I could not put down the 140-page novella The Stranger by Albert Camus after I picked it up, despite the fact that it is odd and rather disturbing. Camus’ Nobel Prize-winning writing style was absolutely beautiful: it reminded me of both John Steinbeck’s in The East of Eden (which I thought was a perfect combination of showing without telling: he painted a picture) and J.M. Coetzee’s in Life & Times of Michael K (it was sparse and simple; reviewed here). And yet, Camus’ subject showed that life is pretty meaningless.
The back cover gave up the main crux of the story, but reading it was still worthwhile. I’ll try to avoid spoilers: A man living a pretty meaningless, boring life, finds his life changed dramatically. And yet, to him it doesn’t matter. Life is life because he lives it. Does it matter how he lives it?
Albert Camus was a philosopher often given the label of “existentialist.” According to Wikipedia, he resisted that label and instead claimed he delved “deeply into individual freedom.” Reading The Stranger after my brief introduction to philosophy last month was interesting because it brought the philosophy of ethics to light. The main character of The Stranger acted without considering what was ethically right or wrong. He acted based on impulse, and failed to regret what he did. His inability to express remorse translated into his downfall.
Albert Camus’ writing was amazing, and while the book was odd and somewhat uncomfortable in its themes, it certainly stayed with me, despite its brevity.
For more information, Wikipedia discusses the philosophy behind The Stranger (with spoilers). While the story was straight forward and not unnecessarily full of philosophy, to completely understand the character, one needs to understand the philosophy. I defer to others for that; I’m sure I missed a lot.
What is the strangest book you’ve read recently?
If you have reviewed The Stranger on your site, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.