Title: The Stranger (L’Etranger)
Author: Albert Camus
Genre: Classics, Philosophy
Publication date/year: 1942 (first edition)
Pages: 123 (Paperback)
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
This is my first time reading an Albert Camus novel and I am actually unsure on how to write a review for this particular book. Originally written in French, The Stranger is divided in two parts: the first part focuses on Meurseult before he commits the crime, leading to the moment he shoots the Arab and the second part is focused on his trial leading to his death sentence.
Despite liking this book I actually had a difficult time reading it, though not in a sense where I don’t understand the language. It was more of my lack of comprehension of the meaning behind it. Readers tend to have different interpretations on particular books that they read, and I am one of those who is unsure of what Mr. Camus’s message is.
The story is very simple. It is about a man named Meurseault who commits murder that he seems ambivalent about. In the first part of the book I extremely disliked Meurseault. He is apathetic towards everything which as to why he frustrated me so much. I was unsure what Mr. Camus was presenting in the beginning in regards to the main protagonist; however, as the story progressed, there is one constant theme that is present throughout the novel and it’s “indifference” or “apathy”.
Meurseult is indifferent towards everything in life. I came to realization that he was a person who doesn’t care about anything in this world. He lives a life without meaning–physically there, but detached from emotions. When his mother dies he has no reaction and ends up sleeping at the funeral; and when his girlfriend asks him if he loves her and if he would marry her his response is this:
“If you want me to, it doesn’t really matter.”
“Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why. So did he. Throughout the whole absurd life I’d lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living. What did other people’s deaths or a mother’s love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we’re all elected by the same fate?”
Though Meurseult didn’t get my sympathy, I would say he was a simple, honest man. He was a stranger of habits and customs of this world. He blamed the sun when he committed the murder. He accepts his fate with indifference. The sad thing was that he didn’t think himself different from other people. He didn’t live in the illusion, but also didn’t understand that others did.
If it weren’t for the final pages of the book this book would have probably received a rating of a two star. It has to be my favorite part of the book because it was so profound thus bumping it to three and a half stars. When the Priest came in to talk to Meurseault, it reminded me of Crime and Punishment and that feeling of true creep when faced with the raw truth. It’s in this moment Meursault shows emotions and attacks the priest calling them on their hypocrisy and pretense. He tells him that he never accepted the lie of society and their God. He asserts that he lives a life of complete freedom and receives satisfaction in letting it all out. He realizes that he was and is a truly happy man despite his fate. He already accepted his fate, but now accepts the “benign indifference of the universe” hoping that “huge crowd of spectators.. and howls of execration” will accompany him to death.
“And I, too, felt ready to start life all over again. It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still.”
Even though I am no atheist since I come from a religious family, my beliefs will not affect how I rate this book. I wasn’t wowed by it, but it definitely was an interesting read therefore, I would definitely recommend it.