30 Totally Relatable Quotes from Absurdist Fiction

“Our society is absurd, and [Albert] Camus’ novel examines — among many other things, and for all its moralizing — our relationship to the absurdity of modern existence,” writes The Guardian of the author’s 1947 novel The Plague.

“It can describe very well the plague in a society which blares its phantasmagoria across the poor world so that millions come, aboard tomb ships or across murderous deserts, in search of its empty promises; and which even destroys the constant against which Camus measured human mortality: nature.”

Today is Camus’ birthday, an occasion we imagine would have inspired great existential contemplation in the French author — or perhaps nothing at all.

Camus’ writings contributed to the absurdist philosophy and literary genre — which by dictionary definition means “the belief that human beings exist in a purposeless, chaotic universe.” We’re celebrating the insanity of it all, and Camus, with these totally relatable quotes from absurdist fiction (and one David Foster Wallace nonfiction quote that will probably hit home).

The Metamorphosis

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

“Insanity is contagious.” Joseph Heller, Catch-22

“If there’s any real truth, it’s that the entire multidimensional infinity of the Universe is almost certainly being run by a bunch of maniacs.” Douglas Adams, The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“If something is going to happen to me, I want to be there.” Albert Camus, The Stranger

“She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.” Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

alice

“Can’t say it often enough — change your hair, change your life.” Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice

“It’s quite an undertaking to start loving somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment right at the start where you have to jump across an abyss: if you think about it you don’t do it.” Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“He slid back again into his earlier position. ‘This getting up early,’ he thought, ‘makes a man quite idiotic. A man must have his sleep.'” Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

“When I look up, I see people cashing in. I don’t see heaven or saints or angels. I see people cashing in on every decent impulse and every human tragedy.” Joseph Heller, Catch-22

camus3

“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.” Albert Camus, The Stranger

“Good writin’ ain’t necessarily good readin’.” Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

“An original thought would crack your feeble skull like a thunderbolt, you craven vulture.” Christopher Moore, Fool

“Ninety percent of true love is acute, ear-burning embarrassment.” Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters

“What a fate: to be condemned to work for a firm where the slightest negligence at once gave rise to the gravest suspicion! Were all the employees nothing but a bunch of scoundrels, was there not among them one single loyal devoted man who, had he wasted only an hour or so of the firm’s time in the morning, was so tormented by conscience as to be driven out of his mind and actually incapable of leaving his bed?” Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Kurt Vonnegut

“We’d all do well to start over again, preferably with kindergarten.” Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

“A beast can never be as cruel as a human being, so artistically, so picturesquely cruel.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“I am alone in the midst of these happy, reasonable voices. All these creatures spend their time explaining, realizing happily that they agree with each other. In Heaven’s name, why is it so important to think the same things all together.” Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

“I have filled 3 Mead notebooks trying to figure out whether it was Them or Just Me.” David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

“He knows that there’s no better way in the world to aggravate somebody who’s trying to make it hard for you than by acting like you’re not bothered.” Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

catch22

“Eternity is a terrible thought. I mean, where’s it going to end?” Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

“I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.” Albert Camus, The Stranger

“Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.” Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

“It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference who wins the war to someone who’s dead.” Joseph Heller, Catch-22

“Love needs room to grow. Like a rose. Or a tumor.” Christopher Moore, Fool

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

“The average man is what his environment and his superstitions have made him; and their function is to make him an ass. He can’t add up three or four new circumstances together and perceive what they mean; it is beyond him. He is not capable of observing for himself; he has to get everything at second-hand. If what are miscalled the lower animals were as silly as man is, they would all perish from the earth in a year.” Mark Twain, The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.” Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

“I got very bored and depressed, so I went and plugged myself in to its external computer feed. I talked to the computer at great length and explained my view of the Universe to it.” Douglas Adams, The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“It would have been nice to have had unicorns.” Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

I don’t know — maybe the world has two different kinds of people, and for one kind the world is this completely logical, rice pudding place, and for the other it’s all hit-or-miss macaroni gratin.” Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle