Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: The Stranger by Albert Camus

I usually only read escape fiction, especially romance novels. This year I have decided to read some literature. I am going to alternate one literature novel with one escape fiction. My first literature book this year was The Stranger by Albert Camus. It was recommended to me by my son who is a college English major. It was a good start - only 154 pages and very easy and enjoyable to read. It also made me think about life in general.
The Stranger
by Albert Camus

Translated from French by Stuart Gilbert
154 pages Copyright 1942

This is a story of a young man who has committed a pointless murder. Monsieur Meursault tells his own story of a young man living a comfortable life in Algiers. He drifts through life, working everyday at his office job and enjoying the pleasures of life: smoking, eating at restaurants, dating his girlfriend Marie, swimming at the beach, and people watching. He is a easygoing, untroubled fellow who lives in the now and is not concerned about the past or future.

His mother dies in a home for aged persons and he travels to attend her funeral. He feels no grief but just observes the proceedings of the funeral and then journeys home for a weekend of swimming and going to movies with his girlfriend, Marie. Marie wants to get married and he agrees; but when she asks him if he loves her, he says no, but he will marry her if she wants to get married. He doesn’t seem to have any deep feelings or emotions. He has no ambition or direction. He is a sensual, feeling, person who likes to observe others.

He is kind to people like the neighbor who has just lost his dog. He inadvertently becomes involved in scheme of a pimp named Raymond whom he has befriended to punish the pimp’s girlfriend. This leads to Monsiuer Meursalt senselessly killing the girlfriend’s brother. He is imprisoned and tried for the crime. Oddly enough, he is prosecuted more for his amoral character than the crime he has committed. While lying in his cell, waiting for either his execution or appeal, he continues to think only of himself, not worrying about dying, just watching, feeling and observing the things around him.

Mersault is an honest, but shallow and ordinary man who is also an atheist. He believes only in what he can see.

I liked this book although it was sad and bleak. The plot is very simple and the writing style is very smooth and expressive and interesting enough to keep you reading until the end. It was interesting to read about what can go wrong when a person just drifts along with life and about how a person can be judged for his actions and not his intentions.
Other novels by Albert Camus include:
The Plague
The Fall
A Happy Death
The First Man

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