Albert Camus 1942 classic Here are the opening lines Mother died today Or, maybe, yesterday I can t be sure The telegram from the Home says YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY FUNERAL TOMORROW DEEP SYMPATHY A telegram, not a personal phone call or someone on staff from the old people s home actually making the hour trip in person to inform her only son, but a terse three line businesslike telegram cold, insensitive, almost callous a telling sign of the mechanized times.Then first person narrator Monsieur Meursault has to deal with his manager so he can attend his mother s funeral I have fixed up with my employer for two days leave obviously, under the circumstances, he couldn t refuse Still, I had an idea he looked annoyed, and I said, without thinking Sorry, sir, but it s not my fault, you know Ha Camus subtle irony, a statement on how death is an irritating inconvenience in the urbanized modern world of shipping offices, where time is money and the highest value is utility and efficiency.Then, when Meursault sits beside the Home s keeper in the room with his mother s coffin, we read The glare of the white walls was making my eyes smart, and I asked him if he couldn t turn off one of the lamps Nothing doing, he said They d arranged the lights like that either one had them all on or none at all Most revealing This is the only time at the Home Meursault actually asks for something And true to form as archetypal keeper, the answer is standard binary, that is, all or nothing, black or white, on or off certainly not even considering engaging in a creative solution on behalf of Meursault, who, after all, is the son Reading this section about the Home s officious keeper and his world of expected behaviors and standardized, routinized procedures reminds me of the doorkeeper in Kafka s tale, Before the Law.The next day, the day of the funeral procession, Meursault observes, The sky was already a blaze of light, and the air stoking up rapidly I felt the first waves of heat lapping my back, and my dark suit made things worse I couldn t imagine why we waited so long before getting under way This is one of a number of his remarks on his sensations and feelings, and, for good reason Meursault s way of being in the world is primarily on the level of sensation and feeling.Back in the city and after taking a swim with Marie, a girlfriend he ran into at the local swimming pool, there s a clip of dialogue where Meursault relates While we were drying ourselves on the edge of the swimming pool she said I m browner than you I asked her if she d come to the movies with me that evening She laughed again and said, Yes, if I d take her to the comedy everybody was talking about, the one with Fernandel in it Meursault does acquiesce to her request Big mistake Turns out, according to society s unwritten rules, taking Marie to Fernandel s farcical comedy on the very next evening after his mother s funeral was a colossal no no, completely unacceptable behavior.We as given laser sharp glimpses of various facets of our enigmatic first person narrator as he moves through his everyday routine in the following days and evenings, routine, that is, until the unforgettable scene with the Arab on the beach, one of the most famous scenes in all of modern literature Here are Camus words via Stuart Gilbert s marvelous translation The Arab didn t move After all, there was still some distance between us Perhaps because of the shadow on his face, he seemed to be grinning at me.I waited The heat was beginning to scorch my cheeks beads of sweat were gathered in my eyebrows It was just the same sort of heat as my mother s funeral, and I had the same disagreeable sensations especially in my forehead, where all the veins seemed to be bursting through the skin I couldn t stand it an longer, and took another step forward I knew it was a fool thing to do I wouldn t get out of the sun by moving on a yard or so But I took that step, just one step, forward, And then the Arab drew his knife and held it up toward me, athwart the sunlight.A shaft of light shot upward from the steel, and I felt as if a long, thin blade transfixed my forehead At the same moment all the sweat that had accumulated in my eyebrows splashed down on my eyelids, covering them with a warm film of of moisture Beneath a veil of brine and tears my eyes were blinded I was conscious only of the cymbals of the sun clashing on my skull, and, less distinctly, of the keen blade of light flashing up from the knife, scarring my eyelashes, and gouging into my eyeballs.Then everything began to reel before my eyes, a fiery gust came from the sea, while the sky cracked in two, from end to end, and a great sheet of flame poured down through the rift Every nerve in my body was a steel spring, and my grip closed on the revolver The trigger gave, and the smooth underbelly of the butt jogged my palm.This novel poses such provocative questions, I wouldn t want to spoil any of those questions with answers, semi original or otherwise Rather, my suggestion is to read and reread this slim novel as carefully and attentively as possible.One last reflection one of my favorite scenes is where Meursault enters the courtroom and makes the following observation Just then I noticed that almost all the people in the courtroom were greeting each other, exchanging remarks and forming groups behaving, in fact, as in a club where the company of others of one s own tastes and standing makes one feel at ease That, no doubt, explained the odd impression I had of being de trop here, a sort of gate crasher Such a comment on the dynamics of the modern world a man is about to go on trial with his life in the balance and he is the one who feels out of place.How many times in life have you felt out of place entering a room Have you ever considered yourself a stranger to those around you Perhaps our modern world can be seen as The Stranger, thus making each and every one of us strangers Love or hate it, Camus short novel speaks to our condition.One final reflection I would not be surprised if Albert Camus read this prose poem by Charles Baudelaire THE STRANGERTell me, enigmatic man, whom do you love best Your father, your mother, your sister, or your brother I have neither father, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother Your friends, then You use a word that until now has had no meaning for me Your country I am ignorant of the latitude in which it is situated Then Beauty Her I would love willingly, goddess and immortal Gold I hate it as you hate your God What, then, extraordinary stranger, do you love I love the clouds the clouds that pass yonder the marvelous clouds. 1913. The book is simply written and a rather quick read, but the depth Camus manages to convey through this simplicity is astounding I think a problem a lot of people have with this book is that they fail to look beyond the whole what is the meaning of life message While an interesting question, the book raises so many other philosophical questions beyond this What I found the most interesting of these is what truly defines humanity or makes someone human During Meursault s trial, he is constantly accused of not showing remorse and therefore as being cold and inhuman He is most definitely human though, just rather detached This raises the question of whether one should be expected to exhibit certain characteristics in certain situations to keep their humanity Also it raises the question of whether much of our emotion is created by ourselves or the expectations of others to exhibit certain emotions in a given sitatuion The book is also an indictment on people s efforts to dictate other people s lives We are constantly told what is right and as a means to justify our own sense of what it means to be human We often impose these characteristics upon others, expecting them to fulfill similar traits and characteristics, as they have been already imposed on us It is in a way, a self justification of our actions as right or humanly Constantly, Meursault is being told he must live and or act a certain way, whether it be by the judge, his lawyer, or the priest Once he doesn t conform to these measures, he is marginalized and called inhuman this is an attempt on the part of the others to rationalize their own ways of life and understandings If they manage to declare him inhuman , it allows them to call themselves human and justify their own means of living.In the end, this book is one that raises many questions than it answers, but in true philosophical fashion, they are really questions without answers. Aujourd hui, maman est morte Ou peut tre hier, je ne sais pas ,,.. English The Stranger Italiano The Stranger was suggested to me by the protagonist of another book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Actually, many books are cited in The Perks of being a Wallflower , but The Stranger is the book that intrigued the protagonist and me.Meursault is a modest employee of French extraction who lives in Algiers He lives his daily routine with indifference, unable to openly manifest even the simplest emotions And it is with apathy that he learns the news of the death of his mother, who lived her last years in a hospice Mother died today Or maybe yesterday I can t be sure And it is again with apathy that one day, going to the beach with friends, Meursault kills an Arab Emotionless, he undergoes the arrest and the consequent process, calmly accepting the inevitability of his destiny Not a hero or an antihero, Meursault is the stranger par excellence, alien to all the emotional manifestations that are common to humans, similar to an Asimovian android than to a man.A small book that is consumed in one day, but it eats away at you for weeks.Vote 8 Lo Straniero mi stato suggerito dal protagonista di un altro libro, Noi siamo infinito di Stephen Chbosky In realt se ne citano tanti di libri, in Noi siamo Infinito , ma Lo Straniero quello che pi ha incuriosito il protagonista ed il sottoscritto.Meursault un modesto impiegato di origine francesi che vive ad Algeri Vive la routine quotidiana con indifferenza, incapace di manifestare apertamente perfino le emozioni pi semplici Ed con apatia che apprende la notizia della morte della madre, da tempo relegata in un ospizio Oggi morta mamma O forse ieri, non so Ed sempre con apatia che un giorno, recatosi in spiaggia con amici, Meursault uccide un arabo Impassibile, subisce l arresto ed il conseguente processo, accettando con calma l ineluttabilit del suo destino N eroe n antieroe, Meursault lo straniero per antonomasia, estraneo a tutte le manifestazioni emotive comuni agli esseri umani, simile pi a un androide asimoviano che ad un uomo.Un piccolo libro che si consuma in un giorno, ma che continua a roderti dentro per settimane.Voto 8 If You Exist The Stranger dramatises the issues at the heart of existentialism.The same issues are probably at the heart of life, whether or not you believe in a god.Being JudgedIt s interesting that there has been a crime and now Meursault is being judged.The judgement is symbolic not only of the justice system, but of God s judgement of humanity.Defending YourselfYou would normally expect the defendant to assert their innocence or plead not guilty in the criminal justice system cue Law and Order theme song.Both options require the defendant to take a positive step, only they differ in degree.To assert your innocence is to positively state that I didn t do it.A plea of not guilty would place an onus on the prosecutor to prove the defendant s guilt although there are significant differences between the French system of justice and that of the UK USA Canada Australia etc.To plead not guilty can mean a number of things.It could mean that I did actually do it , but you, the prosecutor, have to prove to the Judge or Court that I did it.It could mean that I did actually do it , but I have a defence or justification that means it is not a punishable crime e.g., self defence or provocation.Asking ForgivenessThis process is partly analogous to the situation when a Christian dies and meets their God.If they have sinned, you would expect them to ask forgiveness.Having been forgiven, they would expect to go to Heaven.Not Defending YourselfOne of the dilemmas of The Stranger is that morally and legally there might be issues that Meursault could put to the Judge that would excuse his action and allow the Judge to find him not guilty.He could then go free.He could have argued that his action was self defence or the result of provocation.He could have got off , if he had taken a positive step on his own behalf However, he fails to take the step.If he was a Christian i.e., if he believed in God , he might have wanted to prolong his life on Earth.His life would have had some meaning and he would have wanted of it.Similarly, if he was a Christian, he would have been motivated to seek eternal life in Heaven.So he would have taken the positive step.What s the Point Instead, against all expectation, he doesn t defend himself We are left to wonder why.We have to assume that Meursault effectively asked the questions of himself, What is the point Why should I bother And we have to assume that he answered the questions, There is no point.Achieving Your Own MortalityThere was no point in prolonging his life and, not believing in Heaven, there was no point in seeking eternal life.He had lived a life however long or short, however good or bad, however satisfying or unsatisfying and it didn t really matter that his life might come to an end.The point is that, sooner or later, all life must come to an end.By failing to take a positive step on his own behalf, he effectively collaborated in and achieved his own mortality He existed while he was alive, he would have ceased to exist when he was executed.If he wasn t executed, he would have died sooner or later.Ultimately, he enjoyed his life while he had it, he didn t care enough to prolong it and he accepted the inevitability of his own death.Is Despair the Explanation This doesn t necessarily mean that he embraced despair as a way of life or death.In a way, he accepted responsibility for his own actions during life and he accepted responsibility for the inevitability of his own death as well.Ultimately, this is why The Stranger and Existentialism are so confronting to Christianity and Western Civilisation It makes us ask the question what is the point and it permits an answer that there is no point.ResponsibilityThis doesn t mean that life is meaningless and everybody else should live their lives in despair Quite the opposite.We should inject our own meaning into our own lives We are responsible for our own fulfilment.Life is short and we should just get on with it Or as a friend of mine says, everybody is responsible for their own orgasm Such is life. y know it s quite impressive that Camus managed to write a whole novel from the perspective of that guy who you always avoid at house parties. A short review because there are so many other good reviews of this classic When I first read this eons ago, I assumed the stranger was the Arab man that the main character kills on the beach It s set in Algeria Not so Meursault, the main character, is a man without feelings and one incapable of feeling remorse Those deficiencies show at his mother s death when he does not cry and does not even seem terribly upset They show again when he agrees to write a letter for a friend so that the friend can invite his ex girlfriend back so he can beat her up Mostly they are revealed when he shoots a stranger an Arab after an altercation on the beach Five shots first one, a pause, and then four The four is what eventually gets him convicted He lives in a poor, violent neighborhood where, when one man s wife dies, he starts beating his dog instead of his wife As for the dog, he s sort of taken on his master s stooped look, muzzle down, neck straining They look as if they belong to the same species, and yet they hate each other Meursault has a girlfriend that he likes, but mostly he doesn t care about her one way or the other These two passages say it all A minute later she asked me if I loved her I told her it didn t mean anything but that I didn t think so She looked sad And That evening Marie came by to see me and asked me if I wanted to marry her I said it didn t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to His boss at a shipping company asks him if he want to be transferred to a job in Paris Then he asked me if I wasn t interested in a change of life I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another At his trial for the murder, he feels that the prosecutor and his lawyer are arguing in a way that has nothing to do with him He has a surge of feeling that he is dying to say something but then thinks But on second thought, I didn t have anything to say When he s convicted and sentenced to death, he also acts as if it s no big deal But everybody knows life isn t worth living.Since we re all going to die, it s obvious that when and how don t matter The book is a classic early modern work of anomie, alienation and a general indifference to life It s also perhaps a spin off from Crime and Punishment Today, a novel like this would take us back to Meursault s childhood to show us why he turned out like this Camus doesn t do that, so we can only speculate or, perhaps, attribute it to genetics As a classic in English translation a lot has been made of its opening and closing sentences In the edition I read the first sentence is translated as Maman died today Should it be Today, mother died On the last page is a sentence I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world Should it be instead, I laid my heart open to the gentle indifference of the universe I m reminded of the review I did of Mogens by Jens Peter Jacobsen where the foreword tells us that the author felt it would be a different story if it began It was summer, rather than Summer it was Still a great classic Beni Said Beach from skyscrapercity.comPhoto of the author from port magazine.com Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed the nakedness of man faced with the absurd First published in English in 1946 now in a new translation by Matthew Ward.