The Myth of Sisyphus  Book Summary - The Myth of Sisyphus  Book explained in key points
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The Myth of Sisyphus summary

Albert Camus

An influential existentialist essay about living your life with greater passion and freedom

4.7 (399 ratings)
14 mins

Brief summary

The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus explores the absurdity of human existence and our search for meaning in a world that seemingly lacks any inherent purpose or value. It offers a philosophical investigation into the human condition and the role of free will.

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    The Myth of Sisyphus
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    The feeling that life is meaningless is a consequence of certain unavoidable experiences in life.

    If you were to ask someone, “Why do you choose to stay alive?” you might get a host of different answers. Some feel an obligation to family. Others might be driven by a curiosity about what life has in store for them. And some may have never considered the question at all and would reply with an exasperated eye roll.

    Camus argues that the most common reason people choose to go on living is a general sense that our activities in life are worth doing.

    This is especially true when we’re young, and life seems full of hope and promise. We’re driven by ambitions. We think of ourselves as progressing. And we feel that our actions have good reasons behind them.

    But there comes a time in a person’s life when nagging doubts begin to nibble at this optimism. There are two experiences, in particular, that are prone to challenge life’s sense of purposefulness: the repetitive nature of our days and an increasing consciousness of our impending death.

    The key message here is: The feeling that life is meaningless is a consequence of certain unavoidable experiences in life. 

    In the grind of the nine-to-five work cycle, where eat, sleep, work, repeat is the mantra of our lives, the repetitive quality of our actions makes itself known. We begin to feel more like machines than people. And constant repetition is enough to drive out any passion we once found in our work. In the exhaustion that we feel at the end of a workday, it’s not uncommon for us to wonder what all this is really for.

    To make matters worse, the inevitability of the final destination death only looms more and more prominently over our lives as we grow older. It serves as an ever-present reminder that nothing we do in life is of any lasting consequence.

    In light of these two unpleasant experiences, it’s not uncommon for an individual to feel that her struggles and suffering in life are pointless.

    This feeling that life has no ultimate value or meaning is what Camus calls the absurd.

    The reason the absurd is so critical to the present discussion is that it’s directly related to the question of suicide.

    It’s often assumed that if life has no meaning, then it isn’t worth living.

    If this is true, then it presents a very real, very urgent, dilemma for anyone who feels this way about their life. Do they go on living in denial of the uncomfortable truth that colors their whole perspective, or do they end their life?

    The overarching problem in these blinks is to examine whether meaninglessness does imply worthlessness or if it’s possible to live a good life in a meaningless world after all.

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    What is The Myth of Sisyphus about?

    The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) is an influential essay that contributed significantly to the philosophical movements of existentialism and absurdism. The essay asks whether life is worth living in a world emptied of religious meaning and considers whether suicide is the only appropriate response to the void of meaninglessness. Ultimately, the essay advises against suicide, arguing that the meaninglessness of existence is, in fact, the condition for a fulfilling life lived with freedom, passion, and happiness.

    The Myth of Sisyphus Review

    The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) by Albert Camus offers a profound exploration of the human condition and the search for meaning in a seemingly absurd world. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It challenges conventional notions of purpose and existence, providing thought-provoking insights that invite readers to question their own beliefs and perceptions.
    • Through philosophical reflections and analysis, the book delves into the concept of the absurd, offering a unique perspective on the nature of human existence and the pursuit of happiness.
    • With its eloquent prose and captivating storytelling, the book engages readers on a deep and intellectual level, making it a compelling and enlightening read.

    Best quote from The Myth of Sisyphus

    There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.

    —Albert Camus
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    Who should read The Myth of Sisyphus ?

    • Atheists who want to know how to live a meaningful life without faith
    • Armchair philosophers interested in significant works of Western thought
    • Anyone who could use a boost of inspiration and passion in their lives

    About the Author

    Albert Camus was a French philosopher, novelist, and journalist whose work centered around existentialist themes. He’s perhaps most famous for his works of literature, especially The Stranger, The Plague, and The Fall. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957.

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    The Myth of Sisyphus  FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Myth of Sisyphus?

    The main message of The Myth of Sisyphus is the absurdity of human existence and the need to find meaning in an inherently meaningless world.

    How long does it take to read The Myth of Sisyphus?

    The reading time for The Myth of Sisyphus varies, but it typically takes several hours. However, you can read the Blinkist summary in just a few minutes.

    Is The Myth of Sisyphus a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Myth of Sisyphus is a thought-provoking read for those interested in existential philosophy. It challenges our perception of life and offers insightful ideas.

    Who is the author of The Myth of Sisyphus?

    The author of The Myth of Sisyphus is Albert Camus.

    What to read after The Myth of Sisyphus ?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Myth of Sisyphus , here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Wisdom of Life by Arthur Schopenhauer
    • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
    • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
    • The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir
    • At The Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell
    • Being and Time by Martin Heidegger
    • On Being and Becoming by Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei
    • The Metaphysics by Aristotle
    • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
    • Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes