The Stranger, by Albert Camus

Book 49

File under “books everyone else read in high school”, so I will not worry about the spoilers.


Act One:  We are introduced to our anti-hero.  He lives in Algiers, lives in an apartment, vaguely socializes with some of his neighbors.  His mother dies, he attends her funeral and hooks up with a girl shortly thereafter.

Act Two:  Our anti-hero is sucked into the drama of a neighbor’s life and ends up shooting a man to death.  I say anti-hero because he is decidedly unlikeable.  The critics describe him as “amoral”, but I believe he has a moral code of some sort.  For example, it doesn’t appears as thought he ever tells a lie – even when it will benefit him.  And by “benefit” I mean save his ass.

Act Three:  The murder trial.  There is no question that our anti-hero shot a man to death.  If I understood the legal stuff, it seems to be a question of where on the spectrum of Self-Defense-Murder Two-Murder One the act falls.

The novel is also referred to as “absurdist” or “existentialist” in studying the meaning of life and/or failing to find it.   I find that particularly interesting because our anti-hero is so entirely lacking in self-reflection.  As close as he comes is right at the end when he determines that he is about to lose his life because he failed to cry at his mother’s funeral.

Because I have so little interest in philosophy (not proud of that) I had two main observations:

  1. Bret Easton Ellis must have been a big fan, because the main character reminds of a lot of American Psycho in his emotional detachment.
  2. If this novel shows anything close to the reality of the French justice system, (after reading The Monster of Florence) I want no part of Europe.  Incidentally, I doubt that it does.

I’m not sorry that I read this.  In fact, when I am old and was to revisit philosophy, I might return to it.  But I can’t say that I enjoyed it.


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