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The Stranger Hardcover – February 23, 1993
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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The Stranger is not merely one of the most widely read novels of the 20th century, but one of the books likely to outlive it. Written in 1946, Camus's compelling and troubling tale of a disaffected, apparently amoral young man has earned a durable popularity (and remains a staple of U.S. high school literature courses) in part because it reveals so vividly the anxieties of its time. Alienation, the fear of anonymity, spiritual doubt--all could have been given a purely modern inflection in the hands of a lesser talent than Camus, who won the Nobel Prize in 1957 and was noted for his existentialist aesthetic. The remarkable trick of The Stranger, however, is that it's not mired in period philosophy.
The plot is simple. A young Algerian, Meursault, afflicted with a sort of aimless inertia, becomes embroiled in the petty intrigues of a local pimp and, somewhat inexplicably, ends up killing a man. Once he's imprisoned and eventually brought to trial, his crime, it becomes apparent, is not so much the arguably defensible murder he has committed as it is his deficient character. The trial's proceedings are absurd, a parsing of incidental trivialities--that Meursault, for instance, seemed unmoved by his own mother's death and then attended a comic movie the evening after her funeral are two ostensibly damning facts--so that the eventual sentence the jury issues is both ridiculous and inevitable.
Meursault remains a cipher nearly to the story's end--dispassionate, clinical, disengaged from his own emotions. "She wanted to know if I loved her," he says of his girlfriend. "I answered the same way I had the last time, that it didn't mean anything but that I probably didn't." There's a latent ominousness in such observations, a sense that devotion is nothing more than self-delusion. It's undoubtedly true that Meursault exhibits an extreme of resignation; however, his confrontation with "the gentle indifference of the world" remains as compelling as it was when Camus first recounted it. --Ben Guterson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
The new translation of Camus's classic is a cultural event; the translation of Cocteau's diary is a literary event. Both translations are superb, but Ward's will affect a naturalized narrative, while Browner's will strengthen Cocteau's reemerging critical standing. Since 1946 untold thousands of American students have read a broadly interpretative, albeit beautifully crafted British Stranger . Such readers have closed Part I on "door of undoing" and Part II on "howls of execration." Now with the domestications pruned away from the text, students will be as close to the original as another language will allow: "door of unhappiness" and "cries of hate." Browner has no need to "write-over" another translation. With Cocteau's reputation chiefly as a cineaste until recently, he has been read in French or not at all. Further, the essay puts a translator under less pressure to normalize for readers' expectations. Both translations show the current trend to stay closer to the original. Marilyn Gaddis Rose, SUNY at Binghamton
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Insight: We all probably know someone who is like this Mersault. He is detached like an Outsider. He's a wandering generality who finally wakes up when he sentenced to death. The end adds meaning to life.
Most of us covet meaning or the need for answers against a Universe that doesn't care.
The Message: Live life as if you were condemned to die. Don't wait for a crisis to live your life like it was meant to be.
The Appeal: Very lean and simplistic. Only 150 pages and not one of them is wasted.
My curiosity kept me going after the first page. Probably one of the greatest opening lines of Modern Literature. Definitely woke me up and take notice that each and everyone of us is surrounded by Absurdity.
Check out my book blog review
Part of the problem I have in this review is not wishing in any way to be "a spoiler". In any event, this book is written in a very sparse manner. There are times the protagonist is devoid of feelings and I think that the author coveys that in this arid style. I need to state that I was left disconcerted about the similar lack of description of one character that died in the novel. It seemed cold and dehumanizing to THAT person that I did not appreciate.
This next part RISKS giving something away about he novel. If one is interested, one may wish to read the novel first before reading the next part of this review.
This novel was written in 1942. France was occupied by Germany. The question in my mind is "Did Camus feel like an outsider in his own country?"
So what? Good question... Well in 1940, Richard Wright authors an excellent African American Protest Novel, "Native Son". Clearly Richard Wright was trying to convey the anger of an African American who may feel an outsider in his own country. Stylistically, Richard Wright is much more descriptive. His novel is perhaps twice as long as The Stranger.
Native Son has a "third person" narrator. The Stranger has a "first person" narrator. This may be an important difference as a reader cannot be really sure of all of the innermost thoughts of Native Son's, Bigger Thomas. However I was struck by what I perceived to be a similarity between the perceived feelings of Bigger Thomas, especially at the end of the book, and the stated feelings of the protagonist in The Stranger.
(SPOILER ALERT) But please compare the visits to the two prisoners at the end of each novel.
Above I stated that I felt this is a great novel, that I did not love the novel. Again, I feel the same way about Native Son. Native Son was much a more painful reading experience for me personally. But otherwise, I cannot help but be struck by my similar reaction to both novels. Thank You...