Albert Camus
Quotations


There will be no lasting peace either in the heart of individuals or in social customs until death is outlawed.

Europe has lived on its contradictions, flourished on its differences, and, constantly transcending itself thereby, has created a civilization on which the whole world depends even when rejecting it. This is why I do not believe in a Europe unified under the weight of an ideology or of a technocracy that overlooked these differences.

In order to exist just once in the world, it is necessary never again to exist.

We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.

A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images.

Absolute virtue is impossible and the republic of forgiveness leads, with implacable logic, to the republic of the guillotine.

Whereas the Greeks gave to will the boundaries of reason, we have come to put the will’s impulse in the very center of reason, which has, as a result, become deadly.

The only conception of freedom I can have is that of the prisoner or the individual in the midst of the State. The only one I know is freedom of thought and action.

Without freedom, no art; art lives only on the restraints it imposes on itself, and dies of all others. But without freedom, no socialism either, except the socialism of the gallows.

As for Hitler, his professed religion unhesitatingly juxtaposed the God-Providence and Valhalla. Actually his god was an argument at a political meeting and a manner of reaching an impressive climax at the end of speeches.

It is true that this man was nothing but an elemental force in motion, directed and rendered more effective by extreme cunning and by a relentless tactical clairvoyance . . . . Hitler was history in its purest form.

Holland is a dream, Monsieur, a dream of gold and smoke—smokier by day, more gilded by night. And night and day that dream is peopled with Lohengrins like these, dreamily riding their black bicycles with high handle-bars, funereal swans constantly drifting throughout the whole country, around the seas, along the canals.

Instead of killing and dying in order to produce the being that we are not, we have to live and let live in order to create what we are.

To live is to hurt others, and through others, to hurt oneself. Cruel earth! How can we manage not to touch anything? To find what ultimate exile?

Children will still die unjustly even in a perfect society. Even by his greatest effort, man can only propose to diminish, arithmetically, the sufferings of the world.

Absolute justice is achieved by the suppression of all contradiction: therefore it destroys freedom.

Modern conquerors can kill, but do not seem to be able to create. Artists know how to create but cannot really kill. Murderers are only very exceptionally found among artists.

The modern mind is in complete disarray. Knowledge has stretched itself to the point where neither the world nor our intelligence can find any foot-hold. It is a fact that we are suffering from nihilism.

After all, every murderer when he kills runs the risk of the most dreadful of deaths, whereas those who kill him risk nothing except promotion.

Truly fertile Music, the only kind that will move us, that we shall truly appreciate, will be a Music conducive to Dream, which banishes all reason and analysis. One must not wish first to understand and then to feel. Art does not tolerate Reason.

It is a well-known fact that we always recognize our homeland when we are about to lose it.

If only nature is real and if, in nature, only desire and destruction are legitimate, then, in that all humanity does not suffice to assuage the thirst for blood, the path of destruction must lead to universal annihilation.

A régime [Nazism] which invented a biological foreign policy was obviously acting against its own best interests. But at least it obeyed its own particular logic.

We come into the world laden with the weight of an infinite necessity.

Manhattan. Sometimes from beyond the skyscrapers, across the hundreds of thousands of high walls, the cry of a tugboat finds you in your insomnia in the middle of the night, and you remember that this desert of iron and cement is an island.

From Paul to Stalin, the popes who have chosen Caesar have prepared the way for Caesars who quickly learn to despise popes.

The principles which men give to themselves end by overwhelming their noblest intentions.

To abandon oneself to principles is really to die—and to die for an impossible love which is the contrary of love.

To assert in any case that a man must be absolutely cut off from society because he is absolutely evil amounts to saying that society is absolutely good, and no-one in his right mind will believe this today.

The myth of unlimited production brings war in its train as inevitably as clouds announce a storm.

The society based on production is only productive, not creative.

Retaliation is related to nature and instinct, not to law. Law, by definition, cannot obey the same rules as nature.

Realism should only be the means of expression of religious genius . . . or, at the other extreme, the artistic expressions of monkeys which are quite satisfied with mere imitation. In fact, art is never realistic though sometimes it is tempted to be. To be really realistic a description would have to be endless.

Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.

The rebel can never find peace. He knows what is good and, despite himself, does evil. The value which supports him is never given to him once and for all—he must fight to uphold it, unceasingly.

Ah, mon cher, for anyone who is alone, without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful.

The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.

It is impossible to give a clear account of the world, but art can teach us to reproduce it—just as the world reproduces itself in the course of its eternal gyrations. The primordial sea indefatigably repeats the same words and casts up the same astonished beings on the same seashore.

At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise . . . that denseness and that strangeness of the world is absurd.

What will be left of the power of example if it is proved that capital punishment has another power, and a very real one, which degrades men to the point of shame, madness, and murder?

The most eloquent eulogy of capitalism was made by its greatest enemy. Marx is only anti-capitalist in so far as capitalism is out of date.

In default of inexhaustible happiness, eternal suffering would at least give us a destiny. But we do not even have that consolation, and our worst agonies come to an end one day.

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest—whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories—comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer.

Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to your skepticism.

The society of merchants can be defined as a society in which things disappear in favor of signs. When a ruling class measures its fortunes, not by the acre of land or the ingot of gold, but by the number of figures corresponding ideally to a certain number of exchange operations, it thereby condemns itself to setting a certain kind of humbug at the center of its experience and its universe. A society founded on signs is, in its essence, an artificial society in which man’s carnal truth is handled as something artificial.

A trial cannot be conducted by announcing the general culpability of a civilization. Only the actual deeds which, at least, stank in the nostrils of the entire world were brought to judgment.

Germany collapsed as a result of having engaged in a struggle for empire with the concepts of provincial politics.



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