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( Read Epub ) ì L’Étranger × Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed the nakedness of man faced with the absurd First published in English in 1946 now in a new translation by Matthew Ward. I don t know what to do with these stars any I give stars to books and then I think, god, you give five stars to everything, people will think you are terribly undiscriminating so then I give four stars or even three stars to some books Then I look back and it turns out that that I ve given four stars to Of Human Bondage and honestly, how could I possibly have thought it was a good idea to give that book less than five stars It is the absurdity of human conventions that has us doing such things.Now, that is what is called a segue, from the Italian seguire to follow For the last thirty years I have studiously avoided reading this book I have done that because for the last thirty years I have known exactly what this book is about and there just didn t seem any point in reading it In high school friends one of them even became my ex wife told me it was a great book about a man condemned to die because he was an outsider Later I was told that this book was a story about something much like the Azaria Chamberlain case A case where someone does not react in a way that is considered to be socially appropriate and is therefore condemned.But after 30 years of avoiding reading this book I have finally relented and read it At first I didn t think I was going to enjoy it It didn t really get off to the raciest of starts and the character s voice it is told in first person was a bit dull He is a man who lives entirely in the present, how terribly Buddhist of him although, really there doesn t seem to be all that much to him.My opinion of the book began to change at his mother s funeral I particularly liked the man who kept falling behind in the march to the cemetery and would take short cuts Okay, so it is black humour, but Camus was or less French so black humour is or less obligatory.I really hadn t expected this book to be nearly so funny as it turned out I d always been told it was a ponderous philosophical text and so, to be honest, I was expecting to be bored out of my skull I wasn t in the least bit bored.A constant theme in my life at present is that I read classics expecting them to be about something and they end up being about something completely different And given I ve called this a constant theme then you might think I would be less than surprised when a read a new classic and it turns out to be completely different to my expectations I m a little upset about this one than some of the others, as I ve been told about this one before, repeatedly, and by people I d have taken as reputable sources although, frankly, how well one should trust one s ex wife in such matters is moot.I had gotten the distinct impression from all of my previous discussions about this book that the guy ends up dead In fact, this is not the case he ends up at the point in his life where he has no idea if he will be freed or not The Priest who comes to him at the end is actually quite certain that he will be freed Let s face it, he is only guilty of having murdered an Arab, and as we have daily evidence, Westerners can murder Arabs with complete impunity The main point of the book to me is when he realises he is no longer free He needs this explained to him because life up until then had been about getting used to things and one can get used to just about anything But the prison guard helpfully informs him that he is being punished and the manifestation of that punishment is the removal of his freedom Interestingly, he didn t notice the difference between his past free life and his current unfree one The most interesting part of the book to me was the very end, the conversation with the priest The religious often make the mistake of thinking that Atheists are one thing I ve no idea how they ever came to make this mistake, but make it they do Given that there are thousands upon thousands of different shades of Christians from Jesuit Catholics to Anti Disney Episcopalians it should be fairly obvious that something like Atheism without any organised church or even system of beliefs could not be in anyway homogeneous.I am definitely not the same kind of Atheist as Camus To Camus there is no truth, the world is essentially absurd and all that exists is the relative truth an individual places on events and ideas This makes the conversation with the priest fascinatingly interesting To the priest the prisoner who is facing death is by necessity someone who is interested in God You can play around with ideas like the non existence of God when it doesn t seem to matter life is long and blasphemy can seem fun but surely when confronted with the stark truth of the human condition any man would turn away from their disbelief and see the shining light.Not this little black duck Now, if I was in that cell I would have argued with the priest too but I would not have argued in the same way that Meursault argues No, I do not believe in God, but I do believe in truth, and so Camus arguments are barred to me.Meursault essentially says, Look, I m bored, I m totally uninterested in the rubbish you are talking now go away Now, this is a reasonable response What is very interesting is that the priest cannot accept this as an answer The world is not allowed to have such a person in it if such a person really did exist then it would be a fundamental challenge to the core beliefs of the priest So, he has to assume Meursault is either lying to him or is trying to taunt him But it is much worse he is absolutely sincere, he is not interested in this truth.I don t know that the world is completely meaningless, it is conventional rather than meaningless That those conventions are arbitrary decided by the culture we grew up in doesn t make them meaningless, it makes them conventional I don t think I would like to live in a world where people go up and kill Arabs pretty much at random and with impunity, but then again, we have already established this is precisely the world I do live in My point is that it would be better if we did adhere to some sort of moral principles and that these should be better principles than he should be killed because he didn t cry at his mum s funeral Camus is seeking to say that all of our moral principles in the end come to be as meaningless as that we judge on the basis of what we see from the framework of our own limited experience And look, yes, there is much to this but this ends up being too easy.The thing I like most about Existentialism, though it isn t really as evident in this book as it is in the actual philosophy although this is something that Meursault is supposed to have grown to understand sorry, just one sub clause even though this wasn t something I noticed at all while reading the book, was the notion of responsibility I didn t think in the end Meursault was all that much responsible for his actions than he had been at the start But I do think that responsibility is a key concept in morality and one that seems increasingly to be ignored.Better by far that we feel responsible for too much in our lives than too little better by far that we take responsibility for the actions of our governments say than to call these governments them I m not advocating believing in The Secret but that if one must err, better to err on the side of believing you have too much responsibility for how your life has turned out, rather than too little.So, what can I say I enjoyed this much than I expected but I m still glad I waited before reading it, I really don t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of it at 15 as I did now.
Albert Camus 1942 classic Here are the opening lines Mother died today Or, maybe, yesterday I can t be sure The telegram from the Home says YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY FUNERAL TOMORROW DEEP SYMPATHY A telegram, not a personal phone call or someone on staff from the old people s home actually making the hour trip in person to inform her only son, but a terse three line businesslike telegram cold, insensitive, almost callous a telling sign of the mechanized times.Then first person narrator Monsieur Meursault has to deal with his manager so he can attend his mother s funeral I have fixed up with my employer for two days leave obviously, under the circumstances, he couldn t refuse Still, I had an idea he looked annoyed, and I said, without thinking Sorry, sir, but it s not my fault, you know Ha Camus subtle irony, a statement on how death is an irritating inconvenience in the urbanized modern world of shipping offices, where time is money and the highest value is utility and efficiency.Then, when Meursault sits beside the Home s keeper in the room with his mother s coffin, we read The glare of the white walls was making my eyes smart, and I asked him if he couldn t turn off one of the lamps Nothing doing, he said They d arranged the lights like that either one had them all on or none at all Most revealing This is the only time at the Home Meursault actually asks for something And true to form as archetypal keeper, the answer is standard binary, that is, all or nothing, black or white, on or off certainly not even considering engaging in a creative solution on behalf of Meursault, who, after all, is the son Reading this section about the Home s officious keeper and his world of expected behaviors and standardized, routinized procedures reminds me of the doorkeeper in Kafka s tale, Before the Law.The next day, the day of the funeral procession, Meursault observes, The sky was already a blaze of light, and the air stoking up rapidly I felt the first waves of heat lapping my back, and my dark suit made things worse I couldn t imagine why we waited so long before getting under way This is one of a number of his remarks on his sensations and feelings, and, for good reason Meursault s way of being in the world is primarily on the level of sensation and feeling.Back in the city and after taking a swim with Marie, a girlfriend he ran into at the local swimming pool, there s a clip of dialogue where Meursault relates While we were drying ourselves on the edge of the swimming pool she said I m browner than you I asked her if she d come to the movies with me that evening She laughed again and said, Yes, if I d take her to the comedy everybody was talking about, the one with Fernandel in it Meursault does acquiesce to her request Big mistake Turns out, according to society s unwritten rules, taking Marie to Fernandel s farcical comedy on the very next evening after his mother s funeral was a colossal no no, completely unacceptable behavior.We as given laser sharp glimpses of various facets of our enigmatic first person narrator as he moves through his everyday routine in the following days and evenings, routine, that is, until the unforgettable scene with the Arab on the beach, one of the most famous scenes in all of modern literature Here are Camus words via Stuart Gilbert s marvelous translation The Arab didn t move After all, there was still some distance between us Perhaps because of the shadow on his face, he seemed to be grinning at me.I waited The heat was beginning to scorch my cheeks beads of sweat were gathered in my eyebrows It was just the same sort of heat as my mother s funeral, and I had the same disagreeable sensations especially in my forehead, where all the veins seemed to be bursting through the skin I couldn t stand it an longer, and took another step forward I knew it was a fool thing to do I wouldn t get out of the sun by moving on a yard or so But I took that step, just one step, forward, And then the Arab drew his knife and held it up toward me, athwart the sunlight.A shaft of light shot upward from the steel, and I felt as if a long, thin blade transfixed my forehead At the same moment all the sweat that had accumulated in my eyebrows splashed down on my eyelids, covering them with a warm film of of moisture Beneath a veil of brine and tears my eyes were blinded I was conscious only of the cymbals of the sun clashing on my skull, and, less distinctly, of the keen blade of light flashing up from the knife, scarring my eyelashes, and gouging into my eyeballs.Then everything began to reel before my eyes, a fiery gust came from the sea, while the sky cracked in two, from end to end, and a great sheet of flame poured down through the rift Every nerve in my body was a steel spring, and my grip closed on the revolver The trigger gave, and the smooth underbelly of the butt jogged my palm.This novel poses such provocative questions, I wouldn t want to spoil any of those questions with answers, semi original or otherwise Rather, my suggestion is to read and reread this slim novel as carefully and attentively as possible.One last reflection one of my favorite scenes is where Meursault enters the courtroom and makes the following observation Just then I noticed that almost all the people in the courtroom were greeting each other, exchanging remarks and forming groups behaving, in fact, as in a club where the company of others of one s own tastes and standing makes one feel at ease That, no doubt, explained the odd impression I had of being de trop here, a sort of gate crasher Such a comment on the dynamics of the modern world a man is about to go on trial with his life in the balance and he is the one who feels out of place.How many times in life have you felt out of place entering a room Have you ever considered yourself a stranger to those around you Perhaps our modern world can be seen as The Stranger, thus making each and every one of us strangers Love or hate it, Camus short novel speaks to our condition.One final reflection I would not be surprised if Albert Camus read this prose poem by Charles Baudelaire THE STRANGERTell me, enigmatic man, whom do you love best Your father, your mother, your sister, or your brother I have neither father, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother Your friends, then You use a word that until now has had no meaning for me Your country I am ignorant of the latitude in which it is situated Then Beauty Her I would love willingly, goddess and immortal Gold I hate it as you hate your God What, then, extraordinary stranger, do you love I love the clouds the clouds that pass yonder the marvelous clouds. The book is simply written and a rather quick read, but the depth Camus manages to convey through this simplicity is astounding I think a problem a lot of people have with this book is that they fail to look beyond the whole what is the meaning of life message While an interesting question, the book raises so many other philosophical questions beyond this What I found the most interesting of these is what truly defines humanity or makes someone human During Meursault s trial, he is constantly accused of not showing remorse and therefore as being cold and inhuman He is most definitely human though, just rather detached This raises the question of whether one should be expected to exhibit certain characteristics in certain situations to keep their humanity Also it raises the question of whether much of our emotion is created by ourselves or the expectations of others to exhibit certain emotions in a given sitatuion The book is also an indictment on people s efforts to dictate other people s lives We are constantly told what is right and as a means to justify our own sense of what it means to be human We often impose these characteristics upon others, expecting them to fulfill similar traits and characteristics, as they have been already imposed on us It is in a way, a self justification of our actions as right or humanly Constantly, Meursault is being told he must live and or act a certain way, whether it be by the judge, his lawyer, or the priest Once he doesn t conform to these measures, he is marginalized and called inhuman this is an attempt on the part of the others to rationalize their own ways of life and understandings If they manage to declare him inhuman , it allows them to call themselves human and justify their own means of living.In the end, this book is one that raises many questions than it answers, but in true philosophical fashion, they are really questions without answers.