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In this way millions of people will have the feeling of knowing this or that great artist of our time because they have learned from the newspapers that he raises canaries or that he never stays married more than six months. Books By Albert Camus. The Myth of Sisyphus: A Lecture by Albert Camus. December 14, at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. An Oriental wise man always used to ask the divinity in his prayers to be so kind as to spare him from living in an interesting era.

As we are not wise, the divinity has not spared us and we are living in an interesting era. In any case, our era forces us to take an interest in it. The writers of today know this. If they speak up, they are criticized and attacked. If they become modest and keep silent, they are vociferously blamed for their silence.

In the midst of such din the writer cannot hope to remain aloof in order to pursue the reflections and images that are dear to him. Until the present moment, remaining aloof has always been possible in history. When someone did not approve, he could always keep silent or talk of something else. Today everything is changed and even silence has dangerous implications. The moment that abstaining from choice is itself looked upon as a choice and punished or praised as such, the artist is willy-nilly impressed into service.

Every artist today is embarked on the contemporary slave galley. He has to resign himself to this even if he considers that the galley reeks of its past, that the slave-drivers are really too numerous, and, in addition, that the steering is badly handled.

We are on the high seas. The artist, like everyone else, must bend to his oar, without dying if possible—in other words, go on living and creating. To tell the truth, it is not easy, and I can understand why artists regret their former comfort.

The change is somewhat cruel. The former relied on eternal consolations and the latter on raw historical meat. But until now the artist was on the sidelines. He used to sing purposely, for his own sake, or at best to creatr the martyr and make dangerous,y lion forget his appetite. But now the artist is in the amphitheater.

Create Dangerously! | Creative Infrastructure

Of necessity, his voice is not quite the same; it is not nearly so firm. It is easy to see all that art can lose from such a constant obligation.

Ease, to begin with, and that divine liberty so apparent in the work of Mozart. It is easier to understand why our works of art have a drawn, set look and why they collapse so suddenly.

Of course, one can always meet that state of things with a humanistic lamentation and become what Stepan Trofimovich in The Possessed insists upon being; a living reproach. One can also have, like him, attacks of patriotic melancholy. But such melancholy in no way changes reality.

It is better, in my opinion, to give the era its due, since it demands this so vigorously, and calmly admit that the period of the revered master, of the artist with a camellia in his buttonhole, of the armchair genius is over.

To create danferously is to create dangerously. Any publication is an act, and that act exposes one to the passions of an age that forgives nothing. Hence dangerosly question is not to find out if this is or is not prejudicial to art.

The question, for all those who cannot live without art and what it signifies, is merely to find out how, among the police forces of so many ideologies how many churches, what solitude! It is not enough to say in camuz regard that art is threatened by the powers of the State.


If that were true, the problem would be simple: The problem is more complex, more serious too, as soon as it becomes camuus that the battle is waged within the artist himself.

The hatred for art, of which our society provides such fine examples, is so effective today only because it is kept alive by artists themselves. The doubt felt by the artists who preceded us concerned their own talent. The doubt felt dangerosly artists of today concerns the necessity of vamus art, hence their very existence. Racine in would make excuses for writing Berenice when he might have been fighting to defend the Edict of Nantes.

That questioning of art crdate the artist has many reasons, and the loftiest need be considered. What characterizes our time, indeed, is the way the masses and their wretched condition have burst upon contemporary sensibilities.

We now know that they exist, whereas we once had a tendency to forget them. And if we are more aware, it is not because our aristocracy, artistic or otherwise, has become better—no, caums no fear—it is because the cteate have become stronger and keep people from forgetting them. There are still other reasons, and some of them less noble, for this surrender of the artist.

Create Dangerously

But, whatever those reasons may be, they all work toward the same end: In most cases the artist is ashamed of himself and his privileges, if he has any. He must first of all answer the question he has put to himself: The first straightforward reply that can be made is this: On the poop deck of slave galleys it is possible, at any time and place, as we know, to sing of the constellations while the danerously bend over the oars and exhaust themselves in the hold; it dangwrously always possible to record the social conversation that takes place creafe the benches of the amphitheater while the lion is crunching the victim.

And it is very hard to make any objections to the art that has known such success in the past. But things have changed somewhat, and the number of convicts and martyrs has increased amazingly over the surface of the globe. In the face of so much suffering.

Of what could art speak, indeed? If it adapts itself to what the majority of our society wants, art will be a meaningless recreation. If it blindly rejects that society, if the artist makes up his mind to take refuge in his dream, art will express nothing but a negation.

In this way we shall have the production of entertainers or of formal grammarians, and in both cases this leads to an art cut off from living reality. For dagnerously a century we have been living in a society that is not even the society of money gold can arouse carnal passions but that of the abstract symbols of money.

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. However, words cannot be prostituted with impunity. The most misrepresented value today is certainly the value of liberty.

Good minds I have always thought there were two kinds of intelligence—intelligent intelligence and stupid intelligence teach that it is but an obstacle on the path of true progress. But such solemn stupidities danggerously uttered because for a hundred years a society of merchants made an exclusive and unilateral use of liberty, looking upon it as a right rather than as a duty, and did not fear to use an ideal liberty, as often as it could, to justify a very real oppression.

As a result, is there anything surprising in the fact that such a society asked art to be, not dangrrously instrument of liberation, but an inconsequential exercise and a mere entertainment? Consequently, a fashionable society in which all troubles were money troubles and all worries were sentimental worries was satisfied for decades with its society novelists and with the most futile art in the world, the one about which Oscar Wildethinking of himself before he knew prison, said that the greatest of all vices was superficiality.

In this way the manufacturers of art I did not say the artists of middle-class Europe, before and afteraccepted irresponsibility because creatr presupposed a painful break with their society those who really broke with it are named RimbaudNietzscheStrindbergand we know the price they paid.


Create Dangerously

The logical result of such a theory is the art of little cliques or the purely formal art fed on affectations and abstractions and ending in the destruction of all creaet. In this way a few works charm a few individuals while many coarse inventions corrupt many others. Finally art takes shape outside of society and cuts dangerousl off from its living roots.

Gradually the artist, creatd if he is celebrated, is alone or at least is known to his dangeroussly only through the intermediary of the popular press or the radio, which will provide a convenient and simplified idea of him. The more art specializes, in fact, the more necessary popularization becomes.

The greatest renown today consists in being admired or hated without having been read. Any artist who goes in for being famous in our society must know that it is not he eangerously will become famous, but someone else under his name, someone who will eventually escape him and perhaps someday will kill the true artist in him.

Consequently, there is nothing surprising in the fact that almost everything worth while created in the mercantile Europe of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—in literature, for instance—was raised up against the society of its time. It may be said that until almost the time of the French Revolution current literature was, in the main, a literature of consent. Official values were negated, in France, for example, either by the bearers of revolutionary values, from the Romantics to Rimbaudor by the maintainers of aristocratic values, of whom Vigny and Balzac are good examples.

In both cases the masses and the aristocracy—the two sources of all civilization—took their crete against the artificial society of their time. But this negation, maintained so long that it is now rigid, has become artificial too and creatr to another sort of sterility.

Legitimate in the beginning when asserting that a true artist could not compromise with the world of money, the principle became false with the subsidiary belief that an artist could assert himself only by being against everything in dangwrously. Consequently, many of our artists long to be exceptional, feel guilty if they are not, and wish for simultaneous applause and hisses. Naturally, society, tired or indifferent at present, applauds and hisses only at random.

Consequently, the intellectual of today is always bracing himself stiffly to add to his height. But as a result of rejecting everything, even the tradition of his art, the contemporary artist dangerouxly the illusion that he is creating his own rule and eventually takes himself for God.

At the same time he thinks he can create his reality himself. But, cut off from his society, he will create nothing but formal or abstract works, thrilling as experiences but devoid of the fecundity we associate with true creqte, which is called upon to unite. In short, there will be camuz much difference between the contemporary subtleties or abstractions and the works of a Tolstoy or a Moliere as between an anticipatory draft on invisible wheat and the rich soil of the furrow itself.

In this way art may be a deceptive luxury. It is not surprising, then, that men or artists wanted to call a halt and go back to truth. As soon as they did, they denied that the artist had a right rceate solitude and offered him as a subject, not his dreams, but reality as it is lived and endured by all.

He has only to translate the sufferings and happiness of all into the language of all and he will be universally understood. As a reward for being absolutely faithful to reality, he will achieve complete communication among men.

This ideal of universal communication is indeed the ideal of any great artist. Contrary to the current presumption, if there is any man who has no right to solitude, it is the artist.