The title of this book by Albert Camus is sometimes translated as The Stranger but I think The Outsider hits the mark better. It was first published in French in 1942. It’s a quick read at just 117 pages long.
To begin with I was wondering why this is a classic but it wasn’t long before I understood. It’s written in two parts and is an enjoyable but at times uncomfortable read, especially part 2.
It begins with the death of Meursault’s mother, she had died in the care home which he had put her into when he was unable to care for her himself. He travels to the care home for her funeral and it’s evident that everyone is disappointed in Meursault’s reactions. He isn’t able to behave in the expected fashion and he doesn’t want to pretend and put on a show for the mourners who are the other inhabitants of the care home and the warden.
In fact that’s Meursault’s problem, he doesn’t conform to what society expects of him, possibly nowadays he would have been diagnosed as being somewhere on the autistic scale. I did really feel for him though as I’m not keen on being manipulated by people who worry about what things will look like to other folks. Meursault takes it all a wee bit too far though.
On returning to his flat after his mother’s funeral Meursault inadvertently gets involved with one of his neighbours, Raymond, and you just know that this is going to lead to Meursault’s downfall.
In Part 2 Meursault is on trial for his life, but even so he isn’t able to grab any of the lifelines which are thrown to him by his lawyers, much to their annoyance. He could easily have wriggled out of his problem, a ‘normal’ person would have come up with several reasons for his behaviour, but Meursault just can’t bring himself to explain things and the jurors turn against him and see him as a monster.
I’ll be looking out for more of Camus’ books.