H o o k e d o n b o o k s RE­VIS­IT­ING a CLAS­SIC The Stranger

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‘ Mother died to­day. Or maybe yes­ter­day; I can’t be sure.’ Pierces through you, doesn n’t it? The open­ing lines of Al­bert Cam mus’ The Stranger ( also ti­tled The Out­sid der in some trans­la­tions) is sear­ing an d evoca­tive, even though many critic cs have ar­gued that the real essence of thet be­gin­ning has been lost in trans­lati ion ( the orig­i­nal novel was in French) ). These lines also set the tone for thet novel, which is an un­apologe etic ex­am­i­na­tion of the hu­man min nd in mod­ern times.

The prot ag­o­nist is a French Al­ge­rian boy Meursa ault, who re­ceives the news of his mother other’s s death through a tele­gram right at the be­gin­ning of the novel. This in­ci­dent sets in mo­tion a chain of events but The Stranger is not as much about a story as it is about a state of be­ing. As read­ers, most of us find com­fort in em­pathis­ing with char­ac­ters and the re­spec­tive moral uni­verse they in­habit. Ca­mus robs us of that op­por­tu­nity. There is noth­ing re­deem­ing about Meur­sault or his life. By putting an am­bigu­ous char­ac­ter like this right at the heart of his nar­ra­tive,nar­ra­tive Ca­mus forces us to won­der if moral­ity can be tem­plated. The in­ci­sive­ness with which this ques­tion is ad­dressed makes it a mod­ern mas­ter­piece. The Stranger was rec­om­mended to me in my early 20s by a friend who thought read­ing this book would help me un­der­stand his ‘ mis­an­thropy’. At that time, I en­joyed it as a novel. To­day, I cher­ish it as a life les­son.

— Anamika Chat­ter­jee

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