The Best of Albert Camus’s Notebooks
A random scattering, some barely aphorisms, from the first two volumes of the notebooks of Albert Camus. They are gold:
One must not cut oneself off from the world. No one who lives in the sunlight makes a failure of his life. My whole effort, whatever the situation, misfortune or disillusion, must be to make contact again. But even within this sadness I feel a great leap of joy and a great desire to love simply at the sight of a hill against the evening sky.
What I mean is this: that one can, with no romanticism, feel nostalgic for lost poverty. A certain number of years lived without money are enough to create a whole sensibility.
It is in this life of poverty, among these vain or humble people, that I have most certainly touched what I feel is the true meaning of life. Works of art will never provide this and art is not everything for me. Let it at least be a means.
We do not need to reveal ourselves to others, but only to those we love. For then we are no longer revealing ourselves in order to seem but in order to give. There is much more strength in a man who reveals himself only when it is necessary.
To give up all feeling that the world owes you a living and devote yourself to achieving two kinds of freedom: freedom from money, and freedom from your own vanity and cowardice. To have rules and stick to them. Two years is not too long a time to spend thinking about one single point. You must wipe out all earlier stages, and concentrate all your strength first of all on forgetting nothing and then on waiting patiently.
The temptation shared by all forms of intelligence: cynicism.
The misery and greatness of this world: it offers no truths, but only objects for love. Absurdity is king, but love saves us from it.
One individual’s reaction has no intrinsic importance. It can be of some use, but it can justify nothing. The dilettante’s dream of being free to hover above his time is the most ridiculous form of liberty. This is why I must try to serve. And, if they don’t want me, I must also accept the position of the “despised civilian.” In both cases, I am absolutely free to judge things and to feel as disgusted with them as I like. In both cases, I am in the midst of the war, and have the right to judge it. To judge it, and to act.
Only great thoughts are capable of such contradictory fruitfulness.
Hence the fact that being able to live alone in one room in Paris for a year teaches a man more than a hundred literary salons and forty years’ experience of “Parisian life.” It is a hard, terrible, and sometimes agonizing experience, and always on the verge of madness. But, by being close to such a fate, a man’s quality must either become hardened and tempered—or perish. And if it perishes, then it is because it was not strong enough to live.
Modern intelligence is in utter confusion. Knowledge has become so diffuse that the world and the mind have lost all point of reference. It is a fact that we are suffering from nihilism. But the most amazing things are the admonitions to “turn backward.” Return to the Middle Ages, to primitive mentality, to the soil, to religion, to the arsenal of worn-out solutions. To grant a shadow of efficacy to those panaceas, we should have to act as if our acquired knowledge had ceased to exist, as if we had learned nothing, and pretend in short to erase with is inerasable. We should have to cancel the contribution of several centuries and the controvertible acquisitions of a mind that has finally (in its last step forward) re-created chaos on its own. That is impossible. In order to be cured, we must make our peace with this lucidity, this clairvoyance. We must take into account the glimpses we have suddenly had of our exile. Intelligence is in confusion not because knowledge has changed everything. It is so because it cannot accept that change. It hasn’t “got accustomed to that idea.” When this does happen, the confusion will disappear. Nothing will remain bu the change and the clear knowledge that the mind has of it. There’s a whole civilization to be reconstructed.
A writer must never speak of his doubts regarding his creation. It would be too easy to answer him: “Who is forcing you to create? If it is such a constant anguish, why do you endure it?” Doubts are the most intimate thing about us. Never speak of one’s doubts, whatever they may be.
I don’t refuse a path leading to the Supreme Being, so long as it doesn’t avoid other beings.
The dreadful and consuming selfishness of artists.
My deepest, surest inclination lies in silence and the daily routine. To escape relaxation, the fascination of the mechanical, it took years of perseverance.
I have never seen very clearly into myself in the final analysis. But I have always instinctively followed an invisible stars…. There is in me an anarchy, a frightful disorder. Creating costs me a thousand deaths, for it involves an order and my whole being rebels against order. But without tit I should die scattered.
Not morality but fulfillment. And there is no other fulfillment than that of love, in other words of yielding to oneself and dying to the world. Go all the way. Disappear. Dissolve in love. Then the force of love will create without me. Be swallowed up. Break up. Vanish in fulfillment and the passion of truth.