Reader's Den: The Stranger by Albert Camus
Welcome to the Reader’s Den, January 2015! This year the Reader’s Den will focus its selections on books with a hero/anti-hero theme. And, as we all expect a typical hero to have a few basic qualities: courage, honesty, on the side of the just. What do we expect from the more complex anti-hero: an ability to stick to his convictions, maybe a few relatable flaws, or even a sense of humor? Can we relate to a figure who shuns society’s mores?
Albert Camus’s 1942 novel, The Stranger introduces Meursault who falls into this bright light, as in, “The sky was already filled with light. The sun was beginning to bear down on the earth and it was getting hotter by the minute” p. 15.
I hope you will find it a relief to spend January reading a novel that takes place in the full sun of the Algerian summer, although the story may not bask so lazily in your mind. Also, it is a novella, so it won’t be too difficult to stick to your New Year’s resolution to read more (says the librarian). You will finish it in no time at all. The sentences are short and exact, simply bundling the complexity of their ideas with precise words. The philosophy of Absurdism that drives the protagonist, Meursault, will prove, as Sartre states in his essay “Camus’s ‘The Outsider’”, “All the sentences of his book are equal to each other, just as all the absurd man’s experiences are equal.” Meursault’s actions will pull you quickly through the story.
I’ll be reading the 1989 English translation by Matthew Ward, but you can find copies in the original French, and it is available as an e-book, or an audio book, or online (English Stuart Gilbert translation or French). To read more about the translation consider Ryan Bloom’s essay from the New Yorker about the iconic first line, “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte.”
“Maman died today.” And, so we begin…