Last year, I read The Stranger by Albert Camus (L’Étranger, published 1942, translated from French by Matthew Ward), and the book struck me as odd and a bit disturbing given the themes. Overwhelmingly, the story seemed to say that life is meaningless. I read it again this summer for my book club, and I think it’s a book improved upon rereading. I was also surprised by how much more I enjoyed it after discussing it with a group.
A similar change in my opinion of a book happened when I read The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung, published 1915, translated from German by Willa and Edwin Muir) for my September book group. Reading it myself, I felt like I just didn’t “get” it. It was rather disturbing: a man has changed in to a huge insect and the family locks him in his room, embarrassed. But once I started creating discussion questions and as I sat with my book group to discuss it, I felt the actual meaning of the story come in to focus. It’s a fascinating story given the right context.
Neither book is a favorite for me in retrospect. Each book is rather depressing. But I was reminded how important it is to discuss literature with others in order to better understand it. It reminds me that classics are worth reading, even if we don’t particularly enjoy the book. After a bit more work, a classic that at-first was confusing can be a rewarding read. Continue Reading