On my phone I’ll go to Google because they’ll have some pretty (sometimes) interesting articles to read below the search bar. One such article yesterday was something like “Top Ten Absurdist Books You Should Read.” I’ve considered myself an absurdist for years now after devouring Albert Camus’ books – most notably The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus. I also discussed The Myth of Sisyphus at length with a therapist I had at one point in my life and it helped me get through a hard time I was having back then.
For those of you who don’t know, absurdism is the belief that the universe has no meaning and doesn’t care about you one way or the other. The only solution is to see and accept the absurdity of the world that is just senselessly going through the motions, no rhyme nor reason. All such statements as “we are stardust” and “the universe becomes aware of itself” are narcissistic ego-stroking soundbites by a ridiculous monkey in an uncaring universe who can’t help but invent laughable fictions about its own imagined superiority. So go on living your life without meaning. Roll the boulder up the hill as Sisyphus did only to watch it roll back down over and over again and laugh in the face of that. As Albert Camus states at the end of The Myth of Sisyphus “one must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Sure, there is no inherent meaning in life so just find something you like to do and enjoy it. In the end of The Myth of Sisyphus, Sisyphus found the absurdity of pushing the boulder up the hill over and over again amusing.
A few Absurdist books I’ve read and enjoyed have been:
The Stranger by Albert Camus
The Plague by Albert Camus
The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore as well as its sequel …
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Best Pal by Christopher Moore
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
There was one book in the vein of Absurdism I wasn’t familiar with, The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. I ordered it this morning and can’t wait for it to get here. It tells the story of a man trapped in a house surrounded by sand dunes that he has to keep digging in order to keep the house clear. He ultimately finds a way to collect water which gives him a sense of purpose and liberty.
Another book (or in this case, a play) that I’ve had my eyes on for quite some time is Waiting for Godot. Two men are having a conversation while waiting for the mysterious Godot, who continually sends word that he’ll appear but never does.
Absurdism focuses on the pointlessness of life and occurs when humans try to make sense of life when life in itself is senseless. According to Camus the answer to the absurd is suicide. But wait! Going back to Sisyphus and his rolling the boulder up the hill only for it to roll back down again. We, too, can become fully alive through choosing to acknowledge the hopelessness of our condition. We can do this and carry on regardless.
Camus believes we are condemned to absurdity but that’s not a bad thing. By confronting this absurdity and carrying on in spite of it that a truly authentic life can be lived.