The Stranger by Albert Camus: A review

Thirty-ninth book reviewed as part of the 130 Challenge.

We are floating through the cold indifference of the Universe with a death sentence dogging us around. Some of us ignore this fact and live life with the expectation that death, though a reality, is an incredibly distant one and we don’t really think much of it. On the other hand, there are those who get too concerned by this fact and spend their lives in mortal fear of being claimed by their end.

The  there is the third type – those who live life, aware of the way things hurtle towards a conclusion, much like their own lives. But they are unfazed by it; they return the indifference of the universe with a callousness of their own. Letting their life take its own course, not bothered to interfere.

The Stranger Book Cover

One of the better covers I’ve seen. Simple and very apt.

Meursault in ‘The Stranger’ is a such a detached man who has little use for the sympathy of others. He is not particularly averse to it, he just doesn’t care. He loves the way the world takes on different hues at dusk and twilight and delights in the pleasures that nature bestows upon us without even asking for them. However, he doesn’t dwell on it too much. Yet, one of the few things that do affect his moods, is how he’s feeling about the weather.

Weather, as you may know, is totally unpredictable. And so, is Meursault’s temperament. In the cool early mornings,  he is mirthful, in the breezy evenings, he is calm and in the silent company of twilight, he turns slightly melancholy. But plagued by the disgustingly oppressive afternoon heat of Algiers, the detached Meursault doesn’t remain so un-involved after all.

And as soon as he comes into the combined nexus of law and society, he is a marked man. His detachment and cool indifference are obnoxious; his distant attitude in relationships, appalling; and his lack of morality invites condemnation.

Unwilling to conform to familiar human interactions and predictable behaviors, Meursault is treated as an outcast, a stranger.

Get ready for a jarring account of how little we, as a society, tolerate outliers and how rigid and damning we are in our understanding of them. Exquisitely translated from the French, sublime in its descriptions and remarkably subtle in its humor; this book is a fine exposition of Camus’ tremendous grasp over the human condition. Must read!

It’s astounding how much depth Camus manages to convey through such a simply written story. There are many good observations scattered throughout this novel, but I absolutely loved Meursault’s monologue towards the end. I would read the novel (a short read anyway), just for that!

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3 comments

  1. This takes me back to my school and university days when I had to read it in the original French: “Aujourd’hui maman est morte.” I think your analysis is spot on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! :-)

      Like

  2. Ah, sounds nice! I want to read this one.

    Like

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