It is not only the best book Camus has written, but one of the vital works of our time, compassionate and desillusioned, intelligent but instructed by deeply felt experience.
Camus humself described this work as ''an attempt to understand the time I live in''. ''One might think'', he continues, ''that a period which, within fitty years, uproots, enslaves or kills seventy million human beings, should only, and forthwith, be condemned. But also its guilt must be understood.
Stave camps under the flag of freedom, massacres justified by philanthropy or the taste for the superhuman, cripple judgement. On the day when crime puts on the apparel of innocence, through a curious reversal peculiar to our age, it is innocence that is called on to justify itself.
The purpose of this essay is to accept and study that strange challenge.
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