Friday, June 17, 2011

The Stranger, 27/100

Seeing as how Albert Camus' The Stranger is supposed to be one of the most widely read novels of the 20th century, I figured I should probably get around to reading it already. It's a short novel filled with so many -isms -- existentialism, nihilism, absurdism -- that it's like taking Philosophy 101 (which I haven't taken). But as with most widely read novels, it has also been widely commented upon. So I won't add much of my own commentary. Be grateful because I would have NO idea what I was talking about (Nietzsche? That's the guy with the awesome mustache, right?).

What I will say is that every single word of the novel stuck with me. There's not a superfluous sentence in the whole book. And the courtroom and imprisonment scenes had my palms sweating, even though I already knew the story and what would happen. I would like to read it over again right now, but I need to move on.

So here are some passages I marked:

Yes, this was the evening hour when--how long ago it seemed!--I always felt so well content with life. Then, what awaited me was a night of easy, dreamless sleep. This was the same hour, but with a difference; I was returning to a cell, and what awaited me was a night haunted by forebodings of the coming day. And so I learned that familiar paths traced in the dusk of summer evenings may lead as well to prisons as to innocent, untroubled sleep.

...on a wide view, I could see that it makes little difference whether one dies at the age of thirty or threescore and ten--since, in either case, other men and women will continue living, the world will go on as before. Also, whether I died now or fort years hence, this business of dying had to be got through, inevitably. Still, somehow this line of thought wasn't as consoling as it should have been; the idea of all those years of life in hand was a galling reminder!

That was unthinkable, he said; all men believe in God, even those who reject Him. Of this he was absolutely sure; if ever he came to doubt it, his life would lose all meaning. "Do you wish," he asked indignantly, "my life to have no meaning?" Really I couldn't see how my wishes came into it, and I told him as much.

I picked up and old newspaper that was lying on the floor and read it. There was an advertisement of Kruschen Salts and I cut it out and pasted in into an album where I keep things that amuse me in the papers.

A mid-20th century tumblr!


  1. I initially heard of The Stranger through a song called "Asa Phelps is Dead", which is by a punk band from Chicago called the Lawrence Arms. (I might be an uncultured swine.)

    The song ends with this being spoken:

    "So close to dying, maman must have felt free then and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her. And I felt ready to live it all again, too. As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope for the first time. And in that night, alive with the signs and stars I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself - so like a brother, really - I felt that I had been happy, and I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators at my funeral, and that they greet me with cries of hate."

    I read the book a few years ago, but I'm thinking that I should probably read it again. I gave my copy to someone else. I don't think she finished reading it: she said it was causing her anxiety!

    Anywho... I felt that I liked the book when I read it back in 2007. I think I'd probably enjoy it a lot more now, get some more/other meaning out of it, perhaps!

    ...I'll see what I can do about that!

  2. Oh cool. I looked up the song on youtube. That's the very last paragraph in the book.

    It's funny that it caused your friend anxiety! I was fine up until he is imprisoned and put on death row. Then I got a bit anxious. Scheduled death...that sort of thing freaks me out quite a bit. But I can see all sorts of ways the story could put one off. Beating dogs and women and shooting people because it's a sunny day and what-not.