Albert Camus on the Responsibility of the Artist: To “Create Dangerously” (1957)

1960s: Days of Rage

“Literary statements about the nature and purpose of art constitute a genre unto themselves, the ars poetica, an antique form going back at least as far as Roman poet Horace. The 19th century poles of the debate are sometimes represented by the dueling notions of Percy Shelley — who claimed that poets are the ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’ — and Oscar Wilde, who famously proclaimed, ‘all art is quite useless.’ These two statements conveniently describe a conflict between art that involves itself in the struggles of the world, and art that is involved only with itself. In the mid-twentieth century, Albert Camus put the question somewhat differently in a 1957 speech entitled ‘Create Dangerously:Of what could art speak, indeed? If it adapts itself to what the majority of our society wants, art will be a meaningless recreation. If it blindly rejects that society, if…

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