Absurdity Between Kafka and Camus

Topics: Existentialism, Franz Kafka, Absurdism Pages: 12 (4315 words) Published: April 11, 2013
This paper seeks to compare and contrast the philosophical views of two great philosophers, namely Albert Camus and Franz Kafka. The works involved in this argument are Kafka's The Metamorphosis and Camus' The Outsider. The chief concern of both writers is to find a kind of solution to the predicament of modern man and his conflict with machines and scientific theories. Death, freedom, truth and identity are themes to be studies here in the sense of absurdity.  

Kafka was born in Prague in 1883. On the Surface, it would seem that he led a very uninteresting life. He grew up in German-speaking Jewish family. His father was very oppressive towards him which made Kafka increasingly isolated.   

Kafka thought of writing as both a curse and a blessing. His works have been interpreted in many ways. His prose explores the ideas of isolation, madness and oppression. His works are part of the philosophical doctrine called existentialism. Existentialism is the idea that without the existence of God, the individual must create all his own choices and have a God-like responsibility for his own life, or give the control of his life to an earthly God-like authority.  

The Metamorphosis is a masterful mix of horror and absurdity telling the story of the travelling salesman Gregor Samsa's bizarre transformation from a man to a man-size cockroach. The story is a powerful exploration of alienation and is regarded as a landmark work of existential literature. However, its power lies in more than its obvious symbolism. Moreover, Kafkaesque is a word invented to describe a thing with a madness bizarre, irrational or overly complex quality.  

On the other side, does Camus stand steady. Camus is a French philosophical novelist and essayist who was also a prose poet and the conscience of his time. He was born in Algeria in 1913. His experience as a fatherless young writer in Algiers and later in the anti-German resistance in Paris during World War II informed everything he wrote.  

Camus' concept of absurdity is a bit different from Kafka's. For Camus, absurdity is just the opposite of reason. The only source of absurdity is chaos and anxiety. Absurdity is often a topic in existentialist writing related to life. In The Outsider, Mersault does not realize his absurd situation until the end of the novel. It is illustrated however in in his indifference towards life and lack of emotion throughout. In the beginning of the novel, Mersault is seen as detached observer of life who is devoted to appreciating sensation. His physical needs such as smoking, sleeping and sex overpower his reason and feeling.  

Similarly, Kafka's concept of absurdity also appears to be puzzling. Kafka's The Metamorphosis relies on the fact that Gregor was already filled with self-loathing and repressed anguish that he was holding back, not only himself but his whole family. It may be impossible to reveal his struggle in images alone. Gregor Samsa epitomizes personal and cultural alienation, but he is also something more, something that cannot be easily explained. This unsettled sensation translates into a nervous Jewish comedy that is such a huge part of culture.  

In addition, Kafka and Camus are similar in their views of death and freedom in the sense that they both seek freedom in death. In The Outsider, as in all his works, Camus' views on freedom and death are as one dependent on the other. Freedom arises in the awareness of one's life, an intense glorious life that needs no redeeming, no regrets, and no tears. Death is unjustifiable absurd. It is but a reintegration into the cosmos for a ''free' man. Until a person reaches this awareness, life, like death, is absurd. Interpreted this way, The Metamorphosis is an indictment of the tendencies both of society to develop and individual to accept the roles proscribed by circumstances and tradition.  

What is the relationship between death and identity? What is freedom and how can one be free? Attempts to understand...

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Camus, Albert. The Outsider. Paris: Faber and Faber, 1942.
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