Albert Camus on Self-publishing and trash novels

Albert Camus on Self-publishing and trash novels

Albert Camus, an icon of existentialism and the embodiment of literary craftsmanship, had profound thoughts on the creation and presentation of art. When it comes to publishing, the act of bringing words to an audience, we find ourselves in a modern age of unprecedented access and democratization. As Camus brilliantly notes:

“To think is first of all to create a world (or to limit one’s own world, which comes to the same thing). It is starting out from the basic disagreement that separates man from his experience in order to find a common ground according to one’s nostalgia, a universe hedged with reasons or lighted up with analogies but which, in any case, gives an opportunity to rescind the unbearable divorce. The philosopher, even if he is Kant, is a creator. He has his characters, his symbols, and his secret action. He has his plot endings. On the contrary, the lead taken by the novel over poetry and the essay merely represents, despite appearances, a greater intellectualization of the art. Let there be no mistake about it; I am speaking of the greatest. The fecundity and the importance of a literary form are often measured by the trash it contains. The number of bad novels must not make us forget the value of the best. These, indeed, carry with them their universe. The novel has its logic, its reasonings, its intuition, and its postulates. It also has its requirements of clarity.”

In essence, Camus suggests that to think is to craft, to refine a universe from the chaos of our experiences. But, just as there is craft in thinking, there’s craft in the art of self-expression.

In the world of self-publishing, as in the art of thinking and writing, not all creations are of equal weight. Camus himself acknowledges this: “Almost everybody considers himself capable of thinking and, to a certain degree, whether right or wrong, really does think. Very few, on the contrary, can fancy themselves poets or artists in words. But from the moment when thought won out over style, the mob invaded the novel.”

It’s a vivid observation of the very nature of self-publishing today. The democratization of platforms has enabled everyone to be a writer. However, with this ease, there comes a saturation of content, a myriad of voices – not all of which ring with the authenticity or craft of a practiced artist. The act of thinking does not always translate to the art of narrating compellingly or poetically.

Camus’ notion is not a dismissal but a challenge: “That is not such a great evil as is said. The best are led to make greater demands upon themselves. As for those who succumb, they did not deserve to survive.”

In the vast ocean of self-published works, where anyone can share their voice, there lies an implicit challenge for writers: to elevate their craft, to aspire not just to think but to create art. It’s a call to honor the tradition of storytelling by merging thought with style, ensuring that the essence of literature – its depth, beauty, and transformative power – remains intact.

Self-publishing, in light of Camus’ insights, is not just about making one’s voice heard. It’s about ensuring that the voice has something valuable to say and says it beautifully. This bridge between thought and style, between mere expression and artistry, is what distinguishes the ephemeral from the enduring in the realm of literature.

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