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The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger (original 1942; edition 1946)

by Albert Camus, Stuart Gilbert (Translator)

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23,29826247 (3.98)1 / 429
The quick and dirty about The Stranger: Meusault kills a man while on a weekend vacation with his girlfriend. Part I entails the events leading up to the murder and Part II is post-murder arrest and trial. The interesting component to the story is Meursault's (although not surprising) attitude towards the crime. From the very beginning Meursault has an apathy towards life in general. When he is confronted with a marriage proposal or a job offer he feels nothing. He barely shows emotion when his mother dies. It's as if he doesn't care about anything and yet, curiously, he keeps an old scrapbook where he collects things from the newspapers that interest him. He doesn't seem to understand love/hate relationships like the one his neighbor has with his dog of eight years. Meursault's attention span is also something to note. He is often distracted by lights being too bright, the ringing of bells and the chatter of people around him. the presence of light is particularly interesting since it is the sun that "causes" Meursault to murder.
When Meursault murders a stranger for no apparent reason the fact he did it is not up for debate. It is the reason why that is questioned. Calling Meursault The Stranger is a contradiction because he is not a stranger in the traditional sense. He is not a loner or outcast. He has friends, coworkers, even a girlfriend. What Meursault is a stranger to is expected societal behavior, like mourning the loss of a parent or having feelings for someone he is in a sexual relationship with. Nothing that happens around Meursault has an emotional impact on him. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jun 7, 2012 |
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  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
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  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
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  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
I'm pretty sure the narrator is supposed to be a psychopath, but it's remarkable how similar that looks to a person in the depths of a profound depression.
  jen.e.moore | Sep 9, 2015 |
The original title of this novel "L'Etranger" does translate literally into English as "The Stranger", but this novel's context has also led to its translation as "The Outsider". The difference between the two words in fact draws a line between interpretations of the novel. This is the story of a murderer. Either he stands outside of the society the rest of us count ourselves members of, someone vile we can examine from a comfortable distance, or else he is one stranger among all us who are strangers, none of us mattering to the universe - a creepier version that defies you to offer real counterargument as it sets up and tears apart religious and judicial arguments.

I'm a firm believer that where non-fiction teaches us facts, fiction teaches us about emotions. What to do then, with a novel's protagonist who is so dispassionate? The absence of a thing can teach us the value of its presence. Meursault has dismissed everything that makes life worth living as being irrelevant to what life is, but then, of what stuff is life? He doesn't say - or rather, he denies it has any substance. There are times we find ourselves not feeling what we think we ought to, feeling unaffected, feeling like the stranger in the room. It's another thing entirely to justify remaining stuck there and refusing to budge, embracing permanent hopelessness and adopting it as one's philosophy. Filed among "books to ban from the house when depressed." ( )
2 vote Cecrow | Aug 10, 2015 |
What a strange book.

Look for this translation -- the one by Matthew Ward -- rather than the older one by Stuart Gilbert that my generation grew up with. In his translator's note, Ward points out that Camus employed what he called an "American method" when he wrote The Stranger. Camus was an admirer of Hemingway, and it shows in this translation. The older translation is very British, and I'm all about the Brits but not when it comes to Camus.

Put it this way: one of the sentences in the original French of The Stranger is "Il était avec son chien." You don't have to know a lot of French to be able to translate that word for word as "He was with his dog." Which is what Matthew Ward does. Stuart Gilbert fussed around far too much and turned that simple sentence into "As usual, he had his dog with him." Which isn't what Camus said at all.

I'm talking about the translation because I don't have much to say about the novel itself, which is brilliant and baffling. I read it with my son as part of his homeschooling. He isn't much of a pleasure-reader, but he burned through this very quickly and enjoyed it.

"Very strange," he said as he handed it back to me. ( )
1 vote Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
Very interesting and thought provoking. Full of existentialism and a light, easy read. The story flows nicely. ( )
  StellaPayge | Jul 30, 2015 |
This book is very thought-provoking. The part that I kept thinking about was the ending. I felt that it's a little open-ended which I didn't like. Also, the ending left me disturbed unlike how it left other reviewers over here.

I did like the author's narrative style - it's simple and it puts you in the shoes of the protagonist. But on the other hand I feel that if the author is trying to make a point with this book it's buried in lots of lose ends.

The way things turn out for the protagonist - his getting arrested etc leave us feeling that he doesn't have control over his life. When actually, he did have some control over his life. Had he been more concerned about his proceedings he would have inquired with the lawyer about the possibilities and what things he should say. However, he couldn't care two hoots about this. So essentially the message is that you end up control life proportional to how much you want to control?

Loose ends:
- what happened to Marie? How did she see this whole thing? I don't see any message here.

- Is there a point about what kind of personality trait leads to a more fulfilling life?

- Or is the author trying to highlight the fallacies of the justice system?

- Or is it a satire on how the urban life can make one distant, lonely and cold?

- The ending made me feel dejected about life. But someone explained to me that you should not concern yourself with dying because that is not within our control. That might very well have been the point of the book but if that is the case then the author should have brought it out more clearly. ( )
  MugenHere | Jul 12, 2015 |
Really short and simple book, but so good. Makes you think about life, time and what are we doing with it without making a big deal out it. ( )
  GrlIntrrptdRdng | May 14, 2015 |
The Stranger (also known as The Outsider or L’Étranger) tells the story of Meursault, an unsympathetic French Algerian, who after attending his mother’s funeral, finds himself killing an Arab man. The novel follows a first-person narrative that explores the events before and after this murder. Albert Camus said is best when he said “I summarised The Stranger a long time ago, with a remark I admit was highly paradoxical: ‘In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.’ I only meant that the hero of my book is condemned because he does not play the game.”

On the surface The Stranger is the story of an emotionless protagonist; Meursault does not care about anything and could be considered a sociopath. However, this novel is often cited as an example of Camus’ philosophy on the absurd and existentialism. So in order to fully grasp the intent behind this classic novel, we must look into just what existentialism is and more practically absurdism.

The absurd is often referring to the conflicting philosophy that humans have a tendency to seek out value and meaning in life. However absurdism believes it is logically and humanly impossible to find any meaning of life. Philosophers may have very different doctrines but they generally believe that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject. Though existentialism comes from the disorientation or confusion that we are living in a meaningless (or absurd) world.

For Albert Camus, The Stranger is an exploration into the meaning of life and if life has no meaning what is the purpose of morality. Meursault’s detachment from the world is a result of his conclusion that life is meaningless; “The chaplain knew the game well too, I could tell right away: his gaze never faltered. And his voice didn’t falter, either, when he said, ‘Have you no hope at all? And do you really live with the thought that when you die, you die, and nothing remains?’ ‘Yes,’ I said.” Paradoxically, it was only after being sentenced to death, that Meursault was able to obtain some sense of happiness.

Without an understanding of Albert Camus’ philosophical ideas, I do not think that the reader will have any hope in truly understand or appreciating this novel. However I have heard that The Stranger has been an option for high school students (especially in America) to study. I wonder how many students fall into the trap of picking this novel thinking it was short only to discover how difficult it is to analyse. I do not have enough of an understanding of absurdism or existential philosophy to full appreciate The Stranger. However re-reading this novel has helped me understand this enough to enjoy the Camus’ philosophical ideas.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2015/05/02/the-stranger-by-albert-camus/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | May 5, 2015 |
Não falta quem chame Meursault de sociopata ou psicopata. Fixar etiquetas, afinal, torna a vida mais simples. Mas o pobre Camus deve revolver-se no túmulo ao ouvir isso. Ele usou de enorme clareza de espírito para escrever a mais clara das prosas, sobre um homem de mal com a vida. Ao ler sua história, somos levados a pensar não só acerca de nossa própria vida, mas também nas de quase toda a sociedade. Na literatura do absurdo - da qual L’Étranger é o modelo mais - em lugar da rebelião dos meios, acontece a pura ausência de fim, de qualquer fim (José Guilherme Merquior). "Les hommes aussi sécretent de l’inhumain", diz Camus em Le Mythe de Sisyphe, e o inumano segregado é a consciência passiva, mecânica, que renunciou a elaborar significações e portanto a designar finalidades. O homem que constata o absurdo renuncia a todos os projetos; não reconhece mais nenhuma finalidade. O herói do mundo fantástico, entretanto, continua perseguindo os fins num universo que a insolência dos meios torna hostil, torna cruel, torna indecifrável – mas não absurdo. Podemos fechar nossas mentes para os problemas de Mersault, mas estaremos então evitando abri-los ao que Camus estava tentando dizer. Nada de psicologia pop, por favor, ela é uma inimiga do pensamento! ( )
  jgcorrea | Apr 24, 2015 |
I admit that I wasn't very jazzed with this book at the conclusion with part 1 but, part 2 more than made up for it. There was almost a cumulative cadence that progressed the story from boring, to mildly amusing, to interesting, to fascinating, and finishing with absolutely essential. And at the conclusion, I felt vindicated and renewed; with a deep connection to Meursault. In that spirit of renewal and kinship, I realized that every part of the story leading up this was necessary and important.

I could even go so far as to say that The Stranger is life affirming. And in the telling of it, the author gave me the strength to accept my own mortality with striking clearness. What at first seemed to be annoying indifference blossomed into stark existentialism that gives me personal insight. This book is a masterpiece in every way (from the literary to the philosophical)! ( )
  jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
A surprisingly straightforward read for someone with little better than intermediate level school French. A short novel written in simple prose. But the simplicity hides the complexity of the principal character and his story. It just shows that ideas are as important as writing talent for a novelist. ( )
  Steve38 | Mar 4, 2015 |
I do not understand all of he fuss over this book. The writing was dry and the main character was apathetic and borderline sociopathic. I can read almost any genre and I found this book hard to get past the few scenes. After his mom died I lost interest and had to force myself to get to page 82. I skimmed through the remaining 41 pages and looked up the summary on sparknotes. The only reason I did this extra step was to see if I missed anything while skimming. I wouldn't recommend this book even though it is only 123 pages. ( )
  Natalie_Walker | Feb 13, 2015 |
One of the most thought-provoking works I have ever read. I zoomed through Camus' existential novel on a trip through the Mojave Desert and Grand Canyon. His themes, the meaninglessness of life and the importance of the physical world, resonated with me as I stood among vivid nature and sweltering heat in an expansive and void land, as Meursalt, the titular character, did. Like the jury in the novel, I was quick to assume the worst of him, but his first person narration compelled me to question imposing social constructs such as law and religion on existence. Meursalt is an unlikely protagonist; smoking at his mother's funeral and feeling no remorse for a murder, and subsequently despised by society. Yet Camus crafts a novel which compels the reader to see beyond mob mentality and prejudices - not all actions must have meaning, and this suits him just fine. ( )
  MMorstan | Jan 30, 2015 |
I liked this better than I thought I would; which is to say, I did not hate it. One thing I will say is that I think English speakers have been done an injustice by the title being translated as "The Stranger" rather than "The Estranged." There are no strangers here; if you know upfront that Camus is painting Meursault as a man estranged from common humanity, the theme instantly makes more sense. The Stranger is a necessity if you are interested in Absurdist philosophy, or if you are currently attending American high school. Or if you were lucky enough to avoid American high school, but still have to talk to people who weren't. C'est moi.

All day long there was the thought of my appeal. I think I got everything out of it that I could. I would assess my holdings and get the maximum return on my thoughts. I would always begin by assuming the worst: my appeal was denied. "Well, so I'm going to die." Sooner than other people will, obviously. But everybody knows life isn't worth living. Deep down I knew perfectly well that it doesn't much matter whether you die at thirty or at seventy, since in either case other men and women will naturally go on living - and for thousands of years. In fact, nothing could be clearer. Whether it was now or twenty years from now, I would still be the one dying. At that point, what would disturb my train of thought was the terrifying leap I would feel my heart take at the idea of twenty more years of life ahead of me. But I simply had to stifle it by imagining what I'd be thinking in twenty years when it would all come down to the same thing anyway. Since we're all going to die, it's obvious that when and how don't matter. Therefore (and the difficult thing was not to lose sight of all the reasoning that went into this "therefore"), I had to accept the rejection of my appeal.

Review from my blog, This Space Intentionally Left Blank ( )
  emepps | Jan 23, 2015 |
According to the actual ratings on GR, The Stranger receives exactly what it says: 2 stars for 'it was ok'. The writing style is unique in a completely different way. It is not eloquent nor anything special but the offhand way in which the story is told gives me chills. Monsieur Mersault is a freaking turf who lacks emotional intelligence. People constantly refer to him as a normal intelligent man but I beg to differ. I don't believe such people exist in only literary fiction but his cavalier personality just takes it way too far. He claims to care and his thoughts hint to some sort of normal feelings but his demeanor and acts completely contradict himself. It's not even a mask he has on but more like blatant...indifference. in other aspects, the book exceeds expectations; the title befits the book perfectly since after 100 approximate pages immersed in the stranger's head, he is still in all regards, a stranger. Albert Camus's has some extraordinary talent to write existentialist works like this one...I merely surmised him to be one of those famous genre authors. I'll google Camus later to check if my suspicions were correct...never mind, they are. Well, I think I'd be happier to try another Camus book and not so hastily put him in the 'disturbingly annoying box'. ( )
  Annannean | Jan 6, 2015 |
I have just re-read this novella and, whilst it is a good read and does say something about the human condition, I still cannot consider Meursault, the main character, as a hero. The blurb on the back of my copy tells me that,"Camus uses Meursault to explore the predicament of the individual who is prepared to face the benign indifference of the universe courageously and alone".

I do not see Meursault in these terms. My reading of the young man would be someone who uses other people but gives nothing in return. When you were younger, did you ever speculate that the world is a stage and that when people step off your stage, i.e. cease to be around you, that they cease to exist? Meursault does not seem to have grown out of this. He likes sex with his girlfriend, Marie, but cannot demean himself to hold a meaningful conversation with her; he cannot remember his mother's age and treats her funeral as an inconvenience; he has no concern that his 'friend' Raymond, beats and pimps women - an all around nice guy!

In my humble opinion, the alternative translation of the title, "The Stranger", is a better summation of Mr. Meurcault. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Jan 3, 2015 |
I liked this book set in 1940s Algeria. Mersault's isolation and indifference to others and his own fate was creepy and thought-provoking. ( )
  krin5292 | Dec 10, 2014 |
I can't decide on a rating for this - I'm going to have to think about it some more. Definitely brilliant, I'm just not sure how I feel about it! ( )
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
Hard to read... not in the sense that it's a difficult book to understand but difficult to swallow. Depressing in a very bad way. ( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
Well written by a gifted writer but not his best although touted as it. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
Albert Camus' first novel (orig.pub.1942 in France; first American translation pub.1946) beguiles most readers even as it bewilders them. The questions, What's wrong with Mersault? Why does he kill the Arab? Why does he shoot the man four more times? Why doesn't he say he is sorry or express some bit of remorse, if only to save himself from the guillotine? seem to evade satisfactory answers. Mersault's motives seem as much a mystery to him as to the reader, to say nothing of the prosecution lawyer who denounces him and the judge who condemns him. Indeed, to most readers, Camus' absurdist antihero seems distinctly motiveless; given his characteristic response to any emotional appeal--variations on "I said I did but that it didn't matter"--one might fairly decide that to ask about Mersault's motives is to ask an impertinent question. Perhaps a more useful question is, "How does a young man in good health, with a decent job and at least a small circle of friends, come to believe that everything he or anyone else feels, says, thinks, or does is meaningless?"

The easy (and unhelpfully reductive) answer is that this fellow is a sociopath. As well as such a diagnosis might seem to account for Mersault's peculiar, evidently cold-blooded detachment from the cares and feelings of other people, it does not explain how he comes to hold very much the same attitude toward himself. Sociopaths, modern psychiatry tells us, are colossal narcissists: self-loving beyond the verge of delusion, solipsistic to the point of self-imprisonment. Mersault, conversely, seems to love himself neither more nor less than he likes or is indifferent to anyone else. Except in the novel's final pages, in which the chaplain's insistence on God's redemptive forgiveness inspires Mersault's rage--and precipitates his awareness that "Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why"--his opinions are mostly neutral, his emotions generally flat. He seems to find pleasure in certain activities--sex; swimming--and enjoys food and drink, at times even craving indulgence. And yet, each experience is merely of the moment: here now, done once, gone forever. It might be repeated, it might not. Would he like to have sex again with Marie? Well, he guesses he would--probably he would, very much. But it doesn't matter. Mersault is a man always performing a psychic shrug: people are what they are; I don't care and neither should you; the world is what it is; thinking and talking about it will never change it; I am a man like any other; my thoughts and feelings are neither more nor less important, significant, or interesting to me than anyone else's. Needless to say, these sentiments are foreign to our ideas of a sociopath.

If we exclude an explanation of character based on organic deviancy, deformity, or impairment, we must conclude that Mersault's thoroughgoing estrangement from everything we might call human caring--excepting fear of death, which he seems to have--is a chosen attitude. That is, he has decided--either knowingly, in a moment of conscious choice, or uncannily, through occasional accretions of evolving awareness--that this emotional posture of not-caring, together with a belief that everything "doesn't matter," is the only possible stance to take in opposition to mortal existence, which itself is inherently meaningless because it is finite. No one can live forever, so everything a person feels, believes, etc., becomes lost, finished, canceled-out when he dies. Any person's love, hate, and so forth has only limited--Mersault might say, "momentary"--meaning, at best; and such ephemeral significance is nothing to get excited about, take "seriously" (whatever that might mean), or, what is most important to Mersault's predicament, use as a basis for judging any other person's actions, utterances, feelings, or lack of same. And so it is that he is able to think, standing in the dock and listening to the accusations made against him, "I had never been able to truly feel remorse for anything. My mind was always on what was coming next, today or tomorrow."

Mersault's failure to articulate the rationale for his existential detachment, especially in court when his life is at stake, seems a consequence of inability rather than defiance. He knows what he believes but not why he believes it. He has evolved toward detachment rather than having chosen it. Of course, to arrive at a psychic place of not-caring--to become a stranger--and accept it as one's permanent situation must entail assent. At some point, Mersault must have said to himself, perhaps on a level without words, "This attitude is the only one possible. I accept it." Or perhaps explicit assent is superfluous; if detachment is the only possible response to mortal existence in an indifferent universe, to assent or object changes nothing, for no other choice exists. To attempt to invent or imagine one's way out of the absurdist dilemma might provide a lifetime's worth of diversion and a some temporary psychic comfort, yet these efforts, likewise merely temporal, are foredoomed to failure. To believe them redemptive or a way toward salvation is to demonstrate bad faith.

Read along these lines, Mersault's subdued emotional affect, absent grief at Mother's death, haphazard act of murder, and other behavioral oddities conventionally regarded as bizarre are symptoms of soul-sickness rather than mental illness. Camus would not have cited the soul as the locus of Mersault's affliction. He likely would have attributed his problem to Mersault's entire existential being: his brave awareness that the world is as indifferent as he is and everyone is condemned. Sartre, if he deigned to comment on Mersault's condition, probably called it nausea.

Although you won't find it in The Stranger, the antidote to absurdist detachment is conscience: not just fellow-feeling (also known as compassion--an all-around helpful sentiment) but mutual respect of our human dignity. We all know we are going to die. Unless we are Albert Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci or Abraham Lincoln, etc., we all know we will be forgotten (and how many of today's ill-educated Americans can speak more than one informative sentence about the identity of Leonardo?). It is not necessary to remind anyone of these grim truths. To do so is not merely impudent; it is cruel. So, too, is it gratuitously punishing to shape one's thoughts and govern one's emotions according to the certainty that it all doesn't matter, anyway, because in long run or short we all are dead matter in a universe incapable of caring, or even noticing, that we're gone. The point, rather, is that, for a time, we are all alive; and while we are alive, our actions, words, and thoughts have consequences; and the human beings most near and dear to us suffer the consequences we create every day, moment by moment. How do you want to treat the persons you love? Never mind that this love is not eternal because you must eventually die: how do you most prefer to express your love while you are alive? How would you like the persons you love to treat you? As a trivial life-form whose presence is as negligible as a May-fly's simply because you lack immorality? Or as a worthy, decent, human being capable of imagining immortality and every good thing in everlasting plenitude, yet condemned, through no fault of your own, to perish? The human predicament is certainly absurd, yet each human's response needn't be. Be mindful of the consequences, however transient these are. In your time, the time you are alive and share with those you love, what you do, say, and think, matters.

Mersault’s human crime is his failure to recognize this truth. In this sense, his conscience is guilty despite that fact that Mersault never feels it. It is difficult to argue that he deserves decapitation as punishment for his moral blindness, but it is not astonishing to discover that the presiding magistrate thinks so. To (de)value the temporal circumstances of one’s brief life in terms of the eternal indifference of the cosmos is to excuse every unkindness and turn a blind eye to every atrocity. It is to shrug one's shoulders at every tangible wrong--including the Nazi death camps, which Camus, a brave man who fought with the French Resistance, cannot possibly intend. His composition of The Stranger preceded the worst of the Holocaust, possibly preceded his knowledge that any such catastrophe was unfolding. For articulations of his mature thinking, we must refer to his post-War writings.

~JL ( )
1 vote bookie53 | Jun 9, 2014 |
This is my second outing with Camus and, as with The Plague, The Outsider hasn’t disappointed. My Camus journey will certainly continue. Camus has a minimal and uncomplicated style of writing which is certainly refreshing. He manages to produce simple sentences with a simple use of words which nonetheless convey so much meaning and atmosphere. I find his work extremely accessible and direct. He is not a man to waste words and compose sentences which end up being a paragraph long. You know, the ones where you need oxygen to complete them. The ones where you need the Oxford English Dictionary at hand before discovering the sentence really didn’t mean a thing although it sounded good as you were reaching for the Oxygen once again *and breathe* Or maybe that’s just me. To each ones own.

"Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday. (p.13)"

The Outsider is a simple story with the main protagonist, Meursault, narrating a short time in his life. Here we see him tell of his life, working, sitting by his window watching the world go by, the funeral of his mother, finding a girlfriend, making love and finally going through a personal tragedy which would have most people climbing the walls with fear. Meursault presents this with all the excitement and emotion of a rock. It’s all the same to him. He is matter of fact, descriptive and emotionless. He gives no reasons for his actions and offers no feelings or insight. That is left up to the reader to assume. Things are as they are. In ‘normal’ mainstream society, he could be described as detached, emotionless and apathetic. They’d probably call him a sociopath these days.

Early in the story, Meursault tells us about the time when his girlfriend broached the subject of marriage. He provides a typical response to her request, one of indifference, which runs throughout the book.

"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. Then she asked me again if I loved her. I replied, much as before, that her question meant nothing or next to nothing – but I supposed I didn’t. “If that’s how you feel’ she said, “why marry me?” I explained that it had no importance really but, if it would give her pleasure, we could get married right away."(p.48)

Meursault’s indifferent acceptance to whatever comes his way is intentional. It is a wonderful portrayal of the ‘Absurdist’ philosophy which Camus held and which is presented brilliantly with the character of Meursault.

Reading books by Camus is an adventure where one can’t help but look at what lies behind the story in order to give it greater meaning. Without going into a full discourse on philosophy and Absurdism (of which I am sure I would fail), this school of thought describes the conflict between our need to find rational meaning to life where it is impossible to do so. It is in effect ‘absurd’ to think we can possibly know the meaning of life in a universe where there are so many unknowns. As a consequence, the answer to the fundamental question we always seek ‘why are we here?’ is impossible to discover. The Absurdist school of thought would say that there are three ways in which we react to and cope with this conflict. We either comment suicide and thus evade it or we take on religion or spirituality and thus deny the conflict exists by assuming a higher purpose or, finally, we accept this conflict and continue to live life with this knowledge.

The world seems absurd because we are part of nature and yet able to take a step back from nature and rationalize our place in the world. We become aware of what we call the Absurd when we cannot reconcile the two experiences: what we instinctively feel to be true and what we rationally believe to be true. (Simon Lea,The Camus Society)

Meursault accepts everything which happens and comes his way. He attributes no meaning to his actions and offers no explanations. It’s an extreme example which creates this motive less, detached, emotionless character. He isn’t particularly realistic or likeable nor does he invite empathy from the reader. However, he does generate interest and intrigue and that, I believe, is one of the points being made. As humans we always want to find rationality and answers where there may be none. Where we don’t have the full information and facts we make judgements, stereotypes and ideologies to make sense of our world in order to ease the conflict the Absurd brings. With the creation of Meursault, Camus has provoked us to try to provide our own analysis to his actions and words with the very little information we have.

"If I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers. I can sketch one by one all the aspects it is able to assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing, this origin, this ardor or these silences, this nobility or this vileness. But aspects cannot be added up." (An Absurd Reasoning, Camus)

The Outsider is a quick read (at 120 pages) which nonetheless packs a punch. I find it encourages an interesting discourse and further reading. Yet again, I am astounded at how Camus is able to write about what could be complex theories in such an accessible and simple way. More Camus will be coming my way….. ( )
1 vote lilywren | May 17, 2014 |
I'm grateful that I read [The Wretched of the Earth] before this. Colonialism as a whole is a rather predictable monster, but the specifics of just how far the conquering hoard goes in each particular case and country needs to be reviewed for suspension of disbelief purposes. Kneejerk incredulity and/or sentiment at the horrors of reality rejuvenates itself far too quickly for my tastes.

It is perfectly possible to loathe one's mother. We as a species are capable of such immense levels of arbitrary hatred, the stockpile of instantaneous dislikes upon first meetings a popular occurrence in public entertainment and private commiserations. Why should there not be a chance of the one who birthed you being the sort you could never like, admire, or love? There's the imprinting factor, true, but that is a thing of the senses, subject to the binding of self-inflicted control like anything else. A cold turkey of the hormonal heart.

I was attached to Existentialism for a time, but the passing of the moment and all the subsequent rebuttal upon rebuttal upon countless rebuttal has made me give up on the declaration of the maxim within that particular field. Debates make for paltry engagements when I have little experience and less interest in all those other name-dropping convolutions of ubiquitous dead white men, so I will stick with what I know. Besides, Camus himself didn't like the existentialist label, although I will keep the tag as a reminiscing shortcut to the proper mood.

What is the difference between someone without sight and someone without empathy? Both are missing a common interchange between themselves and the world, interchanges that allow others with a full set to receive a certain range of stimulation both voluntary and otherwise, exchanges of receptors and neuronal firings on the lighter side of pleasure and the danker side of pain. The lack of said interchange reduces a world accordingly, but more importantly modifies the perceptions of the individuals of said world. While a blind person as consequence of their missing sense may wreak as much havoc as one without empathy, it is the latter persona that we fear, for with them we have no god of remorse to call down from on high in the realm of justice. For the blind we have pity, for the unfeeling we have the deepest fear.

It is intriguing to note that the popular "sacrifice one sense and all the others are honed to the extreme" trope holds true here, for Meursault is nothing if not a sensualist. His thoughts compose themselves around observations both tactile and otherwise, seizing upon the systems of the humans around him only when they are efficient or forward thinking enough to impress him. A consequence of a lifetime rid of human distraction, leaving the mind open to pressure, temperature, the physics of ensuring oneself a spot in the world with a minimum of fuss and comfortable levels of manipulation? It is a consequence of this line of thought that I wonder at the lauding of networking and the mob hysteria reaction to psychopathy. Really, who are you fooling? Yourself seems the only answer appropriate.

As I usually do when I want to get rid of someone whose conversation bores me, I pretended to agree.

The word 'absurd' in relation to this continues to mislead my lines of inquiry. I shall have to read more Camus to expand my contextualization of the concept to a sufficient degree. Until then, I shall think of it in terms of 'human', and leave it at that. ( )
3 vote Korrick | May 11, 2014 |
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