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A masterpiece of literature: L’étranger – Albert Camus

The Stranger is a novel written by Albert Camus and published in 1942.

It is one of the author’s cycle of the absurd telling the story of an ordinary man subjected to the absurdity of existence and the human condition.

In a first person narrative, mostly conducted in the past tense, the reader follows Meursault’s life for a year, from the announcement of his mother’s death to his conviction for homicide.

Albert Camus wants to emphasize the pessimism and absurdity of the human condition by portraying a passive man.

The book opens with one of the most famous lines in 20th century literature, ‘Yesterday, Mother died.’ In this line, Meursault’s feelings about the death of his mother are established – her death was more a fact than an emotional trigger. As the first part continues, he is caught up in the attempts at helping a friend, Raymond, get revenge for his girlfriend cheating on him. Meanwhile, he has entered into a ‘friends with benefits’ relationship with Marie, but really only sees her as a way of satisfying his desires. Raymond’s plan to emotionally hurt his girlfriend works too well, as a few days later he is wounded in a fight with the girl’s brother and an Arab friend. The next day, Meursault takes Raymond’s gun and walks down the beach. Encountering the Arab man from the day before, and seeing the glimmer of a knife, Meursault shoots him five times. Despite having killed a man, Meursault only comments on the fact that the sun was annoying him.

In the second part of the book, Meursault is on trial for the murder of the Arab man. All the while, the court really only wants to see that Meursault regrets taking another life. After all, this is a French court, and the man was a native Arab. However, Meursault refuses to give that sort of validation, obsessed instead only with the shape of the dress that Marie has worn to his trial. The prosecutor says that he is a heartless, soulless murderer, but the defense counsel seems confident Meursault will be acquitted. However, the lack of remorse swayed the court, and Meursault is given a death sentence. He ignores the overtures of the priest sent to comfort him in his final hours, saying that no one has the right to judge him. He finally views his death as a symptom of the world having the same indifference towards him as he had towards the Arab.

AUTHOR

Kenza Benohoud

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