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

Robert Zaretsky, Author
Robert Zaretsky. Harvard Univ./Belknap, $22.95 (230p) ISBN 978-0-674-72476-1
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University of Houston historian Zaretsky offers an invigorating blend of history, criticism, and biography in a stirring reassessment of the Nobel Prize–winning existentialist writer Albert Camus. Each chapter revolves around a key theme from Camus’s life and work: the absurdity of a meaningless existence; the silence of the universe and the silence of political noncommitment; political and moral moderation; fidelity to intellectual and moral principles; and revolt (rather than rebellion) as a response to power. Zaretsky supplements his discussions of individual works such as The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus with valuable historical and biographical detail, elaborating upon Camus’s complex reactions to defining events, from the oppression of Jews in France during WWII to the violence in Algeria in the 1950s. Zaretsky demonstrates Camus’s commitment to justice and the joy of existence, evident in his rejection of Soviet communism, as well as his principled opposition to terrorism and capital punishment. Camus emerges as a compassionate thinker who always ruthlessly interrogated his own beliefs and assumptions. Zaretsky’s elegant prose and passion for the subject, meanwhile, will inspire both novices in existentialism as well as experts to revisit the contributions of this great French writer. (Nov.)
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