Book reviews for old books seem a little pointless, because what more can you say about an old book? So, here’s my review of an old book.
Instead of a review, this is more of a reaction to a book. A recommendation, if you will. And this is a book I recommend.
THE STRANGER by ALBERT CAMUS
I wanted to read The Stranger, having heard about it when doing some YouTube education (see example below) about philosophy and existentialism. Along with La Nausea and Thus Spoke Zarathustra, it is the most well known philosophical novel from an existential author.
The Stranger is author, Albert Camus’, ‘exemplar of…philosophy of the absurd and existentialism’ (1) with its odd look at life which you go through with the narrator, Meursault, a French Algerian – like the author, Camus.
‘My bedroom overlooked the main street of our district…what few people were about seemed in an absurd hurry’ (3)
The musings of Meursault seem unimportant, unemotional and a little askew, with little empathy or care in life. Right from the first line, where he declares that ‘Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure’, Meursault seems vacant and cold.
‘Marie…asked me if I’d marry her. I said I didn’t mind; if she was keen on it, we’d get married.’
Hardly a Hollywood heart throb! And this blasé attitude to life comes back to haunt our hero, when put on trial for the murder of a strange looking Arab following him and his friend on a beach. During the episode, Meursault feels as though his personality is on trial rather than his act of murder, giving an example of the absurdity life can sometimes throw at us during situations.
As The Doors sung, ‘people are strange, when you’re a stranger’ (4), and Meursault’s strange behaviour gets him ousted out by society. This novel could feel like a stranger to many people, but for me, I managed to find sympathy for Meursault. As Wisecrack genius, Sparky Sweets PhD says, ‘When a homie who don’t play that game swings into town, he a stranger to everybody’ (5).
Meursault is just a normal man, with no real strengths or weaknesses. He is an example of an everyday man. Yet, the way it is written, you feel for his predicaments. Maybe it is because we all find ourselves in bad situations through no fault of our own that made me empathise with this apathetic hero. I guess I am just a pessimistic person, just like Meursault.
In the end, even Meursault finds his heart. When faced with death he shows emotion, having an outburst with a Chaplain who tries to push God on him. Finally, he manages to find a sort of freedom in the idea of death. And his freedom comes through finding an indifference with the universe:
‘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 realise that I’d been happy, and that I was still happy’.(3)
I think, if you are a glass half empty kind of person, this book will be great for you. If you love life, laughter and a lovely love story, perhaps you should skip this one, or don’t, I don’t care.
Thanks for reading,
(3) The Stranger by Albert Camus 1942
(4) People Are Strange by The Doors. Featured on the album Strange Days (1967)
(5) Wisecrack episode ‘The Strange’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyb1nKY45Cw