Critical Insights: Albert Camus

Critical Insights Series

The series focuses on an individual author's entire body of work, a single work of literature, or a literary theme.

At a Glance
  • 1 Volume; 300 Pages
  • 10-14 essays offering Current Critical Analysis by Top Literary Scholars
  • Introductory Essay by the Editor
  • Chronology of Author's Life
  • Complete List of Author's Works
  • Publication Dates of Works
  • Detailed Bio of the Editor
  • General Bibliography
  • General Subject Index
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Editor: Steven G. Kellman,
    University of Texas at San Antonio
September 2011 · 1 volume · 360 pages · 6"x9"

Includes Online Database with Print Purchase
ISBN: 978-1-58765-825-9
# of Pages: 360
# of Volumes: 1
Print List Price: $105
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e-ISBN: 978-1-58765-825-9
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Camus attracted the interest of scholars from many disciplines— specialists in literature, theater, philosophy, theology, political science, history, psychology, medicine, and law. This volume offers original contributions, while also reprinting a sampling of some of the more trenchant earlier essays about the man and his work.

Throughout his career and in the decades following his premature death in 1960, Albert Camus gained a large and avid international readership. But he has also attracted the interest of scholars from many disciplines, specialists in literature, theater, philosophy, theology, political science, history, psychology, medicine, and law.

His novels, stories, essays, and plays have been examined within the context of their historical moment, the troubled period before, during, and after World War II. They have been studied for their distinctive, economic styles, their innovative use of narrative perspective, and their thematic preoccupation with alienation and injustice. His work has been read as a contribution to moral and political philosophy and to an understanding of personality disorders, legal theory, and personal identity.

An essay on his critical reception describes the variety of ways in which Camus has been read, themes that have inspired discussion, and points of continuing controversy. Camus's own reaction to his hostile critics, particularly his erstwhile friend Jean-Paul Sartre, led to the bitterness pervading The Fall and Exile and the Kingdom. After more than seventy years, the accumulated commentary on Camus constitutes a rich and lively conversation to which this volume offers original contributions, while also reprinting a sampling of some of the more trenchant earlier essays about the man and his work.

Camus lived his work, and, long before he conceived The First Man, the autobiographical novel whose unfinished manuscript was found at the scene of the crash that took his life, Camus's life and work were unusually intertwined. As explained in the biographical overview, Camus was decisively shaped by his native Algeria, a North African outpost of France in which, as the French-speaking grandson of European settlers, he remained an outsider. The fact that Camus became famous with the publication of his first novel, The Stranger, in 1942, and remained one of Europe's leading literary celebrities had profound effects on his life and work. So, too, did his embrace and subsequent repudiation by Sartre and his coterie of Existentialists.

Another explains how original plays such as The Misunderstanding has received much less attention than his fiction and essays. But that, in spite of this oversight, Camus consistently saw himself as primarily a man of the theater - an actor, director, and playwright working in and for a community of shared values.

Camus is probably best known as the author of a novel in which a European Algerian named Meursault gratuitously murders an Arab on the beach. Setting his fiction again and again in North Africa, he wrote about what he knew best, the colon community. Reacting against dismissals of Camus as an apologist for French colonial rule, Margerrison offers an informed and nuanced analysis of his Algerian identity and his acquaintance with the North African communities outside the one into which he was born.

After his falling out with Sartre, Camus came to reject the fashionable label "Existentialist" that was often imposed on him, but a vision of an absurd universe nevertheless informs much of his work, fiction and nonfiction. In "Albert Camus and the Metaphor of Absurdity," shows that, in Camus, the universe exasperates attempts at rational explanation. Through an analysis of Camus' absurdity, there is shown affinities between Camus's writing and the works of Blaise Pascal, Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Franz Kafka.

Elsewhere, there is an examination of the absurd as a philosophical question, one that is ontological before it is ethical. Defining the absurd as "a yearning for the absolute and a longing for transcendent unity on the one hand, and an awareness of the limitations and finality of human ability on the other," an essay concentrates on The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), Camus's most extended and explicit discussion of absurdity.

There is also extensive consideration of Camus' relationship with and influence by Sartre, Gustave Flaubert, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, Sebald, André Gide, and André Malraux.

Each essay is 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:

A chronology of the author's life
A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
A general bibliography
A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
Notes on the individual chapter authors
A subject index