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Rediscovering Frank YerbyCritical Essays$
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Matthew Teutsch

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781496827821

Published to University Press of Mississippi: January 2021

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496827821.001.0001

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A Camus for the Common Folk

A Camus for the Common Folk

Yerby, Religion, and Existentialism

Chapter:
(p.163) A Camus for the Common Folk
Source:
Rediscovering Frank Yerby
Author(s):

Anderson Rouse

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496827821.003.0009

After World War II, Black writers and thinkers, from Richard Wright to bell hooks, influenced by French existentialists like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Satre, adapted existentialism as a way to explain and respond to the African American experience. In his novels, Frank Yerby displays a sophisticated awareness of philosophical ideas, especially absurdism, and theological questions, despite his insistence that his novels could not be “reduce[ed] to a morality play” (Hill, “Interview,” 212). Yerby, in addition to using fiction to debunk historical myth, develops arguments about religion—that religion is invented “nonsense,” and, therefore, not worth killing or dying for, that God, if he exists, is cruel, careless, or distant, and that morality need not hew to an a priori standard. Yerby, then, responded to religious belief and voiced a philosophical response to human suffering (though, not particularly African American suffering) that was shaped by absurdist thought.

Keywords:   existentialist thought, religion, absurdism, Jean-Paul Satre, Albert Camus

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