review: the stranger

27 February 2013

En la niebla 

book info:
on sale: now
copy from: library
pages: 123
review written: February 22-

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.

Mersault is an average French Algerian who learns that his Maman has died. From this event spurs a chain of events that leaders the reader into the  most unexpected ending.

my thoughts:

I first heard about this book from a friend who read it for school, and then I found it on a list of cancelled readings that were supposed to be for my literature class (my teacher told me to cross out several titles that we definitely wouldn't be reading, and this was one of them). Intrigued, I checked it out at the library and had  just a tiny idea of what it's about (just that summary up above) and to be honest: I thought it'd be a disappointing, boring classic. Nope, I was wrong. Going in with an open mind and maybe even no expectations is the recommended way to approach this book.


Albert Camus (1913-1960) was a really good looking, incredibly intelligent and unique writer. (picture: that's him on the right. What a gorgeous man) I'm in love. Like Mersault, the protagonist of The Stranger, Camus was born in Algeria. He lived a life of poverty his single working mother (his father had been killed and died a war veteran). There were two world wars going on, independence struggles of colonised countries and so on. Camus's early life affected this work, The Stranger, in that Albert Camus's only knows one thing about his father: that he had once become violently ill after watching a public execution. This, as I've just discovered now, must have been one of the main reasons why this book was written. He was deeply interested in philosophy, which reflects in all his literary works. Later on in life, he established himself as a talented, world famous writer, playwright, and journalist. The Stranger is the first work I've read that's written by Camus.

Though this book is only just a little over a hundred pages, it took me about a week to read it. The length is little, but the emotional and philosophical impact of his words weighs the book down to make it seem like it's a three hundred page novel or something along those lines. At first, it seemed to me that  the French novel was just like my perception of French films: without any obvious plot. It seemed boring and slightly off and hard to understand told from the detached first person of Mersault. Later I would see that that's exactly how it's supposed to be.

Something absolutely magical about Camus's writing is his talent at writing little snapshots of life and describing nature in such a way that I would hear the lapping waves of the sea shore and feel the sun soak in my skin. The story, and Mersault's telling of the story, is very physical and appeals more to the five senses than anything else. Camus's style of writing is indeed French-like, focusing more on life as a whole rather than the individual. It is more physical and more fairy-tale like for Part I. Part II adds the layers of psychological depth that makes one understand the point of Part I.

Apart from the actual writing, the story itself is something I absolutely loved: it being so uniquely written that I felt my mind expand and my sense tingling and my whole mind on fire. Albert Camus is a sly, cunning writer that has the ability to make me think about so many philosophical, life-changing thoughts in just a few of his words. I felt this way because I, the reader, was given in simple sentences and plain statements told from Mersault's point of view. But instead of his explaining psychology or his reflections on his actions: I was left to decipher and interpret him (the character). And this is a freedom that readers are rarely given because the author wishes to portray his/her point of view and get the reader to understand his/her point. Camus's writing  is a freedom that we readers are rarely given and I absolutely love it. The narration of the story is completely...indifferent. And this precisely is the magical part, because it's exactly what Camus was trying to portray (or at least, what I think he was trying to portray) by telling the story. Mersault believes in indifference. In fact, he is indifferent, to everything. Both the story and the narration of the story and the point of the story all boils down to: indifference.
"As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the benign indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again."
All in all, this is an unforgettable classic that I'm so happy to have read! Recommended for an older teen audience and ages above that! For anyone younger than 15-16, this may just be some boring book.

This book receives all five trees! I'm coming out with a new rating system (in which it's out of a scale of 6 instead of 5, and this book would be a 5.5 on that scale :D I'll replace the trees with the new scale once it's ready!)


1 thoughts:

  1. Fantastic review! I remember reading this book in college, and not being particularly enamored by it, but I think it was definitely a personal preference because it is a classic and your review perfectly captures all the reasons why it is!

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