The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger

This is an alternate cover edition for ISBN 0679720200.Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd." First published in English in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward....

Title:The Stranger
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Stranger Reviews

  • karen
  • Chris

    If every few words of praise I’ve seen for “The Stranger” over my lifetime materialized into small chunks of rock in space, there’d be enough sh!t to conjure up the Oort Cloud. Much like this distant collection of debris bordering the outer solar system, I can’t really comprehend the acclaim heaped on this story, but luckily, like the Cloud, it’s usually out of sight, out of mind, and has absolutely no discernable current influence on my life. And just like the Oort can occasionally spit a chunk

    If every few words of praise I’ve seen for “The Stranger” over my lifetime materialized into small chunks of rock in space, there’d be enough sh!t to conjure up the Oort Cloud. Much like this distant collection of debris bordering the outer solar system, I can’t really comprehend the acclaim heaped on this story, but luckily, like the Cloud, it’s usually out of sight, out of mind, and has absolutely no discernable current influence on my life. And just like the Oort can occasionally spit a chunk of sh!t at the earth and devastate all life upon it, so too can I hear/read some lip service paid to “The Stranger” resulting in my transition to Freak-Out Mode, resulting in me slapping someone in the face, usually someone I have to deal with again at some point in time (if only in court).

    Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is. Armed with a 100-word vocabulary, a meager 123 pages to bore one with, and a character who simply doesn’t seem to give much of a damn, Camus somehow shook the world of literature with this inane garbage. I haven’t sat down to conduct a thorough analysis, but using some reasonable guesstimation I will say that the average sentence in this book is about eight words long. I’m not asking that every sentence in a book run the length of a page, but the end result when employed by Camus was that either a twelve year old or some sort of retarded robot wrote this. (Cue robot voice) It struck me as strange. The sentences were so short. It was very peculiar. This could be read very fast. I began to read this on the train on my in to work. I finished it on my way back home.

    Who the hell writes like that? More importantly, who the hell reads a book like that and suspects therein lay some complexity? Each time I noticed how condensed everything was it occurred to me that somehow the literati had spent all this time adoring the published equivalent of a commercial.

    Here’s a snapshot of the dude we’re supposed to give a hoot about. He doesn’t readily assimilate to or accept the conventional mores everyone else seems accustomed to. He’s not overly concerned, but he seemingly knows there’s some kind of disconnect. He’s also not out to go f#ck with the system for lack of anything better to do or in some attempt to make a statement. He’s pretty emotionless, he shows some genuine concern for himself at times, but even those close to him really aren’t too significant in his grand picture. His testicles are extremely small and sterile, and he fondles them often.

    Not long after the death of his mother, Our Hero is chilling on the beach when some Arabs come around looking to start sh!t with an acquaintance of his, and after a small skirmish earlier in the day, Our Man goes back down to the beach and shoots an Arab. He gets arrested and pretty much just goes with the flow, he rolls over and let’s the prosecution have their way with his scrawny white ass. The whole time he pretty much just thinks it’s all pretty ridiculous and isn’t too concerned with the proceedings.

    I wasn’t too concerned about the book. More than anything I was just bored with it. There was no build up, there was no action, there was no climax. There was nothing funny, nothing exciting, nothing interesting, and nothing to really take away from the book; just the same words repeating over and over, grouped in strings of seven or eight. The longest sentence in the book was also the only thing which I found even remotely amusing: “Finally I realized that some of the old people were sucking at the insides of their cheeks and making these weird smacking noises”. That isn’t particularly funny, but compared to the rest of the book it was comedic gold.

    “The Stranger” is some seriously weak shit. I’ve gotten more enjoyment from looking a map of Kentucky.

  • Ryan R

    The book is simply written and a rather quick read, but the depth Camus manages to convey through this simplicity is astounding. I think a problem a lot of people have with this book is that they fail to look beyond the whole "what is the meaning of life" message. While an interesting question, the book raises so many other philosophical questions beyond this. What I found the most interesting of these is "what truly defines humanity or makes someone human?" During Meursault's trial, he is const

    The book is simply written and a rather quick read, but the depth Camus manages to convey through this simplicity is astounding. I think a problem a lot of people have with this book is that they fail to look beyond the whole "what is the meaning of life" message. While an interesting question, the book raises so many other philosophical questions beyond this. What I found the most interesting of these is "what truly defines humanity or makes someone human?" During Meursault's trial, he is constantly accused of not showing remorse and therefore as being cold and inhuman. He is most definitely human though, just rather detached. This raises the question of whether one should be expected to exhibit certain characteristics in certain situations to "keep their humanity".

    Also it raises the question of whether much of our emotion is created by ourselves or the expectations of others to exhibit certain emotions in a given sitatuion. The book is also an indictment on people's efforts to dictate other people's lives. We are constantly told what is right and as a means to justify our own sense of "what it means to be human". We often impose these characteristics upon others, expecting them to fulfill similar traits and characteristics, as they have been already imposed on us. It is in a way, a self-justification of our actions as right or "humanly". Constantly, Meursault is being told he must live and/or act a certain way, whether it be by the judge, his lawyer, or the priest. Once he doesn't conform to these measures, he is marginalized and called "inhuman"; this is an attempt on the part of the others to rationalize their own ways of life and understandings. If they manage to declare him "inhuman", it allows them to call themselves human and justify their own means of living.

    In the end, this book is one that raises many more questions than it answers, but in true philosophical fashion, they are really questions without answers.

  • Trevor

    I don’t know what to do with these stars anymore. I give stars to books and then I think, ‘god, you give five stars to everything, people will think you are terribly undiscriminating’ – so then I give four stars or even three stars to some books. Then I look back and it turns out that that I’ve given four stars to

    and honestly, how could I possibly have thought it was a good idea to give that book less than five stars? It is the absurdity of human conventions that has us doing s

    I don’t know what to do with these stars anymore. I give stars to books and then I think, ‘god, you give five stars to everything, people will think you are terribly undiscriminating’ – so then I give four stars or even three stars to some books. Then I look back and it turns out that that I’ve given four stars to

    and honestly, how could I possibly have thought it was a good idea to give that book less than five stars? It is the absurdity of human conventions that has us doing such things.

    Now, that is what is called a segue, from the Italian ‘seguire’ – to follow.

    For the last thirty years I have studiously avoided reading this book. I have done that because for the last thirty years I have known exactly what this book is about and there just didn’t seem any point in reading it. In high school friends (one of them even became my ex-wife) told me it was a great book about a man condemned to die because he was an outsider.

    Later I was told that this book was a story about something much like the Azaria Chamberlain case. A case where someone does not react in a way that is considered to be ‘socially appropriate’ and is therefore condemned.

    But after 30 years of avoiding reading this book I have finally relented and read it. At first I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it. It didn’t really get off to the raciest of starts and the character's voice – it is told in first person – was a bit dull. He is a man who lives entirely in the present, how terribly Buddhist of him – although, really there doesn’t seem to be all that much to him.

    My opinion of the book began to change at his mother’s funeral. I particularly liked the man who kept falling behind in the march to the cemetery and would take short cuts. Okay, so it is black humour, but Camus was more or less French – so black humour is more or less obligatory.

    I really hadn’t expected this book to be nearly so funny as it turned out. I’d always been told it was a ponderous philosophical text – and so, to be honest, I was expecting to be bored out of my skull. I wasn’t in the least bit bored.

    A constant theme in my life at present is that I read ‘classics’ expecting them to be about something and they end up being about something completely different. And given I’ve called this a ‘constant’ theme then you might think I would be less than surprised when a read a new ‘classic’ and it turns out to be completely different to my expectations. I’m a little more upset about this one than some of the others, as I’ve been told about this one before, repeatedly, and by people I’d have taken as ‘reputable sources’ – although, frankly, how well one should trust one’s ex-wife in such matters is moot.

    I had gotten the distinct impression from all of my previous discussions about this book that the guy ends up dead. In fact, this is not the case – he ends up at the point in his life where he has no idea if he will be freed or not. The Priest who comes to him at the end is actually quite certain that he will be freed. Let’s face it, he is only guilty of having murdered an Arab, and as we have daily evidence, Westerners can murder Arabs with complete impunity.

    The main point of the book to me is when he realises he is no longer ‘free’. He needs this explained to him – because life up until then had been about ‘getting used to things’ and one can 'get used to just about anything'. But the prison guard helpfully informs him that he is being ‘punished’ and the manifestation of that punishment is the removal of his ‘freedom’. Interestingly, he didn’t notice the difference between his past ‘free’ life and his current ‘unfree’ one.

    The most interesting part of the book to me was the very end, the conversation with the priest. The religious often make the mistake of thinking that Atheists are one thing – I’ve no idea how they ever came to make this mistake, but make it they do. Given that there are thousands upon thousands of different shades of Christians – from Jesuit Catholics to Anti-Disney Episcopalians – it should be fairly obvious that something like Atheism (without any ‘organised’ church or even system of beliefs) could not be in anyway ‘homogeneous’.

    I am definitely not the same kind of Atheist as Camus. To Camus there is no truth, the world is essentially absurd and all that exists is the relative truth an individual places on events and ideas. This makes the conversation with the priest fascinatingly interesting. To the priest the prisoner who is facing death is – by necessity – someone who is interested in God. You can play around with ideas like the non-existence of God when it doesn’t seem to matter (life is long and blasphemy can seem fun) – but surely when confronted with the stark truth of the human condition any man would turn away from their disbelief and see the shining light.

    Not this little black duck. Now, if I was in that cell I would have argued with the priest too – but I would not have argued in the same way that Meursault argues. No, I do not believe in God, but I do believe in truth, and so Camus’ arguments are barred to me.

    Meursault essentially says, “Look, I’m bored, I’m totally uninterested in the rubbish you are talking – now go away”. Now, this is a reasonable response. What is very interesting is that the priest cannot accept this as an answer. The world is not allowed to have such a person in it – if such a person really did exist then it would be a fundamental challenge to the core beliefs of the priest. So, he has to assume Meursault is either lying to him or is trying to taunt him. But it is much worse – he is absolutely sincere, he is not interested in this ‘truth’.

    I don’t know that the world is completely meaningless, it is conventional rather than meaningless. That those conventions are arbitrary (decided by the culture we grew up in) doesn’t make them meaningless, it makes them conventional. I don’t think I would like to live in a world where people go up and kill Arabs pretty much at random and with impunity, but then again, we have already established this is precisely the world I do live in. My point is that it would be better if we did adhere to some sort of moral principles and that these should be better principles than ‘he should be killed because he didn’t cry at his mum’s funeral’.

    Camus is seeking to say that all of our ‘moral principles’ in the end come to be as meaningless as that – we judge on the basis of what we see from the framework of our own limited experience. And look, yes, there is much to this – but this ends up being too easy.

    The thing I like most about Existentialism, though it isn’t really as evident in this book as it is in the actual philosophy – although this is something that Meursault is supposed to have grown to understand (sorry, just one more sub-clause) even though this wasn’t something I noticed at all while reading the book, was the notion of responsibility. I didn’t think in the end Meursault was all that much more ‘responsible’ for his actions than he had been at the start. But I do think that ‘responsibility’ is a key concept in morality and one that seems increasingly to be ignored.

    Better by far that we feel responsible for too much in our lives than too little – better by far that we take responsibility for the actions of our governments (say) than to call these governments ‘them’.

    I’m not advocating believing in

    - but that if one must err, better to err on the side of believing you have too much responsibility for how your life has turned out, rather than too little.

    So, what can I say? I enjoyed this much more than I expected – but I’m still glad I waited before reading it, I really don’t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of it at 15 as I did now.

  • Ian

    "The Stranger" dramatises the issues at the heart of existentialism.

    The same issues are probably at the heart of life, whether or not you believe in a god.

    It's interesting that there has been a crime and now Meursault is being "judged".

    The judgement is symbolic not only of the justice system, but of God's judgement of humanity.

    You would normally expect the defendant to assert their innocence or plead not guilty in the criminal justice system (cue Law and

    "The Stranger" dramatises the issues at the heart of existentialism.

    The same issues are probably at the heart of life, whether or not you believe in a god.

    It's interesting that there has been a crime and now Meursault is being "judged".

    The judgement is symbolic not only of the justice system, but of God's judgement of humanity.

    You would normally expect the defendant to assert their innocence or plead not guilty in the criminal justice system (cue Law and Order theme song).

    Both options require the defendant to take a positive step, only they differ in degree.

    To assert your "innocence" is to positively state that "I didn't do it".

    A plea of "not guilty" would place an onus on the prosecutor to prove the defendant's guilt (although there are significant differences between the French system of justice and that of the UK/USA/Canada/Australia/etc).

    To plead not guilty can mean a number of things.

    It could mean that "I did actually do it", but you, the prosecutor, have to prove to the Judge or Court that I did it.

    It could mean that "I did actually do it", but I have a defence or justification that means it is not a punishable crime (e.g., self-defence or provocation).

    This process is partly analogous to the situation when a Christian dies and meets their God.

    If they have sinned, you would expect them to ask forgiveness.

    Having been forgiven, they would expect to go to Heaven.

    One of the dilemmas of "The Stranger" is that morally and legally there might be issues that Meursault could put to the Judge that would excuse his action and allow the Judge to find him not guilty.

    He could then go "free".

    He could have argued that his action was self-defence or the result of provocation.

    He could have "got off", if he had taken a positive step on his own behalf. However, he fails to take the step.

    If he was a Christian (i.e., if he believed in God), he might have wanted to prolong his life on Earth.

    His life would have had some meaning and he would have wanted more of it.

    Similarly, if he was a Christian, he would have been motivated to seek eternal life in Heaven.

    So he would have taken the positive step.

    Instead, against all expectation, he doesn't defend himself. We are left to wonder why.

    We have to assume that Meursault effectively asked the questions of himself, "What is the point? Why should I bother?"

    And we have to assume that he answered the questions, "There is no point".

    There was no point in prolonging his life and, not believing in Heaven, there was no point in seeking eternal life.

    He had lived a life (however long or short, however good or bad, however satisfying or unsatisfying) and it didn't really matter that his life might come to an end.

    The point is that, sooner or later, all life must come to an end.

    By failing to take a "positive" step on his own behalf, he effectively collaborated in and achieved his own mortality. He existed while he was alive, he would have ceased to exist when he was executed.

    If he wasn't executed, he would have died sooner or later.

    Ultimately, he "enjoyed" his life while he had it, he didn't care enough to prolong it and he accepted the inevitability of his own death.

    This doesn't necessarily mean that he embraced despair as a way of life (or death).

    In a way, he accepted responsibility for his own actions during life and he accepted responsibility for the inevitability of his own death as well.

    Ultimately, this is why "The Stranger" and Existentialism are so confronting to Christianity and Western Civilisation. It makes us ask the question "what is the point?" and it permits an answer that "there is no point".

    This doesn't mean that life is meaningless and everybody else should live their lives in despair. Quite the opposite.

    We should inject our own meaning into our own lives. We are responsible for our own fulfilment.

    Life is short and we should just get on with it. (Or as a friend of mine says, everybody is responsible for their own orgasm.)

    Such is life.

  • فهد الفهد

    الغريب

    بدأ لدي خلال السنوات الأخيرة هاجس قرائي مقلق، نوع من الشعور بالنقص كلما مر أمامي عنوان مشهور لم اقرأه بعد، فمن روايات دستويفسكي التي جمعتها ولكني لم اقرأ منها إلا كتاباً واحداً، إلى كافكا وشتاينبك وتشيخوف وغيرهم ممن لم اقرأ لهم شيئاً أو قرأت عملاً وحيداً، وهذا بسبب أن مرحلة القراءة الجوهرية لدي – الثانوية والجامعة – كانت فقيرة، فالمكتبات لدينا في الرياض كانت لا تعرض إلا النادر من الكتب في التسعينات وبدايات الألفية، كما أنني كنت حينها بلا خارطة قرائية، فلا مكتبة في المنزل، ولا قارئ مهتم في

    الغريب

    بدأ لدي خلال السنوات الأخيرة هاجس قرائي مقلق، نوع من الشعور بالنقص كلما مر أمامي عنوان مشهور لم اقرأه بعد، فمن روايات دستويفسكي التي جمعتها ولكني لم اقرأ منها إلا كتاباً واحداً، إلى كافكا وشتاينبك وتشيخوف وغيرهم ممن لم اقرأ لهم شيئاً أو قرأت عملاً وحيداً، وهذا بسبب أن مرحلة القراءة الجوهرية لدي – الثانوية والجامعة – كانت فقيرة، فالمكتبات لدينا في الرياض كانت لا تعرض إلا النادر من الكتب في التسعينات وبدايات الألفية، كما أنني كنت حينها بلا خارطة قرائية، فلا مكتبة في المنزل، ولا قارئ مهتم في العائلة يساعدني أمام هجمة العناوين، ولا حتى انترنت ومواقع محترفة تحدد لك ما يمكنك اقتنائه، وما يجب عليك تجاهله من كتب، الآن بالنسبة للجيل الجديد الفارق شاسع، يمكنهم في المرحلة الجوهرية – مرحلة ما قبل المسئولية والعمل والعائلة - الحصول على أهم الكتب، بأجمل الطبعات، وبأبسط الطرق والوسائل، وقراءتها في مرحلة التشكل العمرية هذه، بحيث لا يصل أحدهم لمنتصف عشريناته إلا وقد قرأ أهم وأجمل الكتب، وتفرغ لقراءة الجديد أو سد الفراغات البسيطة، أو التعمق في قراءة من أعجبه من الكتاب.

    على أي حال الشكوى لا تفيد، والعمر لازال في مقتبله – إن طال -، فلذا بدأت لحل هذه المشكلة بفهرسة كتبي، وتقييم أهميتها وقيمتها الفكرية والأدبية، ومن ثم وضعت قوائم بما يجب علي قراءته أولاً بأول، بحيث يكون لدي مئة كتاب، ومن ثم مائة تالية، وهكذا، وتكون كل مائة منها خطة قرائية مستقلة يمكن تطعيمها مع الوقت بالكتب الجديدة، والمزاجية – أي التي توافق مزاجاً ما فيميل عليها -، طبعاً لا أتوقع من نفسي الالتزام بهذه الخطط بحذافيرها، فلاقتراحات الأخوة في الجودريدز، وللأفكار الصغيرة التي تأتي بها الأيام، ولتدفق تيار القراءة الذي قد يجرفك لكتب توقعت أنها ستعتق في الرفوف بلا قراءة، كل هذا سيجعل الفكرة تنفذ على مدى سنوات، ربما تزيد على الخمس، ولكن في النهاية كل هذا جزء من المتعة والتجربة والعالم الجميل الذي تخلقه لنا الكتب.

    هذه المقدمة لا علاقة لها بهذا الكتاب، إلا لأنه فقط كان من الكتب المؤرقة، هو وكتاب كامو الآخر (الطاعون)، وكلاهما من قائمة المئة رواية التي تنتظر، وها قد أنقصت بقراءته القائمة.

    كامو هو الأديب الفرنسي الوجودي الشهير، ولد في الجزائر المحتلة حينها من فرنسا في سنة 1913 م، فلذا تدور روايته هذه هناك، وكذا روايته الأخرى الطاعون، كل من قرأوا هذه الرواية تحدثوا تقريباً عن شيئين الأول هو العبث، والثاني هو الغربة، عبثية ما يحدث في الرواية للبطل، وكذلك غربة البطل وعدم فهم المجتمع له.

    برأيي هاتين الملاحظتين تنقصهما ملاحظة ثالثة لا تقل أهمية، ويمكننا اعتبارها قاسم مشترك بين العبثية والغربة، ألا وهي مدى تأثير وتركز الوجود المادي للبطل عليه وعلى أفكاره وتصرفاته، وهذه بالنسبة لي هي عبقرية الرواية، حيث هذا الجانب مهمل لدى أغلب الروائيين، كما أنه مهمل لدى كل من يحكي حكاية، إننا نركز على الأحداث، على الأقوال والأفعال وننسى ما انتبه له كامو في روايته.

    أعرف أن كلامي السابق غامض، ولتوضيحه سأروي قصة شخصية، قبل سنوات حضرت جنازة حزينة، كانت أول حالة موت مباشرة، أول جنازة أحضرها ويكون المدفون شخص أعرفه، مجرد تلك الفكرة بأن إنسان كان يذهب ويجيء، يتحرك، يتكلم، يأكل، يضحك ويغضب، ومن ثم انتهى، هذه الفكرة الهائلة ملأت قلبي ففاض بحزن جديد، حزن لم أعرفه ولم أجربه من قبل، وحيث وقفت هناك في المقبرة الجرداء، تسفيني الريح، وتصليني الشمس، ويدفعني الزحام، وتغرقني أصوات الناس من حولي، شعرت بقلقٍ غريب، فالحزن في داخلي سماوي شفاف، أريد أن أفهمه، أن أتملاه، ولكن فوضى الناس من حولي، والحرارة والعطش، جعلت الحزن يتراجع قليلاً ليحل محله وجودي أنا، جوعي وعطشي وتعبي، كان ذلكم الشعور بالنسبة لي مخزياً، كيف يمكن لهذا أن يكون !! ألا يمكنني في مثل تلكم اللحظات التخلص من تلك الأحاسيس التافهة؟ ومنذ ذلكم اليوم، كلما حضرت جنازة أو عزاءً، أعاني من هذا الشعور، لا أفهم كيف يبتسم الناس في المقبرة؟ كيف يتحدثون أحاديث جانبية وهم يدفنون عزيزاً، ولا كيف يعودون ليتناولوا غداءً لذيذاً، فالحزن الذي أفهمه، هو حزن انفصالي، يفصلني عن الواقع، عن الجسد ولو لساعات قليلة، إنها أبسط ما أبذله لإنسان أحببته، أن أخلي روحي وقلبي لساعات أتذكره فيها، ولا أنشغل بذاتي ولا بالآخرين.

    ميرسو في الرواية كان هذا الرجل، الرجل الذي لا يجيد إخفاء ذاته، لا يجيد التظاهر بالانفصال ليعيش بين الناس، إنه يتصرف وفقاً لما يشعر به، فلذا تكثف وجوده وشعوره في الرواية، فهو يتعب ويعطش، يحتاج إلى القهوة والسجائر حتى في جنازة أمه، ويخرج مع صديقته إلى الشاطئ، إنه غريب، لا يمكن للمجتمع أن يفهمه، ولأنه كذلك، لا يجد أي تعاطف من المجتمع معه، فلذا عندما يقع، ويرتكب جريمة قتل، لا يحاكمه المجتمع على جريمته، بقدر ما يحاكمه على غرابته، وهو في خضم المحاكمة وفي خضم الحكم وتنفيذه وأيامه في السجن، لازال كما هو، لا يمكن لخوف اللحظات الأخيرة أن يقنعه، فيجعله يتظاهر بشيء لا يؤمن به حتى ينال خلاصاً ما.

    ميرسو إذن مختلف، غريب، فماذا إذن عن العبثية؟ إنها ضاربة في الرواية، فالجريمة التي ارتكبها ميرسو، كان يمكن تجنبها، لقد قتل شخصاً لا علاقة له به، من أجل شخص لا تربطه به علاقة قوية، لقد ساعد ميرسو إنساناً منحطاً بلا دوافع كافية، فقط لأنه طلب منه ذلك !! ولحظة قتل ميرسو للشاب الجزائري لو استعدناها، تعبر بالضبط عن الفكرة التي أشرت إليها، فميرسو تحت الحرارة الشديدة، والشمس المسلطة عليه، ولمعة خنجر الشاب الذي لم يكن يهدده جدياً، قام بإطلاق النار وقتل الشاب، فلذا عندما سُأل في المحكمة عن سبب قتله للشاب، كانت إجابته حقيقية، إنها الشمس، لقد كانت الشمس تضايقه بالفعل، لقد أثرت على اتخاذه للقرار، ولن نفهم هذا من دون فهم تأثير الوجود المادي للإنسان على روحه وتصرفاته وأفكاره.

    هل يعني هذا أن نتعاطف مع ميرسو؟ لا بالطبع، فهو قاتل، والرصاصة التي أطلقها أتبعتها أربع رصاصات أخرى، في هذه الرواية لا تهم مشاعرنا تجاه ميرسو، ما يهم هو رؤيتنا له، هل هو مختلف؟ أم هو مخبول؟ يمكننا أن نجرم كل ما فعله ميرسو، ويمكننا أن نتفهم شيئاً من أفعاله، ولكن المهم هو أن ندرك أن ميرسو وقع تحت حكمنا عليه، وأن اختلافه وغرابته ستجعله يدفع ثمناً، ربما لم يكن سيدفعه لو لم يختلف، لو كان نسخة منا.

  • Huda Yahya
  • Glenn Russell

    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 narrat

    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,

    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

    , 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."

    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."

  • Elyse

    I just finished reading this famous - classic story. All this time I had no idea what it was about.

    What an interesting little book. I enjoyed reading in the same way that I have

    "Siddartha", by Herman Hesse, or "The Alchemist", by Paulo Coelho.

    It's a brilliant small book - especially knowing it was written so long ago: 1942..... but it's timeless.

    Is everything the same as everything else? Does it matter who we marry or if we marry? Does it matter if we live or die? Must murder have a meaning?

    I just finished reading this famous - classic story. All this time I had no idea what it was about.

    What an interesting little book. I enjoyed reading in the same way that I have

    "Siddartha", by Herman Hesse, or "The Alchemist", by Paulo Coelho.

    It's a brilliant small book - especially knowing it was written so long ago: 1942..... but it's timeless.

    Is everything the same as everything else? Does it matter who we marry or if we marry? Does it matter if we live or die? Must murder have a meaning?

    Whose challenge is it when a person's behavior- is much less traditional than popular opinion? His? Or...everyone else around him?

    And who decides what is meaningful and purposeful in life anyway? Is it possible things are simply 'made up'.... and then we agree what is more important than something else?

    This book reminds me- "that life is a game". It is what it is. The game is how we play it:

    we add our beliefs - thoughts - feelings - choices. We 'add' meaning to "what is".

    Life is interpretation.... and Camus's main character, Meursault, doesn't blindly accept conventional meaning which is often impose on the world. He accepts his fate - yet not passively. He's clear he did something wrong. He's expecting others to be outraged. It accepts it all.

    So... we, the reader, are left to draw many of our own conclusions-or not -but we are certainly invited to take a look at the deeper meaning of life.

    Love the simple straightforward prose.....and personally I found Meursault charming and likable. I liked his strangeness!

  • Jim Fonseca

    A short review because there are so many other good reviews of this classic. When I first read this eons ago, I assumed “the stranger” was the Arab man that the main character kills on the beach. (It’s set in Algeria.) Not so.

    Meursault, the main character, is a man without feelings and one incapable of feeling remorse. Those deficiencies show at his mother’s death when he does not cry and does not even seem terribly upset. They show again when he agrees to write a letter for a friend so that th

    A short review because there are so many other good reviews of this classic. When I first read this eons ago, I assumed “the stranger” was the Arab man that the main character kills on the beach. (It’s set in Algeria.) Not so.

    Meursault, the main character, is a man without feelings and one incapable of feeling remorse. Those deficiencies show at his mother’s death when he does not cry and does not even seem terribly upset. They show again when he agrees to write a letter for a friend so that the friend can invite his ex-girlfriend back so he can beat her up. Mostly they are revealed when he shoots a stranger - an Arab – after an altercation on the beach. Five shots: first one, a pause, and then four more. The “four more” is what eventually gets him convicted.

    He lives in a poor, violent neighborhood where, when one man’s wife dies, he starts beating his dog instead of his wife. “As for the dog, he’s sort of taken on his master’s stooped look, muzzle down, neck straining. They look as if they belong to the same species, and yet they hate each other.”

    Meursault has a girlfriend that he likes, but mostly he doesn’t care about her one way or the other. These two passages say it all: “A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn’t mean anything but that I didn’t think so. She looked sad.” And “That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her. I said it didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to.”

    His boss at a shipping company asks him if he want to be transferred to a job in Paris. “Then he asked me if I wasn’t interested in a change of life. I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another…”

    At his trial for the murder, he feels that the prosecutor and his lawyer are arguing in a way that has nothing to do with him. He has a surge of feeling that he is dying to say something but then thinks “But on second thought, I didn’t have anything to say.” When he’s convicted and sentenced to death, he also acts as if it’s no big deal. “But everybody knows life isn’t worth living….Since we’re all going to die, it’s obvious that when and how don’t matter.”

    The book is a classic early modern work of anomie, alienation and a general indifference to life. It’s also perhaps a spin-off from Crime and Punishment. Today, a novel like this would take us back to Meursault’s childhood to show us why he turned out like this. Camus doesn’t do that, so we can only speculate – or, perhaps, attribute it to genetics.

    As a classic in English translation a lot has been made of its opening and closing sentences. In the edition I read the first sentence is translated as “Maman died today.” Should it be “Today, mother died?” On the last page is a sentence: “…I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.” Should it be instead, “I laid my heart open to the gentle indifference of the universe?” I’m reminded of the review I did of Mogens by Jens Peter Jacobsen where the foreword tells us that the author felt it would be a different story if it began “It was summer,” rather than “Summer it was…” Still a great classic.

    Beni Said Beach from skyscrapercity.com

    Photo of the author from port-magazine.com


Books Finder is in no way intended to support illegal activity. We uses Search API to find the overview of books over the internet, but we don't host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them. Read our DMCA Policies and Disclaimer for more details.