Quotations by Camus, Albert


If the world were clear, art would not exist.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Absurd Creation,” The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)
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Freedom is not a gift received from a State or a leader but a possession to be won every day by the effort of each and the union of all.

Camus - freedom is not a gift received - wist_info quote

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Bread and Freedom” (1957), Resistance, Rebellion, and Death [tr. O’Brien (1961)]
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Absolute freedom mocks at justice. Absolute justice denies freedom. To be fruitful, the two ideas must find their limits in each other.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Historical Murder,” The Rebel (1951) [tr. Bower]
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Every revolutionary ends by become either an oppressor or a heretic.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Historical Rebellion: Rebellion and Revolution,” The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt (1951) [tr. Bower (1956)]
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The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience. It would be easy, however, to destroy that good conscience by shouting to them: if you want the happiness of the people, let them speak out and tell what kind of happiness they want and what kind they don’t want! But, in truth, the very ones who make use of such alibis know they are lies; they leave to their intellectuals on duty the chore of believing in them and of proving that religion, patriotism, and justice need for their survival the sacrifice of freedom.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Homage to an Exile” (1955)

Published as an essay in Actuelles III, originally a speech (7 Dec 1955) at a banquet in honor of President Eduardo Santos, editor of El Tiempo, driven out of Columbia by a dictatorship". Reprinted in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1960).
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With freedom of the press, nations are not sure of going toward justice and peace. But without it, they are sure of not going there.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Homage to an Exile” (1955), Resistance, Rebellion, and Death [tr. O’Brien (1961)]
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Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Notebook 4,” Notebooks: 1942-1951
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Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal’s deed, however calculated, can be compared. For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date on which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not to be encountered in private life.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Reflections on the Guillotine” (1957)
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In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Return to Tipasa,” Summer (1954)
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In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Camus - invincible summer - wist_info quote

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Return to Tipasa,” Summer (1954)
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The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“The Myth of Sisyphus”, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)
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Don’t let them tell us stories. Don’t let them say of the man sentenced to death “He is going to pay his debt to society,” but: “They are going to cut off his head.” It looks like nothing. But it does make a little difference.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Entre oui et non,” in L’Envers et l’endroit (1937)

Translated as "Between Yes and No", in World Review (Mar 1950).
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Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks: 1942-1951, Notebook 4
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Illness is a convent which has its rule, its austerity, its silences, and its inspirations.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks: 1942-1951, November 1942 [tr. J. O’Brien (1966)]
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Poor and free rather than rich and enslaved. Of course, men want to be both rich and free, and this is what leads them at times to be poor and enslaved.

[Pauvre et libre plutôt que riche et asservi. Bien entendu les hommes veulent être et riches et libres et c’est ce qui les conduit quelquefois à être pauvres et esclaves.]

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks (1942-1951)
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Always struck by the “comical” aspect of everything in Algeria connected with death. I find nothing more justified. Impossible to exaggerate the ridiculous quality of an event that is normally accompanied by sweat and gurgling. Similarly, it could not be too far demoted from the sacred status normally attributed to it. Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear. And from this point of view, death is no more worthy of respect than Nero or the inspector at my local police station.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks, Vol. 1 (1935-1942)
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A free press can of course be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom it will never be anything but bad. … Freedom means nothing but a chance to be better, whereas enslavement is a certainty of the worse.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Resistance, Rebellion and Death (1960)
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Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1960)
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Alas, after a certain age, every man is responsible for his face.

[Après un certain âge tout homme est responsable do son visage.]

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall [La Chute] (1956)

Alt. trans.: "After a certain age, every man has the face he deserves."

See Orwell.
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I never complained that my birthday was overlooked; people were even surprised, with a touch of admiration, by my discretion on this subject. But the reason for my disinterestedness was even more discrete: I longed to be forgotten in order to be able to complain to myself.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall (1956)
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We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something! Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself!

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall (1956) [tr. J. O’Brien]
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How many crimes committed merely because their authors could not endure being wrong?

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall [tr. J. O’Brien (1956)]
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You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall, ch. 56 [tr. J. O’Brien (1956)]
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When a war breaks out, people say: “It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.” But though the war may well be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Plague (1947)
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The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Plague (1947)
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There can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Plague, ch. 2 (1947) [tr. Gilbert (1948)]
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The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown. He must dominate in his turn.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Rebel (1951)
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A character is never the author who created him. It is quite likely, however, that an author may be all his characters simultaneously.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Rebel, Part 2 “Metaphysical Rebellion” (1951)

A remark made about the Marquis de Sade.
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A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images. And in a good novel, the whole of the philosophy has passed into the images. But if once the philosophy overflows the characters and action, and therefore looks like a label stuck on the work, the plot loses its authenticity and the novel its life. Nevertheless, a work that is to last cannot dispense with profound ideas. And this secret fusion between experiences and ideas, between life and reflection on the meaning of life, is what makes the great novelist.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Review of Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea, in Alger Républicain (20 Oct 1938)
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What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man. […] Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Speech, Dominican Monastery of Latour-Maubourg (1948)

Speaking on the Holocaust. In Camus, Resistance, Rebellion and Death [tr. O'Brien (1961)]
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