Tuesday 22 March 2016

Camus, Albert "The Stranger"

Camus, Albert "The Stranger" (aka "The Outsider") (French: L'étranger) - 1942

Before I go into the book, let's just have a look at the title. "un étranger" in French is "a foreigner", someone who is not a citizen of the country in question. You don't have to be a linguist in order to see the similarity between "stranger" and "étranger" but if you were you would know that mostly, the "é" in French is a lost "s" from the Latin, so, the foreigner becomes a stranger.

I like this dilemma, it shows how difficult it is to translate a word like this. Who is a stranger, really. And, now we get to the book, why do we exist? And this is really the question of this story, a philosophic one, even though you can read it as a novel, as well.

There are a lot of other literal allusions. The name of our protagonist, Meursault, could mean "Meurs, sot!" Which translates into "Die, Fool!" Another reason why I like this book.

Camus' style of writing is more simple than anything else but it makes everything so true. The way he talks, you just have to believe what he's telling you. His characters come to life through their simplicity. The meaning of life becomes clear though the simplicity. The story becomes believable through his simplicity. We explore many parts of life, death, love, crime, trial, foreign life, life in the sun, relationships, all through the simple life of a young French-Algerian.

It is a sad book because Meursault doesn't really care for anything, he has no idea why he or anyone else is on this earth, whether it's worth living or not. So very sad.

The books by Camus are both easy to read and full of meaning, full of depth. I have read "The Plague" before and loved it very much.

Comment by another member:
  • To me, Meursault felt like he was a bystander to life. He had no moral scale and followed life without any kind of input from himself. Society, religion, meaning of life, were all indifferent. Not bending to the expectations of the society and law court by lying to say he was sorry, I saw not as a virtue of honesty, but as the fault of indifference. It would in my opinion nowadays get a personality disorder diagnosis and not be read as a positive comment towards the absurdity of life. The world was different in the 40s and more.
  • I obtained and read The Stranger by Albert Camus and yes, I did read it around 50 years ago. We studied The Myth of Sisyphus in University and the play Caligula in high school and I must have liked the challenge of his thinking and the quality of his writing even that long ago. Beautiful writing! I recall that at that time I considered Meursault`s indifference and denial to be symptoms of deeply felt but unexpressed grief at the death of his mother. I`m sticking to that opinion. When I experienced the deaths of those close to me I suffered some of the same thoughts and sensations. BTW, Camus was anything but indifferent and in his life found meaning in his passionate politics and quest for justice. I truly believe that life is filled with all the meaning you can handle even if you do have to make it yourself.
Good points for discussion.

We read this in our international online book club in June 2021.

I read this book in the original French language.

From the back cover:

"Meursault will not pretend. After the death of his mother, everyone is shocked when he shows no sadness. And when he commits a random act of violence in Algiers, society is baffled. Why would this seemingly law-abiding bachelor do such a thing? And why does he show no remorse even when it could save his life? His refusal to satisfy the feelings of others only increases his guilt in the eyes of the law. Soon Meursault discovers that he is being tried not simply for his crime, but for his lack of emotion - a reaction that condemns him for being an outsider. For Meursault, this is an insult to his reason and a betrayal of his hopes; for Camus it encapsulates the absurdity of life."

Albert Camus received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times".

I contribute to this page: Read the Nobels and you can find all my blogs about Nobel Prize winning authors and their books here.


  1. Curiously, the case of Azaria Chamberlain disapperance at Uluru during my teen years, had a similar trial. Her mother was accused of murdering her, mostly based on the fact that she appeared to show no or very little emotion in front of the cameras. Her crime was lack of emotion, just like Meursault.

    1. How interesting. Isn't that awful, losing your child and then being accused of no emotion because you pull yourself together? Of course, I have no idea about that case at all, so I shouldn't judge but everyone reacts differently and I would guess if you really kill your child, you probably show more emotion in order to divert from your guilt.

      Anyway, lovely to see you here. Hope you enjoy this.

  2. I just thought I could google the case. Yes, of course I know the case, the one with the Dingo. Didn't they film it with Mery Streep?

    Anyway, I remember, I thought it weird at the time already.