The Stranger – Book Review
Author: Albert Camus
Genre: Classic literature, algeria
My rating: ★★★★★
Release Date: Published 28th March, 1989 by Vintage International
Format: Paperback, 123 pages
Warning: I usually try to write spoiler free but this review is riddled with spoilers. Read on at your own risk.
What did I think?
For such a short book there’s an awful lot to unpack. The Stranger makes some deeper comments that I have had trouble grasping beyond a surface level. I think the novel speaks of existentialist viewpoints of the world’s absurdity and of lack of hope. But I will tell you what I (think :P) I know.
Ultimately, Meursault, a French Algerian, murdered an Arab who remained throughout the novel unnamed but the implications of that isn’t dealt with. We know Meursault’s thoughts and feelings because The Stranger is written in the first person, so we know that he did not plan or intend to kill the Arab. But, Meursault, though a deep thinker in ways, had an immaturity about him. For example, after he’s arrested for murder and questioned he ponders the experience as like a description of a scene in a book, and like it was a game.
Bad choices and societal assumptions
Tragically, he made a shitty friend in Raymond, he took the gun that Raymond handed him and he carried it on him not purposefully, but through lack of any better thoughts such as I should give this back, or I should leave this in the house. And he ended up killing someone.
Further, he has difficulty showing any solid, recognisable regret over taking a man’s life. This does not equate to him thinking it’s okay to murder. I didn’t get that impression. Just that his manner of thinking and processing was different to many people. That didn’t do him any favours.
Meursault had an interesting relationship with his emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations. He seemed hyper-aware of hunger, heat and so on yet less aware of strong emotions. He was moved little by his mother’s death yet to say he had no feelings would not describe the situation. At one point he saw a man crying and thought to himself, “For some reason I thought of Maman” (his mother). To me he had some feelings, but again, they were different to ‘the norm’ – whatever that is.
Much of his life was good, but you felt with some choices he made that trouble was coming. For example, he allowed a friendship to occur between him and a known mobster; he seemed unperturbed by animal mistreatment (that went on for years inside his apartment building), or by his friend assaulting his ex girlfriend, and by a planned assault of her brother. These were things he simply let by, as though they were nothing to do with him. Yet in fact he was a living person, interacting with the world. That interaction means he was a part of it. That world was his world.
There were moments of humour. The Magistrate calling him Monsieur Antichrist for example – while it didn’t bode well for him the fact that Meursault said and thought nothing about it in itself was dark, odd, and funny in a sad way. He had some thoughts on ways to go, too. I particularly enjoyed his idea of a cocktail of chemicals to kill a person sentenced to death that kills only nine times in ten, thereby leaving some room for hope.
I grabbed The Stranger from the library because it was set in Algiers. Having travelled there, though not in summer in which the novel was set, I enjoyed reading about cosmopolitan Algiers with its restaurants, the importance of soccer (football), grabbing bread downstairs, the many beaches and such. I enjoyed this novel and I feel that it could give me more with a second a reading.
For more info: Goodreads – Or your local Library