On Thought : The Stranger by Albert Camus


The Stranger (LÉtranger) is the first Albert Camus' work that I've finished last week.

The writer, Albert Camus, was also known as a philosopher.  Many said that he was more into absurdism rather than existentialism.  The absurdism was there in The Stranger because there were some descriptions and dialogues that would make you raise your eyebrow and reread it to understand what Camus meant.

The story is opened with the famous line: "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: “Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours.” That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday."
Set in the 1940s in France about a man named Meursault who just had a news that her mother had passed away and his life after that - which was not really go well because of his lacking of grief for her mother's death.

Meursault is probably the most ignorant character I have ever read in a book, though I'd rather like to think that he was just denying to acknowledge what he really felt.  Some readers said that he was detaching himself emotionally from the environment but in some cases I found that Meursault didn't want to feel what he was supposed to feel because of 1. He did not know how he should express it, 2. He gave up on finding out what he felt.  The main trait that I found was ignorance.  He did not care, at all, though he might not show it explicitly and most probably not show it in his own knowledge.  Even after his ignorance led him to a death sentence, he did not seem to do anything to make it better.

The story got more emotional and intense as it would end.  The emotional moment would be at the last chapters when Meursault repeatedly thought about life and death.  It got sadder and more intense as he slowly showed how he actually felt.  Quoting my favorite line, "But everybody knows life isn't worth living.  Deep down I knew perfectly well that it doesn't matter whether you die at thirty or at seventy, since in either case other men and women will naturally go on living - and for thousands of years."  I got an interpretation that Meursault was sad knowing that nothing would change after he died, so life itself wouldn't matter anymore.

I read the latest version which was translated by Matthew Ward, published by Vintage International Books.  In general, the book itself was light, it wouldn't exhaust you because the story line itself was slow.  You wouldn't feel the rush to finish the book, rather you'd be taken slowly until you really had to feel deeper into the later chapters.  What I like the most about this book : It was not cliche and would leave some odd aftertaste.

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