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A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning

A Life Worth Living Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech Albert Camus declared that a writer s duty is twofold the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance against oppression These twin obsessions help exp

  • Title: A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning
  • Author: Robert Zaretsky
  • ISBN: 9780674724761
  • Page: 398
  • Format: Hardcover
  • In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Albert Camus declared that a writer s duty is twofold the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance against oppression These twin obsessions help explain something of Camus remarkable character, which is the overarching subject of this sympathetic and lively book Through an exploration of themes that preoccupied CamuIn his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Albert Camus declared that a writer s duty is twofold the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance against oppression These twin obsessions help explain something of Camus remarkable character, which is the overarching subject of this sympathetic and lively book Through an exploration of themes that preoccupied Camus absurdity, silence, revolt, fidelity, and moderation Robert Zaretsky portrays a moralist who refused to be fooled by the nobler names we assign to our actions, and who pushed himself, and those about him, to challenge the status quo.Though we do not face the same dangers that threatened Europe when Camus wrote The Myth of Sisyphus and The Stranger, we confront other alarms Herein lies Camus abiding significance Reading his work, we become thoughtful observers of our own lives For Camus, rebellion is an eternal human condition, a timeless struggle against injustice that makes life worth living But rebellion is also bounded by self imposed constraints it is a noble if impossible ideal Such a contradiction suggests that if there is no reason for hope, there is also no occasion for despair a sentiment perhaps better suited for the ancient tragedians than modern political theorists but one whose wisdom abides Yet we must not venerate suffering, Camus cautions the world s beauty demands our attention no less than life s train of injustices That recognition permits him to declare It was the middle of winter, I finally realized that, within me, summer was inextinguishable.

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    1 thought on “A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning

    1. This book deepened my appreciation for all things Camus. Zaretsky writes lucidly, synthesizing information about Albert Camus and his philosophy from interviews, journals, essays, books, and letters. The book is slim, a marvel of precision and understanding.For me, there is no use in summarizing its main points as any bulleted review by me would not offer the depth and complexity of Zaretsky's research about Camus, the pied-noir whose intellectual heroism and honesty is utterly stirring. It is w [...]

    2. Albert Camus was the first "existentialist" (a label he refused) I read in high school. And for many years that's what he remained to me – the author of The Stranger, The Plague, The Myth of Sisyphus, etc. It wasn't until I read Tony Judt's Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956 and The Burden of Responsibility: Blum, Camus, Aron, and the French Twentieth Century that I gained an appreciation for the troubled life and raw courage of the man himself. Robert Zaretsky's book is in the sa [...]

    3. It is easier to reflect on what I did learn in this slim volume. 1) Camus maintained a deep love for Stendhal and Montaigne. The concluding pages of The Strange reflect the influence on Sorel's resignation at the end of The Scarlet and the Black. 2) Camus was ready to beat Merleau-Ponty's ass after the philosopher published his Humanism and Terror. Okay, that's about it.Zaretsky begins the book examining how the ever opportunistic Nicholas Sarkozy used two events in an attempt to reappropriate t [...]

    4. Zaretsky does a masterful job of discussing Camus through the lens of five themes that occupied the philosopher throughout his life: absurdity, silence, measure, fidelity, and revolt. Zarestsky provides valuable context from Camus' live and experiences that help frame the philosopher's moral stance pertaining to these five themes. Camus is too easily labelled as "simply" an existentialist philosopher of the absurd; in Zarestsky's discussion of the tensions that Camus experienced with contemporar [...]

    5. I am surprised to note that my assessment of this book diverges so markedly from fellow GR reviewers' opinion. I experienced this biographic narrative as rather stale and uninvolving. It didn't bring me closer to the man that Albert Camus was. To the contrary. The author deplores that Camus has been turned into a secular saint but his book seems to reinforce that bloodless image. Philosophically the account is underpowered and biographically Zaretsky keeps on revisiting a few trite motto themes. [...]

    6. A very good, concise look at his thinking, a bit of a go at times when it gets into deep philosophy but nevertheless a very good read. From : In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Albert Camus declared that a writer's duty is twofold: "the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance against oppression." These twin obsessions help explain something of Camus' remarkable character, which is the overarching subject of this sympathetic and lively book. Through an exploration of themes that [...]

    7. I enjoyed what I learned about Camus' life through the exploration of the themes of this book. It is a pity Albert Camus died so young. It would have been interesting to see the rest of his contribution to intellectual thinking. But for a short time on earth he certainly made an impact.My favourite quote:"Everything here leaves me intact, I surrender nothing of myself, and don no mask: learning patiently and arduously how to live is enough for me." ( A line from "Nuptials at Tipasa"

    8. In this concise and insightful exploration of Camus' writings, Robert Zaretsky explores the main theme of Camus' personal and creative ventures- the importance of finding meaning in our lives, despite oppression, injustice and the absurdity of life.Zaretsky explains that the major issues that confronted Camus were absurdity, hope and despair for mankind, revolt, fidelity and the common search for happiness and meaning in our lives. He believes that we should read Camus because Camus matters in o [...]

    9. "This is a wonderfully written and expertly researched companion to Zaretsky’s previous book on Camus. Taken together, Zaretsky has proved to be one of the most honest and thoughtful critics of Albert Camus." - Andrew Martino, Southern New Hampshire UniversityThis book was reviewed in the March 2014 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full review by visiting our website: bit/1r450Ah

    10. Maybe more an inter-related series of essays than a biography. Could've used some sharper editing- some of the passages almost exactly re-iterate earlier points. Five or six chapters that isolate and survey themes in one writer's work, tying them back to excruciatingly detailed segments of his life.

    11. "With this as the image I will always imagine Camus happy."As i end reading the book just now and as a result the works of Albert Camus, i feel so empty and so enriched that i hardly feel these words would contemplate those scenarios and emotions same as Camus made his books esp "The Stranger" so light and so deep that for most it went past through without creating an impact.Coming back to this book's review and my opinion of course,I feel this book lacked the essence of actually bringing out th [...]

    12. “In the depths of winter I finally learned I had in me an invincible spring.” In an uncaring world we must care and in a hopeless world, our work matters. “Freedom is nothing but a chance to do better.” Read it over two days sitting on a beach in Bonaire—invigorating for the work ahead

    13. Fascinating exploration of Camus' philosophy. The idea of the fundamental desire to be heard has stuck with me and informs how I understand the world today.

    14. In the prologue to “A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning,” Robert Zaretsky updates the status of Camus in the world of ideas and the world of literature. In the United States, he is still widely read and his books remain in print. In France, his writings and ideas are highly regarded. Even in Algeria, where Camus was born and grew up, Zaretsky writes that “there is a movement toward consensus in Algeria, where an increasing number of Algerian writers claim him as on [...]

    15. It behooves the general reader to be familiar with Camus's major works (The Stranger, The Plague and Sisyphus at a minimum) to get the most out of this fine but slim survey by Robert Zaretsky. I enjoyed the novel structure of this study. The book DOES move sort of chronologically, but rather than begin with birth and end with the grave, Zaretsky is more interested in the pillars of Camus's thought: Absurdity, Silence, Measure, Fidelity, and Revolt. So as I said, though these happen to be ideas C [...]

    16. "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." To me this quote describes best Camus. History of philosophy is never easy as beautiful minds somewhat lose dimensions in the everyday struggles of the human existence. On the other hand we would not have Camus in a different setting. The book tells the story of the man quite satisfactorily, but to my taste with little inspiration. In this sense the writer remains true to [...]

    17. This is a great book. And it is very pertinent to the problems of our times. Rather than describe Camus' life as a narrative, the book explore the central ideas that Camus struggled with throughout his life: Absurdity, Silence, Measure, Fidelity, and Revolt and uses his life experience, in part, to illustrate the difficulties inherent in each idea. We get a sympathetic and fair view of Camus the man as well as his place in history and the importance of his concerns for his time, as well as, for [...]

    18. For me, a decent introduction to Camus' thinking in a number of subjects. I find him to be of high character, and his thought align with mine at the core as far as I can tell from this short work. I cannot say though that I get a sense of Camus being a _great_ thinker from this exposition. I also get a sense that this is more of a complementary work, either to his writing (which of course it should be, but since I haven't read any - well) or to a full biography. So take my rating for what it is. [...]

    19. Zaretsky's book on Camus highlights the important- yet sometimes overlooked- aspects of Camus' quest for "A life worth living"; intelligently and fondly handling the issues through a historical, political, and philosophical lens. As the book progresses, so it seems does Zaretsky's care and attachment to the material, culminating in a near drama-like ending that left me excited and to have read his book and feeling like I reached a new admiration for Camus.

    20. Nobel prize winning Camus has been analysed quite well in this collection of essays. Camus had very strong views on death, silence, revolt and suicide among other topics. He was greatly impacted by the spineless surrender of France to Germany during world war two and made no bones about writing on it. He is aptly summed up as a good man who lived during dark times. Well worth a read though a bit heavy.

    21. Profesor Robert Zaretsky's second book on Albert Camus, concentrating on Camus' later works and the socio-political circumstances from which they sprang: Nazi-occupied France,the Algerinian crisis,the spread of communism. While it busily flits about, it still manages to affirm Camus' lament for man's folly - that as compensation for cosmic validation, we settle for the political kind - and to shed some much-needed light on his unheralded remedy: communion with nature.

    22. This beautiful little book explores Camus' work in relation to human condition, his idea of absurdity of human life, his efforts to listen to silences, his fidelity to human feelings, his rebellion to be true to human existence. Camus is one of the most perceptive writers of the twentieth century, with all its complexities and uncertainties firmly lodged at the core of his work: This book is a highly readable, balanced introduction to this writer who must be read.

    23. A thinking reader's book. Of, course it is about Camus and deals with fundamental questions of truth, justice, cruelty, and happiness. It I also, though, written, like Camus' work, with a poetic heart. I particularly liked the short comparison between Camus and Orwell.

    24. A very enjoyable overview of Camus’ life and writings. The book made me admire Albert Camus even more for his efforts to find a philosophy that place humanity first rather than subjugating humans to ideology.

    25. A portrait of Camus through his themes and obsessions—silence, revolt, absurdity, etc.—in which each chapter reveals a different facet of the man and writer.

    26. By focusing on the qualities that defined Camus' work and life,A Life Worth Livingis a fresh take on a fascinating subject.

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