka, Kierkegaard, or Chestov—those, in short, of existential novelists
    and philosophers completely oriented toward the Absurd and its
    consequences—should in the long run lead to that tremendous cry of
    hope.
    They embrace the God that consumes them. It is through humility
    that hope enters in. For the absurd of this existence assures them a
    little more of supernatural reality. If the course of this life leads to
    God, there is an outcome after all. And the perseverance, the insistence
    with which Kierkegaard, Chestov, and Kafka’s heroes repeat their
    itineraries are a special warrant of the uplifting power of that certainty.[
    30]
    Kafka refuses his god moral nobility, evidence, virtue, coherence,
    but only the better to fall into his arms. The absurd is recognized, accepted,
    and man is resigned to it, but from then on we know that it has
    ceased to be the absurd. Within the limits of the human condition,
    what greater hope than the hope that allows an escape from that condition?
    As I see once more, existential thought in this regard (and contrary
    to current opinion) is steeped in a vast hope. The very hope
    which at the time of early Christianity and the spreading of the good
    news inflamed the ancient world. But in that leap that characterizes all
    existential thought, in that insistence, in that surveying of a divinity
    devoid of surface, how can one fail to see the mark of a lucidity that repudiates
    itself? It is merely claimed that this is pride abdicating to
    save itself. Such a repudiation would be fecund. But this does not
    change that. The moral value of lucidity cannot be diminished in my
    eyes by calling it sterile like all pride. For a truth also, by its very definition,
    is sterile. All facts are. In a world where everything is given and
    nothing is explained, the fecundity of a value or of a metaphysic is a
    notion devoid of meaning.
    In any case, you see here in what tradition of thought Kafka’s work
    takes its place. It would indeed be intelligent to consider as inevitable
    the progression leading from The Trial to The Castle. Joseph K. and
    the Land Surveyor K. are merely two poles that attract Kafka.[31] I
    shall speak like him and say that his work is probably not absurd. But
    that should not deter us from seeing its nobility and universality. They
    come from the fact that he managed to represent so fully the everyday
    passage from hope to grief and from desperate wisdom to intentional
    blindness. His work is universal (a really absurd work is not universal)
    to the extent to which it represents the emotionally moving face of
    man fleeing humanity, deriving from his contradictions reasons for
    believing, reasons for hoping from his fecund despairs, and calling life
    his terrifying apprenticeship in death. It is universal because its inspiration
    is religious. As in all religions, man is freed of the weight of his
    own life. But if I know that, if I can even admire it, I also know that I
    am not seeking what is universal, but what is true. The two may well
    not coincide.
    This particular view will be better understood if I say that truly
    hopeless thought just happens to be defined by the opposite criteria
    and that the tragic work might be the work that, after all future hope is
    exiled, describes the life of a happy man. The more exciting life is, the
    more absurd is the idea of losing it. This is perhaps the secret of that
    proud aridity felt in Nietzsche’s work. In this connection, Nietzsche
    appears to be the only artist to have derived the extreme consequences
    of an aesthetic of the Absurd, inasmuch as his final message lies in a
    sterile and conquering lucidity and an obstinate negation of any supernatural
    consolation.
    The preceding should nevertheless suffice to bring out the capital
    importance of Kafka in the framework of this essay. Here we are carried
    to the confines of human thought. In the fullest sense of the word,
    it can be said that everything in that work is essential. In any case, it
    propounds the absurd problem altogether. If one wants to compare
    these conclusions with our initial remarks, the content with the form,
    the secret meaning of The Castle with the natural art in which it is
    molded, K.’s passionate, proud quest with the everyday setting against
    which it takes place, then one will realize what may be its greatness.
    For if nostalgia is the mark of the human, perhaps no one has given
    such flesh and volume to these phantoms of regret. But at the same
    time will be sensed what exceptional nobility the absurd work calls for,
    which is perhaps not found here. If the nature of art is to bind the general
    to the particular, ephemeral eternity of a drop of water to the play
    of its lights, it is even truer to judge the greatness of the absurd writer
    by the distance he is able to introduce between these two worlds. His
    secret consists in being able to find the exact point where they meet in
    their greatest disproportion.
    And, to tell the truth, this geometrical locus of man and the inhuman
    is seen everywhere by the pure in heart. If Faust and Don Quixote
    are eminent creations of art, this is because of the immeasurable nobilities
    they point out to us with their earthly hands. Yet a moment always
    comes when the mind negates the truths that those hands can
    touch. A moment comes when the creation ceases to be taken tragically;
    it is merely taken seriously. Then man is concerned with hope.
    But that is not his business. His business is to turn away from subterfuge.
    Yet this is just what I find at the conclusion of the vehement proceedings
    Kafka institutes against the whole universe. His unbelievable
    verdict is this hideous and upsetting world in which the very moles
    dare to hope.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    To you guys I say Wat?????????? Off to ?????? ....... cr****
    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    It's hard to argue with that.

  25. #6205
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    ^This post brought to you by the word "obnoxious"

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    Member Sheldorrr's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    The cool thing about Camus is you really only need the first and last paragraph to get the gist. Kinda like Coachella forums. I see where he was going with that, in retrospect.

  27. #6207
    Coachella Junkie Miroir Noir's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    If anyone needs the endnotes, I can post them as well.
    Quote Originally Posted by canexplain View Post
    To you guys I say Wat?????????? Off to ?????? ....... cr****
    Quote Originally Posted by TomAz View Post
    It's hard to argue with that.

  28. #6208

    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    was enoying reading this until ^

    I seriously hope you get aids

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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Lets be honest, is daft punk still a possibility??? Like 01%??

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    Peaceful Oasis TomAz's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2014 Rumors/Confirmations/Whatever/Etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by kahaha View Post
    Guy arguing #1 turns his head to one guy commenting... Invites him into their bedroom with guy arguing #2's approval.

    Guy commenting thinks... and accepts offer.

    Fast forward to 20 minutes later: Bodies are touching bodies, appendages intertwined with no way of telling whose are whose.

    Frustration is exorcised and with that one final thrust as all three collapse out of breath with exhaustion, Goldenvoice releases the lineup.
    Are you a homophobe, to go along with being a misogynist racist dumbass?
    Quote Originally Posted by efrain44 View Post
    Anyone know who the guy in the Cardinals jersey is? I've seen him in pictures on the board and I thought I saw him this year.

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