Vargas is a historian who incorporates her knowledge of history into her books, creating rich, eccentric characters who have the education necessary to make her plots play out in a satisfying way. For this reason, you may find Vargas comforting. She creates characters who are armed with unexpected facts that end up applying to real-life situations. This is a classic that is part of any basic education in French literature. Set in French colonial Vietnam, it tells the story of a young girl from a French family who becomes romantically involved with an older Chinese man.
The plot is narrated from the detached point of view of a woman who is now much older and reflecting on the events related. The writing is hypnotic and simple to read. Another classic, this is a sparse moral and psychological drama. The story follows a young man who develops a relationship with an older woman.
Michel Houellebecq has become a highly controversial figure in France for writing characters with questionable social views and making offensive statements. Narrated by a female character who was raised by a group of older women imprisoned in an undisclosed underground location, the reader is introduced to a world that is like this one but also distinctly different. This is the longest and most difficult book on the list, but also one of the most useful for learning French.
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If you find it intimidating, work your way through a few others first and try coming back to it. Pancol writes with a light, sympathetic touch about members of a modern French family who follow separate ambitions and interests while still striving to love and support one another. French literature is a rich and varied world, and there are sure to be plenty of books out there that are right for you.
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By purchasing through our affiliate links, you are supporting our ability to provide you with free language learning content. Interested in sharing your language learning resource with our audience? Contact Us to request information about sponsored posts and product reviews. Navigation French Language and Culture Blog. By Elisabeth Cook. After the rock comes tumbling down, confirming the ultimate futility of his project, Sisyphus trudges after it once again.
At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks towards the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. This is how a life without ultimate meaning can be made worth living. Sisyphus accepts and embraces living with death without the possibility of appealing to God. His fate belongs to him. He has lived his existence from one moment to the next and without much awareness, but at his trial and while awaiting execution he becomes like Sisyphus, fully conscious of himself and his terrible fate.
He will die triumphant as the absurd man.
The Myth of Sisyphus is far from having a skeptical conclusion. In response to the lure of suicide, Camus counsels an intensely conscious and active non-resolution. Rejecting any hope of resolving the strain is also to reject despair. Indeed, it is possible, within and against these limits, to speak of happiness. It is not that discovering the absurd leads necessarily to happiness, but rather that acknowledging the absurd means also accepting human frailty, an awareness of our limitations, and the fact that we cannot help wishing to go beyond what is possible.
These are all tokens of being fully alive. First of all, like Pyrrho, Camus has solved his pressing existential issue, namely, avoiding despair, by a kind of resolution entailed in accepting our mortality and ultimate ignorance.
But there are two critical differences with Pyrrho: for Camus we never can abandon the desire to know, and realizing this leads to a quickening of our life-impulses. This last point was already contained in Nuptials , but here is expanded to link consciousness with happiness. But how is it possible that, by the end of The Myth of Sisyphus , Camus has moved from skepticism about finding the truth and nihilism about whether life has meaning to advocating an approach to life that is clearly judged to be better than others?
How does he justify embracing a normative stance, affirming specific values? This contradiction reveals a certain sleight of hand, as the philosopher gives way to the artist. It is as an artist that Camus now makes his case for acceptance of tragedy, the consciousness of absurdity, and a life of sensuous vitality.
He advocates this with the image of Sisyphus straining, fully alive, and happy. And it is often forgotten that this absurdist novelist and philosopher was also a political activist—he had been a member of the Algerian branch of the French Communist Party in the mids and was organizer of an Algiers theater company that performed avant-garde and political plays—as well as a crusading journalist. In June he wrote a series of reports on famine and poverty in the mountainous coastal region of Kabylie, among the first detailed articles ever written by a European Algerian describing the wretched living conditions of the native population.
The spectacle of Camus and his mentor Pascal Pia running their left-wing daily into the ground because they rejected the urgency of fighting Nazism is one of the most striking but least commented-on periods of his life. Misunderstanding Nazism at the beginning of the war, he advocated negotiations with Hitler that would in part reverse the humiliations of the Treaty of Versailles. His pacifism was in keeping with a time-honored French tradition, and Camus reported for military service out of solidarity with those young men, like his brother, who had become soldiers.
Intending to serve loyally and to advocate a negotiated peace in the barracks, he was angered that his tuberculosis disqualified him Lottman, —31; Aronson , 25— However, after the Liberation the question of violence continued to occupy him both politically and philosophically. His allegory of the war years, The Plague , depicts a nonviolent resistance to an unexplained pestilence, and in his was one of the few voices raised in protest against the American use of nuclear weapons to defeat Japan Aronson , After the Liberation he opposed the death penalty for collaborators, turned against Marxism and Communism for embracing revolution, rejected the looming cold war and its threatening violence, and then in The Rebel began to spell out his deeper understanding of violence.
Writing as a philosopher again, he returns to the terrain of argument by explaining what absurdist reasoning entails. Since to conclude otherwise would negate its very premise, namely the existence of the questioner, absurdism must logically accept life as the one necessary good. As in his criticism of the existentialists, Camus advocates a single standpoint from which to argue for objective validity, that of consistency.
One might think that a period which, in a space of fifty years, uproots, enslaves, or kills seventy million human beings should be condemned out of hand. Do such questions represent an entirely new philosophy or are they continuous with The Myth of Sisyphus?.
The issue is not resolved by the explanations that Camus gives for his shift in the first pages of The Rebel —by referring to the mass murders of the middle third of the twentieth century. In so doing Camus applies the philosophy of the absurd in new, social directions, and seeks to answer new, historical questions. But as we see him setting this up at the beginning of The Rebel the continuity with a philosophical reading of The Stranger is also strikingly clear. At the beginning of The Rebel Camus explains:.
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Having ruled out suicide, what is there to say about murder? Starting from the absence of God, the key theme of Nuptials , and the inevitability of absurdity, the key theme of The Myth of Sisyphus , Camus incorporates both of these into The Rebel , but alongside them he now stresses revolt.
The act of rebellion assumes the status of a primary datum of human experience, like the Cartesian cogito taken by Sartre as his point of departure. Camus first expressed this directly under the inspiration of his encounter with Being and Nothingness. But how can an I lead to a we?
Acting against oppression entails having recourse to social values, and at the same time joining with others in struggle. On both levels solidarity is our common condition. In The Rebel Camus takes the further step, which occupies most of the book, of developing his notion of metaphysical and historical rebellion in opposition to the concept of revolution. And now, in The Rebel , he describes this as a major trend of modern history, using similar terms to those he had used in The Myth of Sisyphus to describe the religious and philosophical evasions.
What sort of work is this? In a book so charged with political meaning, Camus makes no explicitly political arguments or revelations, and presents little in the way of actual social analysis or concrete historical study. The Rebel is, rather, a historically framed philosophical essay about underlying ideas and attitudes of civilization. David Sprintzen suggests these taken-for-granted attitudes operate implicitly and in the background of human projects and very rarely become conscious Sprintzen , Camus felt that it was urgent to critically examine these attitudes in a world in which calculated murder had become common.
The book provides a unique perspective—presenting a coherent and original structure of premise, mood, description, philosophy, history, and even prejudice. These certainly reached back to his expulsion from the Communist Party in the mids for refusing to adhere to its Popular Front strategy of playing down French colonialism in Algeria in order to win support from the white working class.
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