13. The Stranger by Albert Camus

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13. The Stranger by Albert Camus

Post  twunny on Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:13 pm

This is considered something of a classic and required reading. I'd read Camus' The Plague some time ago. I wasn't really sure what to expect here. I had only heard that it was French and existential, something along similar lines to some of the works of Jean-Paul Sartre.

It turns out that it is a first-person narrative of a man who feels somewhat detached from society. At first glance, it seems to me that it must have been very difficult to write a character who lives in his own head so much and still have the reader care about him. But I did care. I was fascinated by his journey through his mother's funeral and other circumstances. I found him immensely sympathetic and interesting, even though he seemed so standoffish and disillusioned. Maybe that says something about me...

There are a lot of layers to this work. It is very modern in the way it deals with being confused by the world. Without ever attempting to explain why he is so stoic, the storyteller isolates the main character from everything that is going on around him. And it leads to terrible consequences. And then the character has to deal with the fallout, on the terms of the society that damaged him (for lack of a better way of thinking about it at the moment). He can't play by his rules. He is confused, lost, and hopeless.

I should point out I read an "American" translation, as opposed to the "British" one that apparently dominated the scholarly landscape until about 20 years ago. I think that helped. The character was so detached already, I think that any stuffiness of language and style would have made the book unapproachable.

As it was I found it engaging. Intellectually, literarily, and emotionally. It's not the type of thing that someone should just dive into, and I think that perhaps it's a mistake for teachers to assign it. It's the kind of thing someone needs to come to in their own time, in their own way. But I liked it a lot.

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