Translated by Matthew Ward
First published in 1942
This is a most unfortunate choice of covers (especially since it’s the edition that I own). It reminds me of the cover for Beat the Reaper, which you may recall was my least favorite cover for 2011. This is the cover for the original US edition, which is way better, in my opinion:
Also, another note on book covers…I know many of you raved about Bad Marie last year. Although I never read it, I saw the cover plenty of times. Enough times, in fact, that when our main character acquires a girlfriend by the name of Marie, I instantly visualized her as the woman from the cover of Bad Marie. Kinda strange, since I’ve never read that book, but it just goes to show how much of an impact covers can have on me.
So. The book. I have no idea what inspired me to buy this book. But it’s been hanging around for awhile, so I put it on my list for the A Classics Challenge. And about the best thing I can say is that it was short (which means it’s not even the end of January and I can say I’m making progress on my challenges!). The worst thing I can say is that Camus was a philosopher. I should’ve known better, because philosophy and I have a long history of dislike. I just don’t get it. To the point that it makes my head hurt when I try.
Where was I? Oh yeah…the book. Our narrator, Meursault, is a bit detached from the world. When the novel opens, his mother has just died. He goes to the funeral, but he’s more overwhelmed with tiredness than grief. In the days following his mother’s death, he becomes involved with Marie, and his neighbor Raymond, a mean man obsessed with beating his mistress because he believes she cheated on him.
When the mistress’s brother (they are Arab, and none of the Arabs are given names (also…did I mention this book is set in colonial Algiers?)) starts to follow them, Raymond gets a bit twitchy. Eventually there is a confrontation and Meursault ends up shooting a man. Similar to his mother’s death, he shows no emotion or remorse. And it’s this detachment and lack of emotion that results in his eventual conviction and death sentence.
Evidently there’s a lot of absurdism and maybe a touch of nihilism and existentialism reflected in the book, but if I tried to explain any of that I think my brain would explode. There’s also Meursault’s denial of God and his eventually acceptance that life just has no meaning.
Like Meursault’s lack of emotion about life, I pretty much had no emotional response to this book. While it isn’t the worst of the classics I’ve ever read (hello, Brothers K), it didn’t do much for me, other than put me to sleep (actually, I think that was the cold I was coming down with, but with 5 pages left to go, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open).