This one is for you, Maddison.
The Stranger is a French book about a man, Meursault, who looses his mother and in the same week begins a new relationship and kills a man. Meursault is imprisoned for a year, tried, and, just after the last page, is beheaded via guillotine.
Let’s hear from the cast:
Fin: I really like the character study of the “ever present” man. Meursault is a simple and complex fellow. He lives in the present so fully that he almost has no capacity to reflect and as he says he has no imagination and when asked by the chaplain “…[the chaplain] wanted to know how I pictured the other life.” to which Meursault replies “One where I could remember this life!”(2).
Meursault has a certain cold morality that is guided by his ever present awareness that everyone dies and nothing matters. This leads him to make some questionable decisions but never does he ever become cynical nor malevolent.
I struggled with his death sentence. Meursault wasn’t a good guy. He wasn’t a bad guy either. However, as a reader, his sentence helped give me closure as it was the logical ending we’ve been headed towards since the beginning:
“Then I felt like having a smoke. But I hesitated, because I didn’t know if I could do it with Maman right there. I thought about it; It didn’t matter. I offered the caretaker a cigarette and we smoked.”
A small act of generosity at a vigil, one with no intention, is one of the hinging points in the path that leads to Meursault’s death. From the beginning Meursault was going to die, he knew it, and that was the only conclusion his life can have.
Louie: The premise of the character is something I can identify with, being a ghost., is that he is a man living a life waiting to die and in that recognition of his own impermanence he can see positive aspects of every situation and person from befriending his neighbor Raymond who, I’m sure from how he treats his mistress, has no other friends to his own death as an opportunity to “…[open} myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”(3)
The Stranger is always present, like a ghost, but more often felt rather than directly interacted with and is more like a presence rather than a person. This theme of having almost no control over his own fate is accentuated during his trial.
“In a way, they seemed to be arguing the case as if it had nothing to do with me. Everything was happening without my participation. My fate was being decided without anyone so much as asking my opinion.”(4)
Overall, we enjoyed it. Well worth a recommendation.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s review of “The Stranger” and I apologize for the late posting. Feel free to let me know if you like this format of reviews, point out all the issues with my mad drawing skillz, or whatever else in the comments below. Also if you enjoyed, please like and share.
Next book on my reading list is an old classic and dear friend:
One of the few sci-fi books/series to make my list of favourite books and a damn good one to add to your collection if you have not.
- The first line from the Vintage International translation by Matthew Ward. The choice in choosing to let Maman remain untranslated is a not-surprisingly hotly debated subject.
- p. 119-20
- p. 122
- p. 98