Friday, November 21, 2008

The Stranger


I once again have to apologize. I would've finished this book way earlier, but lately, on the train I've been spending more time with my iPod and at home have been spending more time with Family Guy and nanowrimo. It's a very thin novel, smaller than "Veronica Decides to Die". It's not as interesting or colorful (I don't know really know why I'm comparing the two), but it is still a good novel. It is considered a classic existentialist, absurdist
tracttreatise although Albert Camus himself said that he was not an existentialist. Themes of the value of life and it's meaning play very important roles, although I don't think I agree with what Camus says about life through those themes.

Meursault is an ordinary man with a job, a woman (or sexual partner, really), neighbors and a friend that he lives with and encounters on the daily basis. In the beginning of the book, his mother passes away, and he attends the funeral. The majority of the narrative after this is a contemplation on Meursault as a completely indifferent person to a world that just seems to drift by. This is until, one day, on an Algerian beach, Meursault confronts a nameless Arab, an enemy of his friend Raymond, and shoots him dead. From here on, through a trial of his murder, an examination of Meursault's character and his attitude towards morality is examined.

I had a passage that I was going to put up here, but it's at the end of the book and I thought it perhaps be better saved for the personal reading experience. But it basically summed up Meursault's view of life, a view in which nothing mattered since we would all, at one point in time meet our deaths no matter what we did. On a literary level, the feel and writing style of the book accurately portrays this view, as the story progresses and feels almost like a blur of characters and events that pass by. It almost becomes irrelevant as to whether Meursault engages with them or not, because it always just feels like he is the objective observer to life shifting and grappling with itself, even when it involves him.

Most of the problems I had with the book were not actually with the story itself but with what Camus was trying to say about fate and what matters, so this post wouldn't really be considered a review of the book. Meursault talks about how nothing really matters, not his mother's death, or the shooting of the Arab or anything. Because in the end, nothing is what we become. Back into the grave, perhaps a temporary life in memory, and then complete disintegration. In prison, a chaplain comes to him and tries to tell him to turn to God, but Meursault refuses, saying that he only had a little bit of time left in his life, and he didn't want to waste it on God.

Meursault eventually realizes that he had a hand in where he's ended up, and that fate was not control solely by some outside force alone. In him believing that there is no real, definable truth, only perspective, is also true. But with that said, he can no longer argue that nothing matters. Because what does matter depends on your own views or your personal aspirations. Had Meursault chose to accept God in his life, a new system of values and beliefs would've been introduced, and there'd be a world beyond earth to consider in his actions. Life seemed like a blur because he made the personal choice to deaden himself to it. An intellectual pursuit in the activity, attitudes, atmosphere, or spiritual life of the world around him would've awaken something in him at some point. Or so I believe.

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Bollocks, what's your bloody take on things then?