- Series: The strager
- Paperback: 123 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (March 13, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679720200
- ISBN-13: 978-0679720201
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1,240 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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
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 the Library Binding edition.
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Top customer reviews
Clearly, I hope you realize, that I am jesting as I don't think or believe myself capable of what Meursault did or allowed himself to do or did not stop himself from doing. But this is the mood of most of the book, which is completely in the form of Meursault's narration. Camus' writing is truly exquisite. This short novel just breezes by easily and is the perfect complement to the nature of this character who is like a tumble weed, or perhaps a dog with his nose to the ground just moving in whatever direction he is inclined or stimulated to pursue. His mother died so, okay, his only concern is whether his boss is upset because he needs to take a day or two off to travel in order to attend the funeral. In retrospect, it is perhaps surprising that he even bothered to go to the funeral, but I suppose that this is intended to suggest that our narrator has at lease some sort of ethical frame. Emotionless he endures the vigil, then goes back home to Algiers and meets a woman he knew a while back and quickly begins an affair the day after his mother was buried. And so on it goes. His friend wants to beat up his girlfriend because he thinks or imagines she is cheating on him and wants Meursault to write a letter to entice the young woman to visit him. Well, he just became friends with this thug so hey, why not, he'll help him. And in one scene and one incident after another this stream of consciousness depicts an utterly amoral individual that is strangely estranged from everyone and everything and, perhaps, most of all, himself.
The Stranger is one of the most famous philosophical novels ever written, but this review is merely a sort of existential reaction a couple of days after reading this remarkable book. Even the edition I read, the Everyman's Library edition of Matthew Ward's translation and intro by Peter Dunwoodie, is a beautiful little volume that feels precious to hold in one's hands. I do not imagine what I have to say has not been said by many others, but my reaction is that this semiconscious existence, just living seemingly absent any self-reflection of love or death or friendship or work is shockingly changed at the end of the book. Quite suddenly, as Meursault is coming to grips with his impending execution he is also dealing with the religious exhortations of a chaplain-priest. This non-reflective amoral but generally nice young man who ultimately ends up killing someone--triggered largely on account of the hot sun was beating down on him on a hot summer late morning or early afternoon in Algers, suddenly, finally having had enough of the priest, enters into a highly structured rant on his philosophy of the absurd. And death or taking a life is apparently, for some, as meaningless as living it.
I do not think that there is much question that The Stranger is a great piece of modern literature. And the philosophy of the absurd his extremely important because--and I'm not sure if this is an oversimplification, like hot and cold absurdity and non-absurdity need each other so that the difference is explainable. And this may explain my own discomfort with this book. There also needs to be a foundation for understanding the distinction between absurdist philosophy and mental illness. I think that Foucault addresses some of this in Madness and Civilization. Meursault could have been criminally insane or merely criminal. His philosophically sophisticated outburst at the end of the book, I think, reveals his sanity. I think this conclusion is forced upon us unless we want to defend the indefensible or excuse the inexcusable. Who can possibly doubt that life is brimming with absurdity? Meursault, however, falls into the pit of darkness where boundaries and distinctions are ignored at great peril because--while they are often murky and ambiguous, they are also, in principle, the only things that not only distinguish absurdity and amorality from what is not absurd or is not amoral, but are, indeed, the very things that make philosophy and theater of the absurd possible.
The story is full of metaphor and discovery: the sun and light and heat bristle throughout the pages of the story. "She said, 'If you go slowly, you risk getting a sunstroke. But if you go too fast, you work up a sweat and then catch a chill inside the church.' She was right. There was no way out"
The book is short (125 pages) and written in the short sentence, staccato style of writers like Hemingway. The read is easy but the meanings are deeper than the words on the page. By the end the effect is a story told in the detail of two or three times the pages that Albert Camus uses. It is brilliant and thought provoking and well worth the read!
(Matthew Ward translation)