[Book Review] The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt-Albert Camus

Rating: ★★★★★

 

I should say this essay shows the capability of Camus as a philosophical essayist as much as how he presented his depth and width of knowledge in The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus has a very complicated upbringing and background . Camus is a man who lived through Nazi occupation, and through the trials of Nazis and Nazi collaborators; and was, albeit briefly, a member of the Communist Party, a committed socialist in his early adult and professional life, a darling of the Leftists of the Paris Intelligentsia until the publishing of this book and finally a disaffected anti-Stalinist/Soviet and pro-mediation, not independence, in his native nation of Algeria.

Camus highlighted the multifaceted aspect of the rebel(or revolution) and emphasized its importance for the society and I think his message, ‘I rebel, therefore we exist.’, is still clear and meaningful these days where there need to have reformation to restructure the corrupted and disorganized society around the world, not only the French Revolution.

As long as mankind has told stories, the topic of rebellion has been central.

“Man’s disobedience and the loss thereupon of Paradise”, as well as Satan’s rebellion against the oppressive authority of God in Heaven are the two main strands in Milton’s classic Paradise lost, to just name one of countless examples, summing up human experience in unforgettable drama.

Camus analyses the topic from a philosophical and historical viewpoint, and gives a perfect example for his thesis on revolution and the development of mankind by writing this long reflective essay, rebelling against the predominant ideas of his own time.

Starting with the metaphysical revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, but always with the disastrous contemporary world post 1945 in mind, Camus embarks on a quest to establish the nature and consequence of revolts and revolutions, and to define the limits within which it is still possible to justify violence and stay human.

Camus slowly guides the reader through the various causes and effects of religious, historical and political revolts and revolutions, as well as artistic revolutions in modern society. He explains the initiatives deriving from a sense of justice, and the consequences of absolute faith in the revolutionary cause, leading to its proverbial eating its own children and turning into its opposite, until a new revolution takes place.
This book is challenging, more challenging if you don’t have sufficient background knowledge in history,philosophy and literature since many of his examples stem from these areas. While reading this, I had to take some side trips to google some more information on his examples. But it is a great book that makes you feel you are having a highly intellectual conversation with Camus. It is time to rebel and say NO! To dogmatic violence. And it is time to say YES! To all of humankind, by respecting every individual’s right to freely develop their identity within the limits of justice.
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