“The Stranger” – Camus Review

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:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy omnibus!

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.

 

Footnotes:

  1. 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.
  2. p. 119-20
  3. p. 122
  4. p. 98

Stream of Consciousness Theatre presents: Pride

When I’m faced with writer’s block I frequently turn to a classic mode of writing “Stream of Consciousness” to help process what I’m looking to say or to say what I want sans auto-judgment and being Pride Month(1) and with St Louis Pride just passed it felt like a good time to present my first SoCT post.

I discovered this style years ago when reading a wiki page about Finnegans Wake for which I’m pretty sure I was following up a lead in my on-and-off again House of Leaves analysis project(2) and again I ran across it when I met a friend of a friend over facebook (we never met in real life but we spent lots and lots of time talking in the year 2010, he was one of the few writer friends I’ve managed to make a connection with, unfortunately it wasn’t quite over our mutual enjoyment of language rather it was a bonding over a woman(3).  However he used to write these really long (1000+ word) SoCT soliloquies that were a real joy to read. Most of the time.

Then I got into a situation this spring where I was reading both Mrs. Dalloway and Infinite Jest at the same time and I got a real taste for the past and present of the style.  For those of you who haven’t read Mrs. Dalloway: it’s a challenge.  Its a story about a lady, Mrs. Dalloway, planning to throw a party and the general going ons of her day.  The fun part is that Woolf jumps from narration to internal monologue to a new pov character to a different part of town and back and back again without paragraph breaks or other indicators to tell the reader “HEY I’M CHANGING GEARS NOW”.  On the other hand Infinite Jest is much more clear with formatting choices but it has its fun too with its 100 or so pages of footnotes and subsidized time both act as deeply disengaging elements to the story, if I remember right DFW mentioned he liked using these elements to keep the reader just one the outside of the story like a frequent reminder that the reader is engaging in a story that is uneven and sometimes non-linear similarly to how stories form in life rather than a polished beginning to end narrative that can be consumed with a lack of discernment challenging the reader to question what the story is about which I began to interpret less like DFW challenging the reader and more DFW asking the reader for help to discover the actual meaning of the story.  Whether it was a story about the pursuit of happiness in America or an examination of consumer culture or a eco-political statement about how we as a species handle pleasure.

I really don’t have a good conclusion for this one this week folks.  However I do have a few  announcements:

If you liked this remember to subscribe and share.  If you have book recommendations, feelings (strong or weak, your choice) on Stream of Consciousness style, or just want to tell me about the really strange thing your cat did this weekend, please leave a comment.  I really enjoy audience participation and look forward to reading and replying to your comments.  Thanks and remember: Never be afraid to have pride in who and what you are.

-Fin

Footnotes & Errata:

  1. Etymologically speaking, June is an interesting month to be Pride since it comes from the word “lunonis” meaning “of June” in reference to the Roman Goddess Juno who is mother protector of community, youth, vigour, combat, &c.
  2. Of those who know about the project, I am still working on it albeit slowly still no ETA on completion though.  However the major setbacks of that project have been addressed (women, whiskey, and worries).
  3. These sort of “heartbreak bro-mance” relationships seem to be a common thread over the years with me.  At least three guys I’ve made friends with was due to the mutual acquaintance of a woman whom has broken both of our hearts to different degrees.  None of these relationships have lasted longer than a year.  Just like the rest of my relationships.  How do I relationship?

Picture source: Dream Theater – Train of Thought