Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd.” First published in English in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward. (Goodreads)
Review contains spoilers. Like, huge ones.
Camus dedicated a partial of his life to absurdism, which says that life isn’t worth of any sort of dedication. The other partial, he dedicated to living the hell out of life. He loved sport, alcohol, women, and wrote essays and books contemplating suicide, but philosophically (there’s a difference). The Stranger is the first book of his to be published and it rather makes you question the author’s state of mind. It details the life of a man before and after he shot a person. Remember those times when you’re in the shower and you suddenly reflect that life is trivial and everything in this world is meaningless? Well, Albert Camus wrote a whole book about it, and he didn’t have to get into the shower to come up with it.
What difference could they make to me, the deaths of others, or a mother’s love, or his God; or the way a man decides to live, the fate he thinks he chooses, since one and the same fate was bound to “choose” not only me but thousands of millions of privileged people who, like him, called themselves my brothers. Surely, surely he must see that? Every man alive was privileged; there was only one class of men, the privileged class. All alike would be condemned to die one day; his turn, too, would come like the others’.
While The Stranger definitely looks at one’s life of no meaning and a man who embraces this ideal, it throws potatoes on society, norms, and religion and serves as a social commentary to how society sees a person who doesn’t follow the norms. For the main character, society has condemned him when he didn’t cry on his mother’s death. The first lines of the book begins with this and sets the tone of the novel:
Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.
Now please imagine Edward Norton saying that, with or/and without a a gun in his mouth. Bored, apathetic, indifferent– it’s like everyone during Monday mornings though Camus’s anti-hero persists on doing this for a lifetime. The prose is simple and straight-forward and has a magnetic quality in it that keeps you turning the pages. Meursault is a character with as much spirit as a rug but, nevertheless, an absorbing narrator.
Marie came that evening and asked me if I’d marry her. I said I didn’t mind; if she was keen on it, we’d get married.
The novel doesn’t cover much story. It details Meursault’s everyday life and his apathy to it, from his mother’s death to shooting a man, to the last when he starts having shower thoughts, but in prison. There were a few moments when he is at the verge of saying something important, like telling Marie he loves her or comfort a friend, but keeps it in his mind, thinking that it won’t change anything. I found myself relating to this person so much, his indifference and all, and I could easily imagine myself becoming this kind of person. And so, I swore to myself that nope nope nope, and hopefully, I can have a brighter future than Meursault’s cloudy one. Don’t be this guy, instead, learn from him because he damn well knows what he’s talking about.
Damnation and all, that wouldn’t stop me from loving the book’s final line:
For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.
Cheers to life!
Is the Stranger a good read. Yes. Is it enjoyable? Nope. Carpe Diem isn’t certainly its motto and I don’t think this book, which is faintly (and at times, strongly) suicidal could be a light read, but it is a thought-provoking book with an unlikely protagonist. And Camus is one too colorful of a fellow (surprisingly) so I’ll be sure to read more from him.
The Verdict: Four out of Five Hunny Pots
✓ A look on absurdism
✓ An absorbing narrator
✓ A simple and straight-forward prose
✓ A social commentary on religion, politics, and society
Albert Camus (1913–1960) was a journalist, editor and editorialist, playwright and director, novelist and author of short stories, political essayist and activist—and arguably, although he came to deny it, a philosopher. He ignored or opposed systematic philosophy, had little faith in rationalism, asserted rather than argued many of his main ideas, presented others in metaphors, was preoccupied with immediate and personal experience, and brooded over such questions as the meaning of life in the face of death. Although he forcefully separated himself from existentialism, Camus posed one of the twentieth century’s best-known existentialist questions, which launches The Myth of Sisyphus: “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide” (MS, 3). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy