• SumoMe

The Stranger by Albert Camus is a book I read in High School but did not appreciate until I recently re-read it last week. I remember the book was odd, but on a second reading there was nothing odd about it at all.

The first-person novel tells the story of Mersault–a stoic, heartlessly honest man who learns of his mother’s death by telegram. The first half of the work is a series of events, told in a sort of memory recall manner. By that I mean Mersault leaves out entire portions of the story that he found irrelevant or unimportant; where most novel narrators take pride in telling the entire story, Mersault found little importance in the mundane, which led him to paraphrase and omit.

After Mersault gets himself into trouble, the second half involves his reflections on the first half from a jail cell. The climax of the book involves a conversation with a chaplain which is the only time Mersault shows any sort of passion or emotion in the entire book.

The work and Mersault’s life leaves the reader with some very poignant conclusions. Mersault takes the position that all he did in life was make choices, and that’s all anyone else does. People die all the time, and his death will only be one among many, and people will continue on in their lives making choices only to come to the ultimate same end of it all with death. Whether one dies of age or the guillotine, the end is the same, and any choices one makes can never go beyond the absurdity of the fact that everyone dies and how one chooses to reach that end is of little importance.

Now, Camus explains these concepts much more articulately than I can, mostly because I don’t want to give too much away. Anyone who reads this book is certain to be struck by these thoughts, and in a way they make a lot more sense than when I was young and naive. I plan to read this book again and again as I age, and each time I know I will take something new away from the experience–a different point will strike me each reading.

This book is important to anyone, not just men, because of these questions. Additionally, the way in which Camus tells this story is entirely unique and lead the Paris newspaper Le Monde to rank it as the most important book of the 20th Century.

Have you read The Stranger before? Share your thoughts in the comments below.