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Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
The Stranger is a haunting, challenging masterpiece of literature. While it is fiction, it actually manages to express the complex concepts and themes of existential philosophy better than the movement's most noted philosophical writings and almost as well as Dostoyevsky's Notes From the Underground. This is a new kind of literature. The story in and of itself is rather simple, but the glimpses into the intellect and feelings of the protagonist are the sources of the magic of this novel. M.Meursault is a normal man in Algiers, France. When we meet him, he is on the way to his mother's funeral, where he says very little, expresses no remorse over her death, and immediately returns home. The next day, he goes swimming, meets Marie, takes her to see a comedy that night, and spends the next few weeks living his normal life and occassionally seeing Marie. He ends up getting indirectly involved in a dispute between his neighbor Raymond and a girl who did him wrong, and the conflict culminates in an encounter on the beach between Raymond, Meursault, and the girl's Arab brother and friend. Raymond is cut with a knife, but the whole episode seems to be resolved. Meursault, though, decides later to take another walk on the beach because he is too worn out to go inside and rejoin his friends, and somewhat inexplicably he ends up killing one of the Arabs. The second half of the novel examines Meursault's thoughts in relation to his trial and sentence; interestingly, he is prosecuted as much if not more for his moral character than for the crime of murder itself. Basically, Meursault does not care about anything, does not feel anything for anyone (including himself, for the most part).Read more ›
When I first started reading `The Stranger' by Albert Camus it seemed rather dull. It's a first person account from a somewhat bland character named Meursault, the titular `Stranger'. While working my way through the book I had to wonder if an alternate translation, `The Outsider', would be more appropriate for `L'Étranger'. Meursault is a Frenchmen living on Algeria but in no way is he a stranger. He has a circle of friends, a job and even a girlfriend. What sets him apart from humanity is his possibly pathological indifference to just about anything whether it be abuse of a dog, abuse of a woman or even the death of his own mother. Not that he engages in abuse it's just that he seems unaffected by the suffering of others. Other descriptions I've read on this book have described Meursault as honest to a fault with this being his downfall. I'm not sure that gives people the correct impression. Meursault's honesty is not the kind where you tell a fat woman she's fat. His downfall is more his inability to feign sorrow, regret or empathy. When his girlfriend asks if he loves her he considers it and answers "no" without any thought that the answer might be painful to hear. About half way through the book, in a bizarre set of circumstances, Meursault ends up killing a man and when asked by the police if he feels regret he says he never looks on the past with regret and in this case feels only vexation. There is no evident malice only utter insensitivity.
Philosophically The Stranger is one of the most intriguing and moving books I have ever read particularly the final act where Meursault confronts the priest who attempts to lead him to the Christian God in the last days before his execution.Read more ›
Although Albert Camus had achieved some fame as a journalist in his native Algiers in the thirties and as a writer for the French resistance during WW II, he first achieved an international critical reputation with the publication of this classic novel in 1946. The portrait of the detached, unfeeling, uncommitted, amoral, perpetually abstracted Meursault is one of the most haunting in 20th century literature. For many, it is the supreme 20th century literary depiction of nihilism. Unquestionably it is one of the premier literary efforts of the century, though Camus managed several other books just as powerful and superb in their own way, in particular THE PLAGUE, THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS, and THE FALL. Meursault reminds me so much of figures from the paintings of Manet. In painting after painting, Manet depicted individuals alone in crowds, failing or refusing to interact or even acknowledge the others in the frame. In one famous painting, a lower middle class girl sits alone in her own little orb, sitting beside an upper class gentleman, neither acknowledging the existence of the other, both self-contained, seemingly detached from the busy world surrounding them. Behind them, a barmaid drinks a beer, equally oblivious to everyone and everything around her. They might all be on separate desert islands. Manet repeats this in painting after painting. Meursault seems almost as if he had stepped out of one of those paintings. He can at least communicate with others, socialize with them, but he cannot express strong moral sentiments or develop affectionate (as opposed to sexual) attachments. This is not a happy book.Read more ›