(1913-1960), French

Albert Camus’ Top 10 Best Quotes

As a writer of fiction and philosophical essays, Camus’ work has something for every moment of life, of doubt, and of worry. Throughout his writing, readers can investigate the nature of life, the inevitability of death, and the ways that Camus thought it was possible to deal with his own absurdist philosophy.

Albert Camus' Top 10 Best Quotes

Mortality

I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.

This short line comes from the final paragraph of Camus’ masterpiece, L’Étranger, or The Stranger. The main character, Meursault is facing execution for the thoughtless and mostly pointless murder of a man on the beach. Throughout the novel, he maintains an emotionless outlook on life and the people around him. He hits a breaking point right before this paragraph where he experiences extreme rage. That sets him on the path to his final moments of peace in which he is willing his death on and is ready to face the pointlessness of his existence. 

Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.

This line, which also comes from The Stranger is one of clearest examples of how Camus’ philosophical idea of absurdism informs the novel. Here, Meursault is expressing the most basic tenant of absurdism, that death is inescapable and humans can’t do anything to change that. He knows this in a way that no one else around him does. It is this belief that eventually carries him to his death. 

The Nature of Life

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.

These lines are included in Camus’ most-celebrated essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus”. The narrator is speaking about the fact that knowledge and robbery are not two sides of a coin. In fact, Camus states, aiming knowledge is a kind of theft in and of itself. Camus works in his perception of the character of Sisyphus and his inquisitive nature. 

There is no sun without the shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes and his efforts will henceforth be unceasing.

These beautiful lines also come from The Myth of Sisyphus. Here, the narrator is speaking about the symbols of day and night and Sisyphus’ contented state in the latter. He persists, finding peace in the dark, and maintains his role even though he is in a difficult situation. 

When a war breaks out, people say: “It is too stupid; it can’t last long.” But though a war may well be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so wrapped up in ourselves.

Camus wrote these memorable lines in The Plague, one of his best novels. In this story, he details a semi-fictional outbreak of disease in his hometown of Algiers. These lines are spoken by the narrator who is explaining the distinctly absurd quest to make sense of the passing of time. It doesn’t matter, he’s saying, what the nature of things such as war are, they’ll come and go without reason.

There are people who vindicate the world, who help others live just by their presence.

Throughout these lines, which appear in Camus’ The First Man, he discusses the people who make the world better by simply existing. This is contrasted against those whose presence seems to bring down everything around them. Others vindicate, improve, and heighten the lives and moments they touch. 

His hair isn’t as well brushed as usual, and he looks less alert, less military. You can see he is worried. After a few moments he went back into the room. But first he spat once—on emptiness.

These striking lines are only a few of the many short passages that make up The Plague. Here, the narrator is using “emptiness” as a metaphor for the absurdity and meaninglessness of life. He “spat once—on emptiness” presents the reader with something unresolvable, just as the desire for meaning can’t be reconciled with the lack of meaning in the world.

 

Time

It was undoubtedly a feeling of exile… that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else to speed up the march of time….In short, we returned to our prison-house, we had nothing left us but the past, and even if some were tempted to live in the future, they had to speedily abandon the idea.

Also from The Plague, this short piece of text speaks on time and Oran’s exile. Rather than being physically exiled, Oran is an exile in time. There is a “longing” to go back to the past or move on towards the future. The present is just in the way. 

Inner Strength

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger — something better, pushing right back.

In these lines, which come from The Stranger, are some of Camus’ mostly commonly quoted. They speak to perseverance and an internal strength that goes beyond any of the difficulties that the world could throw one’s way. The use of repetition in this quote emphasizes the impassioned nature of the strength and the speaker’s presumed determination. 

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Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.

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