The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger Albert Camus

I really liked The Stranger. It was different than what I thought it was going to be.

I’ve owned this book for YEARS without really knowing what it was about, until I saw Jo’s review over at Beyond Strange New Words, and even then it sounded interesting but it took me a long while to pick it up and try it. When I read Jo’s review,  I thought that the main character, Mersault, sounded a bit like a sociopath but I was so wrong.

Alright so after Mersault’s mother dies, he starts a relationship with a young woman named Marie and then befriends a local pimp, which leads him to committing a seemingly senseless murder on an Algerian beach. The first half of the book is getting to know Mersault and leads up to the murder on the beach. The second half of the book is the trial, in which the prosecutor focuses less on the crime and more on making Mersault look like some unfeeling, inhuman monster. And without going into detail, I was on his side.

I don’t know what this says about me… but I found Mersault to be a sympathetic character. His life is aimless – he has no ambition or motivations, and therefore is really distant and removed from other people. He appears emotionless, for the most part. Now, he does a few things that I thought were in bad taste. But overall he’s just kind of doing his thing and I actually related to him a few times – such as his wish that the lady crying at his mother’s funeral would just shut up. I mean, I’ll be BAWLING at my mom’s funeral someday (I love my mom), but I have been in situations like that and wishing that people would just relax and be quiet.

I guess that Camus was writing about “absurdism”, and society’s attempt to impose rationality and reason in an irrational world. Seeing as how I’m one of the “shit happens” kind of people (rather than a “things happen for a reason” kind of person), I guess this struck a chord with me and I enjoyed it. Also enjoyable was the fact that the person who possessed this book before me (her name is Ruby, according to the inside jacket) underlined things and took lots of notes, probably for a class, and I had fun arguing in my head at some of her statements.

Have any of you read this? Because this would be a really fun book to talk to other people about. And I mean fun as in discussing human nature and me defending people who seem cold and callous, and probably most people not agreeing with me but that’s alright. Tell me what you think!

Sarah Says: 4.5 stars

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17 comments

  1. Oh, wow, thank you for linking to my review, I’m flattered. 🙂

    I don’t know what that says about me either, but I was on Meursault’s side, too, well as far as the trial was concerned. I didn’t approve of some things he did, but his character definitely makes you think.

    The part about him being emotionless and without ambition especially got to me; it’s interesting how people impose their believes of what someone should feel and how they should react in certain circumstances and how judgemental they can be to person who don’t meet their expectations. It makes you more aware of how not everyone feels/reacts the same or in the expected way and makes you question if that is necessarily bad. I would argue that it isn’t, it depends on circumstances.

    About the crying at a funeral: I was with Meursault there, too. Not everyone can express emotions and a lot of people are unable to respond to something tragic by crying, some people are just numb and some people might even laugh, that’s how our bodies cope with major stress. And I know it would get on my nerves if someone who wasn’t even family would cry louder (be too dramatic) over my loss. Although of course we know that Meursault couldn’t put himself into other people’s shoes, but still, I think that’s all the more reason it upset him.

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    1. “It makes you more aware of how not everyone feels/reacts the same or in the expected way and makes you question if that is necessarily bad. I would argue that it isn’t, it depends on circumstances.” YES. And I was with Mersault on the crying at the funeral thing too. And when they started criticizing what he was doing the day after the funeral – well, maybe that’s his grieving process! It’s so infuriating that they judge him for what’s basically just his personality. I think we still do that a lot today though.

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  2. Huh. I didn’t know that’s what this was about either. I love reading (but not owning) books that people have written in previously. I get to be all judgey of what they thought. The person who owned the copy of The Odyssey I read a few years ago, like, HATED Odysseus, and wrote a hundred mean remarks about him in the margins, and it made me happy to sneer at him. (Nicely.) (Sort of nicely.) (I mean like, who hates Odysseus?)

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    1. Seriously, how do you hate Odysseus? Weird. I would prefer to have an unmarked copy of The Stranger to keep, but I’ll probably keep this one too. The notes in the margin were interesting, plus mine are in there too now 😀

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  3. I read another Camus’ book in high-school, I think it is called Plague in English. It was interesting existentialist read, but I think I was too young back then and maybe Camus’ would click better with me this time around. Glad you liked this book – sometimes I feel like this type of authors get less appreciation than they deserve.

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  4. Sarah! I actually agree with you about this book! Or I at least don’t disagree! I don’t know that I sympathise with Meursault so much as that I’m sympathetic to the world view that he represents, even if I don’t necessarily think it’s a good way to live…

    Yeah, I had major thoughts about this, is what I’m saying! It was pretty awesome.

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    1. Aww, whaaaaat?! We have the same feelings on a book? Lol. I definitely thought that maybe you would’ve had a different perspective.

      I think I sympathize with Mersault mostly because it was just unfair the way they were all treating him, and you could tell he was so frustrated and kind of confused by it. He was surprised at the amount of hate people seemed to have for him, people he didn’t even know, just because he’s different. That sucked. I would suggest a future readalong for this so we could all talk about it and pick it apart, but it’s sooooo short.

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