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The Outsider by Albert Camus

The Outsider (original 1942; edition 2000)

by Albert Camus

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24,86231244 (3.97)1 / 520
Title:The Outsider
Authors:Albert Camus
Info:Gardners Books (2000), Paperback
Collections:Your library, Favorites, Read in 2013
Tags:literature, france, read, reread, 20th, algeria, pre-2008, translation, twice, 2013, extreme wonderfulness, boxg

Work details

The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)

  1. 310
    The Trial by Franz Kafka (chrisharpe, DLSmithies)
    DLSmithies: Two protagonists on trial without really understanding what they're being accused of - it's just a question of degree.
  2. 191
    Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (chrisharpe, DLSmithies, edelpao)
    DLSmithies: A compare-and-contrast exercise - Raskolnikov is all nervous energy and hypertension, whereas Meursault is detatched, calm, and won't pretend to feel remorse. Two masterpieces.
  3. 93
    Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (roby72)
  4. 60
    The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud (Philosofiction, JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Meursault ist der Protagonist in dem existentialistischen Roman "Der Fremde", auf den sich Daoud in seiner Gegendarstellung bezieht.
  5. 72
    No Exit and Three Other Plays by Jean-Paul Sartre (HollyMS)
    HollyMS: I read both works in French class. Though Albert Camus denied being an existentialist, both L'Étranger (The Stranger) and Huis Clos (No Exit) have some common themes and are among some of the most important 20th century French works of literature.
  6. 61
    Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (hiddenpunk)
  7. 94
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (SanctiSpiritus)
  8. 40
    The Man Who Watched Trains Go By by Georges Simenon (thorold)
    thorold: Respectable bourgeois discovers absurdity of life and commits motiveless crime.
  9. 41
    Whatever by Michel Houellebecq (sanddancer)
  10. 30
    Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist (Troddel)
  11. 21
    The Fall by Albert Camus (chrisharpe)
  12. 00
    The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère (bertilak)
  13. 11
    The Family of Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela (thatguyzero)
  14. 11
    At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others by Sarah Bakewell (JuliaMaria)
  15. 00
    She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir (JuliaMaria)
  16. 01
    Cosmos by Witold Gombrowicz (Bitter_Grace)
  17. 14
    The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick by Peter Handke (lewbs)
  18. 06
    Just Revenge by Alan M. Dershowitz (LCBrooks)
    LCBrooks: Complementary works that create a powerful foundation for a philosophical debate on revenge.
  19. 511
    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (SanctiSpiritus)
  20. 818
    The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger (Sylak)
    Sylak: Similar in feel and with the same sense of futility throughout.

(see all 20 recommendations)

1940s (3)
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English (272)  French (9)  Spanish (8)  Italian (6)  Dutch (5)  Portuguese (2)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Finnish (2)  Hebrew (1)  All (1)  Norwegian (1)  Swedish (1)  All (312)
Showing 1-5 of 272 (next | show all)

Albert Camus’ 1942 classic. Here are the opening lines: “Mother died today Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY.” A telegram, not a personal phone call or someone on staff from the old people’s home actually making the hour trip in person to inform her only son, but a terse three line businesslike telegram – cold, insensitive, almost callous; a telling sign of the mechanized times.

Then first-person narrator, Monsieur Meursault, has to deal with his manager so he can attend his mother’s funeral: “I have fixed up with my employer for two days’ leave; obviously, under the circumstances, he couldn’t refuse. Still, I had an idea he looked annoyed, and I said, without thinking: ”Sorry, sir, but it’s not my fault, you know.”” Ha! Camus’ subtle irony, a statement on how death is an irritating inconvenience in the urbanized modern world of shipping offices, where time is money and the highest value is utility and efficiency.

Then, when Meursault sits beside the Home’s keeper in the room with his mother’s coffin, we read: “The glare of the white walls was making my eyes smart, and I asked him if he couldn’t turn off one of the lamps. “Nothing doing,” he said. “They’d arranged the lights like that; either one had them all on or none at all.” Most revealing. This is the only time at the Home Meursault actually asks for something. And true to form as archetypal keeper, the answer is standard binary, that is, all or nothing, black or white, on or off; certainly not even considering engaging in a creative solution on behalf of Meursault, who, after all, is the son. Reading this section about the Home’s officious keeper and his world of expected behaviors and standardized, routinized procedures reminds me of the doorkeeper in Kafka’s tale, Before the Law.

The next day, the day of the funeral procession, Meursault observes, “The sky was already a blaze of light, and the air stoking up rapidly. I felt the first waves of heat lapping my back, and my dark suit made things worse. I couldn’t imagine why we waited so long before getting under way.” This is one of a number of his remarks on his sensations and feelings, and, for good reason – Meursault’s way of being in the world is primarily on the level of sensation and feeling.

Back in the city and after taking a swim with Marie, a girlfriend he ran into at the local swimming pool, there’s a clip of dialogue where Meursault relates: “While we were drying ourselves on the edge of the swimming pool she said: “I’m browner than you.” I asked her if she’d come to the movies with me that evening. She laughed again and said, “Yes,” if I’d take her to the comedy everybody was talking about, the one with Fernandel in it.” Meursault does acquiesce to her request. Big mistake. Turns out, according to society’s unwritten rules, taking Marie to Fernandel’s farcical comedy on the very next evening after his mother’s funeral was a colossal no-no, completely unacceptable behavior.

We as given laser-sharp glimpses of various facets of our enigmatic first-person narrator as he moves through his everyday routine in the following days and evenings, routine, that is, until the unforgettable scene with the Arab on the beach, one of the most famous scenes in all of modern literature. Here are Camus’ words via Stuart Gilbert’s marvelous translation:

The Arab didn’t move. After all, there was still some distance between us. Perhaps because of the shadow on his face, he seemed to be grinning at me.
I waited. The heat was beginning to scorch my cheeks; beads of sweat were gathered in my eyebrows. It was just the same sort of heat as my mother’s funeral, and I had the same disagreeable sensations – especially in my forehead, where all the veins seemed to be bursting through the skin. I couldn’t stand it an longer, and took another step forward. I knew it was a fool thing to do; I wouldn’t get out of the sun by moving on a yard or so. But I took that step, just one step, forward,. And then the Arab drew his knife and held it up toward me, athwart the sunlight.
A shaft of light shot upward from the steel, and I felt as if a long, thin blade transfixed my forehead. At the same moment all the sweat that had accumulated in my eyebrows splashed down on my eyelids, covering them with a warm film of of moisture. Beneath a veil of brine and tears my eyes were blinded; I was conscious only of the cymbals of the sun clashing on my skull, and, less distinctly, of the keen blade of light flashing up from the knife, scarring my eyelashes, and gouging into my eyeballs.
Then everything began to reel before my eyes, a fiery gust came from the sea, while the sky cracked in two, from end to end, and a great sheet of flame poured down through the rift. Every nerve in my body was a steel spring, and my grip closed on the revolver. The trigger gave, and the smooth underbelly of the butt jogged my palm.

This novel poses such provocative questions, I wouldn’t want to spoil any of those questions with answers, semi-original or otherwise. Rather, my suggestion is to read and reread this slim novel as carefully and attentively as possible.

One last reflection: one of my favorite scenes is where Meursault enters the courtroom and makes the following observation: “Just then I noticed that almost all the people in the courtroom were greeting each other, exchanging remarks and forming groups – behaving, in fact, as in a club where the company of others of one’s own tastes and standing makes one feel at ease. That, no doubt, explained the odd impression I had of being de trop here, a sort of gate-crasher.” Such a comment on the dynamics of the modern world: a man is about to go on trial with his life in the balance and he is the one who feels out-of-place.

How many times in life have you felt out-of-place entering a room? Have you ever considered yourself a stranger to those around you? Perhaps our modern world can be seen as The Stranger, thus making each and every one of us strangers. Love or hate it, Camus’ short novel speaks to our condition.

One final reflection: I would not be surprised if Albert Camus read this prose poem by Charles Baudelaire:


Tell me, enigmatic man, whom do you love best? Your father, your mother, your sister, or your brother?

"I have neither father, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother."

Your friends, then?

"You use a word that until now has had no meaning for me."

Your country?

"I am ignorant of the latitude in which it is situated."

Then Beauty?

"Her I would love willingly, goddess and immortal."


"I hate it as you hate your God."

What, then, extraordinary stranger, do you love?

"I love the clouds—the clouds that pass—yonder—the marvelous clouds."

( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
I heard to many great things about this book , so when i came across it i had to give it a try

I didn't like it that much , it's divided into two parts . the first one was very boring and took me so much time to get through it ,its pacing was so slow and i felt as if most of it was pointless ,

but the second part was a bit more interesting , i felt the story picking up and some events actually began to happen . yet i didn't enjoy it that much either , it didn't make me want to bang my head against the wall out of frustration , yet it didn't prevent me from falling asleep , you know?

The only reason i gave it three stars is because of the last few pages , i must admit that the ending was very beautiful , and i enjoyed it . but was it worth reading all the previous boring pages? i truly don't know

i wouldn't recommend this to anyone ( )
  Spymer | Feb 16, 2017 |
„Der Fremde“ ist der Debütroman von Albert Camus, der im Jahr 1943 erschien, als Camus gerade 29 Jahre alt war.

Es ist die Geschichte eines jungen Franzosen, der in Algier lebt und den ein lächerlicher Zufall zum Mörder macht. Der Roman war der schriftstellerische Durchbruch von Albert Camus und das obwohl er sehr schlicht, fasst schon kindlich schreibt, ohne komplexe Strukturen, ohne komplexe Geschichten einfach nur. Oder vielleicht auch gerade deshalb.

„Als der Wärter mir eines tages gesagt hat, ich wäre seit fünf Monaten da, habe ich es geglabut, aber ich habe es nicht begriffen. Für mich war es unaufhörlich der selbe Tag, der sich in meiner Zelle breitmachte, und dieselbe Aufgabe, der ich nachging.“ (S. 105)

Meursault lebt ein unauffälliges, fast schon langweiliges, bedeutungsloses Leben. Er pflegt kaum soziale Kontakte, ist ausdruckslos und emotionslos. Die Geschichte wird uns durch ihn erzählt. Dabei gliedert sich die Geschichte in zwei Teile, wobei der erste nur wenige Tage, der zweite jedoch mehrere Monate umfasst.

Meursault beginnt mit seiner Erzählung, als seine Mutter stirbt und er zu ihrer Beerdigung fährt. Er hält Totenwache und wohnt der Beerdigung bei ohne auch nur eine Träne zu vergießen. Gefühle und Emotionen scheint er nicht zu haben, er ist schlicht gestrickt, stört sich an physischen Begebenheiten wie etwa zu großer Hitze mehr, als an der Tatsache, dass er gerade seine Mutter beerdigt.

Am nächsten Tag lernt er Marie kennen, die seine Freundin wird und ihn heiraten möchte. Doch auch dies ist Meursault vollkommen gleichgültig. Marie ist da, ab und an verspürt er etwas wie Glück mit ihr, aber ihm ist egal ob sie nun seine Freundin ist oder nicht. Marie liebt ihn gerade deshalb, weil er nicht wie andere ist, weil er seine Eigenheiten hat. Sein Nachbar Raymond ist das genaue Gegenteil von Meursault, er ist emotional, aktiv und eher gewalttätig, währen Albert gleichgültig und passiv ist. Raymond ist quasi der Auslöser der Handlung, indem er Meursault in den Konflikt mit einem jungen Araber hineinzieht.

Die Geschichte ist kühl, einfach, schlicht. Sie besticht durch viele kurze Sätze mit vielen Hilfsverben – zumindest in der Übersetzung Das machte es mir den kompletten ersten Teil sehr schwer, mich für das Buch zu begeistern. Doch gerade im zweiten Teil ist es genau das, was den Kern der Geschichte so unfassbar gut transportiert.

Meursault selbst spricht nicht viel, er schweigt, wenn er nichts zu sagen hat. Weder drückt er Emotionen aus, noch transportiert er sie in das Gesagte und das Getane anderer. Er hat eine emotionale Distanz zu allem und jedem um ihn herum. Er ist nicht moralisch oder gewissenlos, wie die Anwälte in der späteren Gerichtsverhandlung es hinstellen. Er ist losgelöst von moralischen Werten, er macht scheinbar keinen Unterschied zwischen Gut und Böse. Nicht nur sein Leben und seine Handlungen sind im Gleichgültig, auch jedes andere Leben ist im Gleichgültig, weil ja doch jeder einmal sterben wird, es macht für ihn keinen großen Unterschied ob heute oder in 30 Jahren.

Der zweite Teil des Buches hat mich vollkommen überzeugt. Eine Geschichte die symbolisiert, wie sinnlos dieser Versuch eigentlich ist, rationale Erklärungen für alles Irrationale zu finden. Ein Roman voller philosophischer Aspekte der soviel aussagt und unter die Haut geht, trotz seiner wenigen Seiten und der Tatsache, dass mich der erste Teil kaum begeisterte. Es zeigt uns einen Menschen ohne Gewissen, ohne Absichten ohne Ehrgeiz – einen Menschen, der einen in der Form erschreckt. Dem die Tatsache, das er das Gleichgewicht des Tages störte mehr beunruhigte, als der Tod eines Menschen.

Ein Buch über das Brechen von Werten und Grundsätzen und über da Nicht-Einhalten von gesellschaftlichen Konventionen. Über einen Menschen, der dennoch erkennt, kurz vor dem Ende, dass er glücklich gewesen ist. Ein Buch voller provozierender Gleichgültigkeit und dem Versuch der Gesellschaft, damit umzugehen.

„Worauf es ankam, war eine Fluchtmöglichkeit, ein Sprung aus dem unerbitterlichen Ritus heraus, ein wahnsinniger Lauf, der jede mögliche Hoffnung zuließ.“ (S. 142) ( )
  Lovelymixblog | Jan 14, 2017 |
The protagonist of this story is a 'stranger' indeed, in the way he reacts to events in his life. He seems impassionate with regard to everything and without deep moral feelings. In the view of his and each man's destiny, death, nothing matters for him anymore. This presentation of the character of this man tastes a bit artificial too me, too theoretically philosophical. Also, the trial seems rather absurd in the argumentations used (or is it only outdated?). The description of the thoughts of Meursault when he approaches the Arab he is about to shoot are very effectful as are the last pages of the novel. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
This book read to me very much like the study of an autistic man. He is totally unaffected by the lives, feelings and thoughts of the people that surround him. His life is shaped by them, but he has no real feeling of connection to anyone or anything. He is just as happy at home in his apartment as he is sitting in a jail cell. Even to people who should know him well, he is a stranger. ( )
  Basicworm | Nov 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 272 (next | show all)
It is quite a trick to write of life & death, as Camus does, in terms of an almost total social and moral vacuum. He may get philosophical satisfaction from it. Most readers will call it philosophic doodling.
added by Shortride | editTime (May 20, 1946)
"The Stranger,” a novel of crime and punishment by Albert Camus, published today, should touch off in this country a renewed burst of discussion about the young French writers who are at the moment making more unusual literary news than the writers of any other country.

» Add other authors (123 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Camus, Albertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bree, GermaineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brenner, Hans GeorgTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohen, Marc J.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunwoodie, PeterIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, StuartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goyert, GeorgTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hall, BarnabyPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laredo, JamesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lionni, LeoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lynnes, Carlos, Jr.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, SusanArt directorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morriën, AdriaanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stolpe, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Urculo, EduardoIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valente, José ÁngelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valente, José Ángelsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valente, José Angelsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valente, José ÁngelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, MatthewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watkins, LiselotteCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yentus, HelenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zevi, AlbertoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Mother died today. (Stuart Gilbert translation)
Maman died today. (Matthew Ward translation)
Aujourd'hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.
And I, too, felt ready to start life all over again. It was if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I'd been happy, and that I was happy still.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Since it was first published in English, in 1946, Albert Camus's first novel, THE STRANGER (l'étranger), has had a profound impact on millions of American readers. Through this story of an ordinary man who unwittingly gets drawn into a senseless murder on a sun-drenched Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd."

Now, in an illuminating new American translation, extraordinary for its exactitude and clarity, the original intent of THE STRANGER is made more immediate. This haunting novel has been given a new life for generations to come.
Haiku summary
Je suis étranger.

Aujourd'hui, maman est morte.

Et je ne pleure pas.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679720200, Paperback)

The Stranger is not merely one of the most widely read novels of the 20th century, but one of the books likely to outlive it. Written in 1946, Camus's compelling and troubling tale of a disaffected, apparently amoral young man has earned a durable popularity (and remains a staple of U.S. high school literature courses) in part because it reveals so vividly the anxieties of its time. Alienation, the fear of anonymity, spiritual doubt--all could have been given a purely modern inflection in the hands of a lesser talent than Camus, who won the Nobel Prize in 1957 and was noted for his existentialist aesthetic. The remarkable trick of The Stranger, however, is that it's not mired in period philosophy.

The plot is simple. A young Algerian, Meursault, afflicted with a sort of aimless inertia, becomes embroiled in the petty intrigues of a local pimp and, somewhat inexplicably, ends up killing a man. Once he's imprisoned and eventually brought to trial, his crime, it becomes apparent, is not so much the arguably defensible murder he has committed as it is his deficient character. The trial's proceedings are absurd, a parsing of incidental trivialities--that Meursault, for instance, seemed unmoved by his own mother's death and then attended a comic movie the evening after her funeral are two ostensibly damning facts--so that the eventual sentence the jury issues is both ridiculous and inevitable.

Meursault remains a cipher nearly to the story's end--dispassionate, clinical, disengaged from his own emotions. "She wanted to know if I loved her," he says of his girlfriend. "I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn't mean anything but that I probably didn't." There's a latent ominousness in such observations, a sense that devotion is nothing more than self-delusion. It's undoubtedly true that Meursault exhibits an extreme of resignation; however, his confrontation with "the gentle indifference of the world" remains as compelling as it was when Camus first recounted it. --Ben Guterson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:42 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

A young Algerian, Meursault, afflicted with a sort of aimless inertia, becomes embroiled in the petty intrigues of a local pimp and, somewhat inexplicably, ends up killing a man. Once he's imprisoned and eventually brought to trial, his crime, it becomes apparent, is not so much the arguably defensible murder he has committed as it is his deficient character. In the story of an ordinary man who unwittingly gets drawn into a senseless murder on a sun-drenched Algerian beach, Camus was exploring what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd". Now in a new American translation, the classic has been given new life for generations to come.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 11 descriptions

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