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The Stranger by Albert Camus
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The Stranger (original 1942; edition 1942)

by Albert Camus

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26,79234267 (3.96)1 / 586
Member:agbram
Title:The Stranger
Authors:Albert Camus
Info:Vintage Books (1942), Paperback
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:Fiction, Literature, Favorites,

Work details

The Stranger by Albert Camus (Author) (1942)

  1. 320
    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. 71
    Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (hiddenpunk)
  4. 93
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  5. 60
    The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud (Philosofiction, JuliaMaria)
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  6. 104
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  7. 72
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    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.
  8. 40
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    P_S_Patrick: Short, deeply existentialist novels of literary character.
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    LCBrooks: Complementary works that create a powerful foundation for a philosophical debate on revenge.
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(see all 21 recommendations)

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Showing 1-5 of 300 (next | show all)
If I have to name one book which changed my way of viewing the world it would be this book. It was published as "The Insider" when I read it first and the theories this book brings out via fiction have haunted my sense of reality ever since. The book shakes your soul and in that really pushes you to question your existence. This book propelled me to read a lot about the theories of absurdism and existentialism. I then read Camus' essay "Myth of Sisyphus" and it was in the same league. A rare book which is not horror, but yet it's not for the faint-hearted. ( )
  Varun.Sayal | Nov 15, 2018 |
Unlike his three well-known novels – ‘The Stranger’, ‘The Plague’ and ‘The Fall’, all written with a 1st person narrator, Albert Camus’s ‘The Guest’ has an objective 3rd person narrator telling the tale. Easily located as an on-line PDF, ‘The Guest’ can be read in less than an hour, a story written in 29 short paragraphs, each paragraph sectioned off with its own paragraph number, giving the impression Camus wanted to clearly delineate his existential musings at each point in the story.

The story begins when the main character, a schoolmaster by the name of Daru, watches from his empty schoolhouse built on a steep hillside in the Algerian desert as two men approach, one an old gendarme (French police officer) on horseback and the other an Arab walking with his hands bound by a rope. Once they are all seated in the schoolroom, Daru asks where the two of them are headed. The old gendarme, Balducci by name, a man Daru has known for a long time, tells Daru how it is with him and the Arab. Here are Camus’s words:

"No. I'm going back to El Ameur. And you will deliver this fellow to Tinguit. He is expected at police headquarters."
Balducci was looking at Daru with a friendly little smile.
"What's this story?" asked the schoolmaster. "Are you pulling my leg?"
"No, son. Those are the orders."
"The orders? I'm not . . ." Daru hesitated, not wanting to hurt the old Corsican. "I mean, that's not my job."
"What! What's the meaning of that? In wartime people do all kinds of jobs."
"Then I'll wait for the declaration of war!"
Balducci nodded. "O. K. But the orders exist and they concern you too. Things are brewing, it appears. There is talk of a forthcoming revolt. . . . “

As the story unfolds, we are given an opportunity to see how these three men respond to the challenge of making choices. For existential writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, accepting the responsibility of freedom and making our own decisions and choices, thereby defining who we really are as individuals, is of prime importance. Sidebar: this 3 character tale shares some common ground with Jean-Paul Sartre’s 3 person play, ‘No Exit’. At Sartre’s request, Albert Camus was the first director and the first actor to play Joseph Garcin in ‘No Exit’. Quite possibly, Camus’s experience with ‘No Ext’ influenced his writing of this short-story.

And Camus writes with the same sparse, clean prose we find in ‘The Stranger’. For example, here is a quote when Daru and the Arab are out in the desert: “Daru breathed in deeply the fresh morning light. He felt a sort of rapture before the vast familiar expanse, now almost entirely yellow under its dome of blue sky. They walked an hour more, descending toward the south. They reached a level height made up of crumbly rocks. From there on, the plateau sloped down, eastward, toward a low plain where there were a few spindly trees and, to the south, toward outcroppings of rock that gave the landscape a chaotic look.”

I read this short-story and listened to the audiobook multiple times. What really strikes me is the precision of language. Nothing is wasted -- not a word, not an image, nor the briefest encounter. It is as if Camus is performing laser surgery on the human condition.


( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |


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:

THE STRANGER

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."

Gold?

"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."


( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
The Stranger is a brilliant book that was written to be completed by the reader. My edition's intro advises me that this is Exhibit I for the Absurd, in which Mersault rejects society's norms in a quest for the absolute truth. I, on the other hand, am reading this in 2016, and for me this book is about a man who does not understand society's norms, and just wants to live in the present, driven by his sensual experience. So Buddhist.

The language is extremely simple, states facts in short declarative sentences like Hemingway. Mersault describes events in mundane detail, all the same way, ranging from random street watching to his mother's funeral and talking marriage, up until he kills a man - because of the sun. This language perfectly describes his existence in the here and now - driven by sensual needs, not understanding why people do things, what their feelings - including his own.

The second half of the book is about judging Mersault - the man who never judges, thus comes through as lacking moral compass. This part shows how a narrative without explanations can be strung together by others into proving whatever they want.

At the end society rejects him because he does not understand consequences. He is just trying to get along and kills a man because he happens to have a gun and the sun is in his eyes. The problem is, he shoots because the sun reflects off a blade - in other words, in self-defense. But he cannot explain this because he does not understand what difference this would make. To me this echoes the many cases where a person is convicted because their intelligence is too low to make the right statements, and because lawyers provided by the state are not very good.

I also see a description of a person likely on the autism spectrum. He does not understand emotions, including his own. He does not know how to express them, he cannot read them, does not know societal conventions. He cannot foresee consequences. He is very driven by his senses, and he is especially bothered by sharp light, heat, noise and crowds. He is afraid of people being angry at him, so he tries to be always agreeable. He is non judgmental, follows rules, has no ambitions.

Is he a menace to society as the prosecutor claims? In one way yes - he has killed a man and does not understand its gravity, thus he shows no remorse. He has no moral compass because he does not know what that is. But he is not a depraved, soulless man, far from it. If this happened now, he would probably be sent to a mental hospital instead of being condemned.

This book can be interpreted so many ways. It is short and easy. Read it and find out for yourself. ( )
  Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
I read this book years and years ago while I was a high school student. I don't remember much anymore except the feeling of detachment I got from the main character. Everything from his crime to his imprisonment was handled in such a distant manner. It was like he was disconnected from himself as well as life. Until then, most of the books I read were fantasy novels whose characters were ever passionate about one thing or another. This book was the first time I had a character like this. It stuck with me through all the years and I ended up buying a copy of it a few years later.
One of these days I'm going to sit down and re-read it as an adult. ( )
  Sandra_Ruiz | Oct 25, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 300 (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 (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Camus, AlbertAuthorprimary 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
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.
Quotations
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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Pubblicato nel 1942, "Lo straniero" è un classico della letteratura contemporanea: protagonista è Meursault, un modesto impiegato che vive ad Algeri in uno stato di indifferenza, di estraneità a se stesso e al mondo. Un giorno, dopo un litigio, inesplicabilmente Meursault uccide un arabo. Viene arrestato e si consegna, del tutto impassibile, alle inevitabili conseguenze del fatto - il processo e la condanna a morte - senza cercare giustificazioni, difese o menzogne. Meursault è un eroe "assurdo", e la sua lucida coscienza del reale gli permette di giungere attraverso una logica esasperata alla verità di essere e di sentire.
(piopas)
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 18 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182504, 0241950058, 0141389583

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