First, we may escape the human condition altogether through suicide. “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem,” said Camus, “and that is suicide.” We have to come to terms with the question of “whether life is or is not worth living.’ To Camus suicide was a complete cop out – the refusal to come to terms with the human condition. The decision to take one’s own life is tantamount to a decision to leave the game to avoid struggling with life’s tough questions. To commit suicide is to opt for immediate, permanent nothingness rather than risk experiencing separation, meaninglessness, powerlessness, and fear of death. It represents the ultimate form of despair in which our humanity is trumped by nothingness.
More than a decade before Albert Camus (November 7, 1913–January 4, 1960) became the second-youngest laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded him for work that “with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times,” he contemplated the relationship between absurdity and redemption in a 1945 interview by the French journalist Jeanine Delpech, included at the end of his Lyrical and Critical Essays ( public library ) — the superb posthumous collection that gave us Camus on how to strengthen our character in difficult times and happiness, despair, and the love of life .
When Camus again turned his journalist’s eye to the subject of his homeland, it was in Combat , his Resistance newspaper in Paris, following the uprising that began in Sétif on May 8, 1945—the incident that essentially marked the beginning of the Algerian War (although there was no further violence until 1954). According to Alistair Horne in A Savage War of Peace , over five days in and around Sétif, 103 Europeans were murdered and one hundred wounded; “many of the corpses were appallingly mutilated: women with their breasts slashed off, men with their severed sexual organs stuffed into their mouths.”