by Albert Camus, Translated from the French by Philip Thody
Knopf, 225 pp., $5.00
|Axolotl / Ajolote|
This is the first novel from a writer from whom everything may be expected. So natural a suppleness in staying on the far boundaries of conscious thought, so painful a lucidity, are indications of limitless gifts. These are grounds for welcomingNausea as the first summons of an original and vigorous mind whose lessons and works to come we are impatient to see.
in his two books, has been able to get straight to the essential problem and bring it to life through his obsessive characters. A great writer always introduces his own world and its message. Sartre's brings us to nothingness, but also to lucidity. And the image he perpetuates through his characters, of a man seated amid the ruins of his life, is a good illustration of the greatness and truth of his work.
The absurd…resides neither in man nor in the world if you consider each separately. But since man's dominant characteristic is "being-in-the-world," the absurd is, in the end, an inseparable part of the human condition. Thus, the absurd is not, to begin with, the object of a mere idea; it is revealed to us in a doleful illumination. "Getting up, tram, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, in the same routine…," and then, suddenly, "the seeing collapses," and we find ourselves in a state of hopeless lucidity.
There is not a single unnecessary detail, nor one that is not returned to later on, and used in the argument. And when we close the book, we realize that it could not have had any other ending. In this world that has been stripped of its causality and presented as absurd, the smallest incident has weight. There is no single one which does not help to lead the hero to crime and capital punishment. The Stranger is a classical work, an orderly work, composed about the absurd and against the absurd.
Sartre's article is a model of "taking apart." Of course, every creation has an instinctive element which [he] does not envision, and intelligence does not play such an important role. But in criticism this is the rule of the game, which is fine because on several points he enlightened me about what I wanted to do. I also see that most of his criticisms are fair, but why that acid tone?