The Absurdists posed a fundamental question — how can one’s work be sensible if it has to accurately describe the senselessness of man’s existence?
A number of works of drama and prose emerged in France as a result of the horrors of World War II. They believed that the human condition is essentially absurd and that the only way to accurately describe it with any authenticity can be possible only in works that were themselves absurd. It was, in a sense, a rebellion against pre-existing beliefs and values of traditional culture and values which held that man was a rational creature who lived in a reasonable intelligible world. However, after the 1940s, existentialists started to propound a theory that man was an isolated entity, living in a hostile universe which has no inherent truth, value or meaning.
Describing the philosophy, Camus wrote in the Myth of Sisyphus (1942) that “In a universe that is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels like a stranger. His is an irremediable exile…This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly constitutes the feeling of Absurdity.”
But incidentally, within the depths of this existentialist angst were born some of the best works in modern literature. Samuel Beckett, the most influential dramatist and writer in both drama and fiction staged Waiting for Godot (1954) and Endgame (1958) which led to a dramatic increase in interest in the Theatre of Absurd. The plays of this time were irrational, grotesquely comic, filled with meaningless dialogue and defied all conventions of conventional drama.
Incidentally, the genre also lead to influencing a number of playwrights and novelists in the next 50 decades who specialised in creating naive, inept or innocent characters set against fantastic, horrifying and nightmarish worlds. Some of them being Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Stanley Kubrick, Harold Pinter, among others.