An essay by Contributing Editor Andrew Ng, ’22
Vladimir: Nothing you can do about it.
Estragon: No use struggling.
Vladimir: One is what one is.
Estragon: No use wriggling.
Vladimir: The essential doesn’t change.
Estragon: Nothing to be done.
– Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
Vladimir and Estragon experience the Absurd, facing up against the purposelessness of life and the hopelessness of the world. The Absurd is, as Camus worded it, the “divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting.” The question of life – the question of living – bears heavily on the absurd man (note: in The Myth of Sisyphus (Tr: Justin O’Brien) Camus uses the phrase “absurd man,” as opposed to “absurd person,” etc. I have chosen to also use “absurd man” to maintain clarity and consistency, though I find it misogynistic), and truly on all of us. The philosopher and the writer confront the Absurd to examine humanity. Camus differentiates yet links these disciplines to find that “the great novelists are philosophical novelists,” yet not philosophers themselves: they write “in images rather than in reasoned arguments.” But Camus himself was undeniably both a novelist and a philosopher. And The Stranger is as much of an account of his philosophy as is The Myth of Sisyphus. The distinction then is a matter of appearances: the great author, as the Russian Formalists might put it, “defamiliarizes” the reader yet still conveys message and meaning. Meaning, for Camus, being a confrontation with the Absurd. Continue reading “What Is to Be Done”