Albert Camus and Franz Kafka

Albert Camus and Franz Kafka focus on the same genre of literature, in addition to containing work which flourished as part of the existential movement. ‘Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts’ (All About Philosophy 2014). Both Kafka and Camus immerse distinct styles into their writing through their philosophies. Both authors are also similar when they illustrate how society tends to judge people as if we are greater beings: questioning if someone chooses to submit to defeat, will the individual truly ensue social norms? Both authors focus on how perfection is unattainable, yet humans still try to steer the efforts of others in another direction. The most obvious similarity that you can notice between Kafka and Camus is in their worldviews: they were both acutely aware of what they viewed as life’s absurdities and meaninglessness. The main theme that both Albert Camus and Franz Kafka see eye to eye is on the absurd, more specifically, the absurdity of existence. Camus’s opening statement “The Myth of Sisyphus,” is that “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide.” (Sineokov 2009) In the “Myth of Sisyphus”, Camus illustrates a human model of Sisyphus, figure who is forced to roll a rock up a hill for all of eternity to outline his destiny of either continuing the rigor of surviving or committing suicide. In the end of Camus’s book (in the appendix), he salutes Franz Kafka in the matter where he played a role in influencing his ideas of existential absurdity. More specifically, the section was labeled ‘Hope and the Absurd in the works of Franz Kafka’. Inside the section, Camus explains how Kafka can express the true identity of an absurdist state. However, he strongly argues how Kafka’s literature does not pertain completely to absurdism because from time to time he presents a small chance for hope to arise. Camus himself advocated that to attain happiness, it is better suited for one to be satisfied and content with the world’s absurdity all around rather than set expectations for a better future.

However, Kafka and Camus present their similar beliefs in dissimilar ways. For uses this dark realism to display his dark philosophies. But, Kafka is far more fantastical with his stories. In Kafka’s short story “The Trial”, he emphasizes the absurdity through the unfair justice system presented by the court. No matter where Joseph K. went or what he did, he was suffering from cruel and unusual punishment, even though there was no reason explicitly stated by any character. Kafka creates an imaginative story forcing readers to ponder the actions and thoughts pertaining to the individuals causing K despair and treachery. While in “The Judgement”, Camus utilizes a power struggle between a a father and a son with a dark realism inferring the truth between family hierarchy.

In addition, Kafka looked up to psychoanalysis and psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud, to depict character development and theme for his philosophical ideas. Both authors explore the laddered social hierarchy and how it coincides around human values. Kafka does not write about the real struggles that humans face every day; however, he focuses about the struggles that are abstract and sometimes unreachable; creating a deep sense of irony and humor, thus more difficult to assimilate than Camus. Camus uses fragmented and simpler sentences to convey his main philosophical ideas. In a diverse sense of perspective, Camus tends to right more broad range of ethical and moral issues plaguing society.               

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