The Rebel is probably the most intensely philosophical book that I have read in my entire life. It packs a punch from the word go. As a result it took me quite some time to read and digest the contents of this gem from the legendary French/Algerian philosopher Albert Camus. The most striking parts of this opus, which linger with me even now as I reflect on The Rebel, are the chapters about the ‘haunting’ execution of King Louis XVI and the connection between Rebellion and Art. The latter began with a partial refutation by Camus of Nietzsche’s famous aphorism “No artist tolerates reality”, with an equally profound insight that “No artist can ignore reality.” Interestingly Camus argues that writers and not fine artists shoulder the bulk of the responsibility for rebellion on the aesthetic plane. The intricacy of the arguments advanced by Camus on this topic is awe inspiring. He clearly read and synthesized a vast trove of literature in order write The Rebel with such conviction and command of history, philosophy and politics. This is no small feat. Moreover, Camus expresses his arguments and shapes his concepts with precision as well as literary finesse. This often led me to reread some parts of the text just to fully appreciate the depth of meaning infused by Camus into every sentence. Equally impressive is that Camus, who had a been initially staunch pro-communist leftist, dared to publish The Rebel in which he condemns the murderous atrocities of the totalitarian communist regime in the Soviet Union that followed from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Effectively, this book signifies Camus’ change in allegiance from the extreme left towards a more moderate, humanist philosophy. For this he paid the price of being ostracized by many of his contemporaries including the famous existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre.
Where The Rebel, perhaps falls short in my opinion is that it is very dense and philosophy heavy. One needs to be extremely well versed in philosophy to keep up with Camus’ arguments. I found myself ‘treading water’ many times, just barely managing to follow him. Also, some parts of the book, in particular on Naziism and Communism in Russia go into excruciating detail and at times seem to veer off into intellectual tangents. This made it hard at times for me to sustain my engagement with the content of the book.
In short, The Rebel is perhaps not for everyone. I would highly recommend this book to avid students of philosophy and history, who are willing to make the effort and take the time to delve into the details. This is not a light read for a rainy Sunday afternoon!
Have you read The Rebel? or any of Albert Camus’ other works? What are your thougts after reading his writing? What do you find most intriguing about his writing? Thanks as always for stopping by! Please feel free to share your thoughts or reactions in a comment below. Also, if you would like to receive more updates about my writing please consider joining my newsletter mailing list by subscribing below.