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In The Rebel (10) he asserts, 'I proclaim that I believe in nothing and that everything is absurd'. To Camus the world is utterly without absolute meaning, and man is left to invent his own personal meaning for his existence, which he leads as an isolated stranger beset by conditions that restrict and thwart him. As we recall, Sartre shares Camus's sentiment: the obstinate world of sheer brute objects - being-in-itself - has no reason, no teleological cause. It simply 'is'. The individual identity that Being in the World 15 man creates for himself - his being-for-itself - is constantly in a state of chance contingency with all that surrounds him, and both he and his circumambient world are wholly ungrounded, making for a condition of 'fundamental absurdity', as Roquentin puts it in Nausea (129).

From the disruptive polarity between necessity (embodied in the obdurate world) and possibility (embodied in human potential). Man's despair is a 32 Conrad's Existentialism 'disproportion in his inmost being'. It is a difficult task to achieve one's possibilities in a 'concrete world' that Karl Barth characterises as 'ambiguous and under crisis' amid 'the insecurity of our whole existence, the vanity and utter questionableness of all that is and of what we are'. 39 As Pascal phrases it in his Pensees (61:22), 'Man's condition' is one of 'inconstancy, boredom, anxiety', breeding despair which Marlow witnessed only too graphically in the Congo, where 'black shapes crouched, lay, sat .

Is not certain of anything in this world of contradictions' (5:105). 'The world', says Nietzsche, 'seems logical to us because we have made it logical' (Power, 521:283), whereas it is actually characterised by 'change, becoming, multiplicity, opposition, contradiction, war' (584:315). It is full of 'horror or absurdity' (Tragedy, 7:60). This absurdity is only too evident in the worlds of Conrad's fiction, whether as a pervasive sensation or a momentary one induced by personal crisis. When in 'The Return' Hervey read his wife's note announcing that she had left him, 'he was stunned by a noise meaningless and violent, like the clash of gongs or the beating of drums; a great aimless uproar.

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