The Stranger

The Stranger - Albert Camus, Matthew    Ward I'm not quite sure I know what to say about "The Stranger". It holds an honored place in the canon of western literature. It expresses Camus' philosophy of absurdity and establishes his singular voice. "The Stranger" is unique in its story, characters and style, all of which commend it to the reader of fine literature. On the whole, though, it is an ugly book. The main character is incapable of entering into a meaningful relationship with another human being, hence the book's title. He exists on the periphery of human experience, observing the actions and emotions of others but never quite understanding them. "It doesn't really matter," he says to himself over and over. He uses women for carnal pleasure without seeing them as real women, fellow creatures to be loved and understood. He helps a petty man take terrible revenge on an ex-girlfriend without understanding the wickedness of the act. He objects to what he sees as the injustice of his imprisonment without showing remorse for his own hideous crime. His only accomplishment is to come to a realization of the absurdity of life and embrace the absurdity with what Camus would have called courage and honesty. That is all there is in his world.As such there is nothing of beauty here, nothing edifying, nothing noble. It is stark and uncompromising in its hopelessness. This is Camus' point and he is true to it. Once can only hope that, though he espoused such a worldview, he did not really live it consistently. Read this book if you want to understand much of the hopelessness and desperation in the world today, but do not expect to be encouraged in any way.