Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself.
☛ Nobel Prize: Albert Camus’ speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1957
Here’s the original French version:
Chaque génération, sans doute, se croit vouée à refaire le monde. La mienne sait pourtant qu’elle ne le refera pas. Mais sa tâche est peut-être plus grande. Elle consiste à empêcher que le monde se défasse.
Compare with the Remarks by the President [Barack Obama] at a Memorial Service for the Victim of the Tucson, Arizona:
And I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us. (Transcript, The White House)
Finally Franz Kafka’s aphorism no. 48 (1918):