The Stranger, Albert Camus (7/10)

An evocative and interesting glimpse into a psychopath's life and mind

The Stranger, Albert Camus (7/10)

Rating: 7/10
Read More on Goodreads

⛰ What It's About

It's about Meursault, a Frenchman who lives in Algiers. He's this very ordinary, cold and emotionless guy, illustrated by the novel's famous first few lines:

Mother died today. Or maybe it was yesterday, I don't know.

During an altercation between his friend, Raymond, and an Arab, Meursault commits a murder - apparently due to the disorienting heat and vexing brightness of the sun, which blinds him.

This murder divides the book into two sections. In the second section, Mersault is questioned in trial and is eventually found guilty and sentenced to death.

Throughout, Mersault fails to show any remorse for the murder and expresses no sadness toward his mother's death. He then obsesses over the possibility of his appeal being accepted.

The book questions:

The Irrationality of the Universe. Meursault has no identifiable reason for his actions, such as his decision to marry Marie and his decision to kill the Arab. Society nonetheless attempts to fabricate or impose rational explanations for Meursault’s irrational actions. The idea that things sometimes happen for no reason, and that events sometimes have no meaning is disruptive and threatening to society.

The Meaningless of Human Life. Paradoxically, only after Meursault reaches this seemingly dismal realisation is he able to attain happiness. When he fully comes to terms with the inevitability of death, he understands that it does not matter whether he dies by execution or lives to die a natural death at an old age. This understanding enables Meursault to put aside his fantasies of escaping execution by filing a successful legal appeal.

The Importance of the Physical World. The Stranger shows Meursault to be interested far more in the physical aspects of the world around him than in its social or emotional aspects. This focus on the sensate world results from the novel’s assertion that there exists no higher meaning or order to human life. Throughout The Stranger, Meursault’s attention centres on his own body, on his physical relationship with Marie, on the weather, and on other physical elements of his surroundings.

🔍 How I Discovered It

My Mum recommended it to me and it's a famous Classic.

🧠 Thoughts

While the book's simply written and is a rather quick read, Camus manages to convey quite a lot of depth through this simplicity. I found the book to be a very interesting glimpse into a psychopath's life and mind. It stokes and evokes a lot of mixed emotions, by virtue of its central premise questioning the meaning of life.

Really interestingly, Camus wrote the book from a place of tragedy and suffering himself. His father had died in WW1, and the unfolding carnage of WW2 forced a questioning of life and its meaning.

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 situation. 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 fulfil 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 marginalised and called "inhuman"; this is an attempt on the part of the others to rationalise 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.

😠What I Didn't Like

The book is a bit too short and the sentences are also very short. A lot of the descriptions are short and it all just feels a bit too condensed. Things that need a bit more narrative and explanation and introduction just sort of happen and occur.

This got me feeling kinda bored. There wasn't build up, no action, no climax. There wasn't anything funny, exciting, interesting and nothing too much to take away from the book either.

🥰 Who Would Like It?

If you like books that ask big philosophical questions overarching their stories, and having this weird philosophical, mysterious, pointless, lonely, soulful feeling about the book then you will like this. It's similar to "Siddartha", by Herman Hesse, or "The Alchemist", by Paulo Coelho.