Crooked Finger (crookedfingers) wrote,
Crooked Finger
crookedfingers

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the nihilist of Camus is the silent fellow next door

It is 1:11 PM Thursday afternoon in the flow of decay. This morning I took Rudy for a walk at Kollen Park and visit thrift stores. When I got home I ate lunch, wrote in my paper diary and read stuff on the internet. This afternoon I got out to read once again the book "Time Of Need: Forms Of Imagination In The Twentieth Century" by William Barrett. I read something in this book that back ups what I have been writing about lately in my online diary.

"Camus' hero is altogether different from these predecessors, and the degree of this difference is a revelation of how far and fast history has moved since the nineteenth century. Meursault does not want society changed. The social mechanism is so incomprehensible and absurd in his eyes that he could not even begin to imagine at what point it might be changed; and even begin to changed, he would find the new order just about the same. As for the ultimate philosophical questions, Meursault is totally unaware of them. The question "What meaning does life have?" would itself be meaningless to him-at least as he is when we meet him at the beginning of the book. He has not risen yet to the level of any such question. Moreover, this hero, who is supposed to be so bleak a nihilist, is a likable person. Something of Camus himself-a fond identification with his own creature-has rubbed off on his character. Whereas the Russian writers of the nineteenth century presented their heroes as monstrous warnings to society, the nihilist of Camus is the silent fellow next door, though just a little more honest in his feelings and without the sentimental slogans of the common man. If Meursault is any evidence, mankind has not trouble surviving the death of God, which nineteenth-century writers-whether believers or atheists-looked on with so much apprehension. God is so very much dead that for Meursault the word itself has lost any meaning; and when the priest who visits him in his cell exhorts him to turn his thoughts that way, Meursault cannot understand why this man should direct any passion in that direction.

Seen in this historical perspective, Meursault emerges, not so much an outsider, but very much an insider in the world of today. Camus later observed dryly of his character, "He does not ask question." Millions of human beings now live in his estrangement from the ultimate questions-or what were thought to be ultimate questions in the last century. He is a perfectly ordinary fellow, a waif of society, an insignificant clerk without distinction or ambitions. There must be millions like him. . ." pg. 36,37
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