My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s probably worrying that on some base level I often seem to identify with, or even idolise, many of the near sociopathic characters I come across in media and literary fiction. If I hadn’t recently murdered my psychiatrist in cold blood, it’s probably something I’d bring up with her in our next session, but hell, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
What’s interesting about ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus (translated from French into English by Matthew Ward) is sheer intrigue of becoming emotionally invested in a character who is seemingly unable to become emotionally invested in anything. The story begins with our protagonist, Meursault, learning of the death of his mother (to which he seems strangely indifferent and perhaps even mildly annoyed). I began reading under the assumption that maybe Camus is trying to convey Meursault as being in some kind of latent emotional shock at the passing of his Maman, and that perhaps his true feelings would become clearer as the story progressed.
If I’m honest, I really had no idea what this book was about when I went into it, and I’m glad I didn’t because it might have sullied what was an incredible plot twist at just under half way through the novel. A plot twist which took my by such surprise that, for me at least, it completely changed the tone of the book in every way. What begins as a simple story of a man embarking on new relationships after the passing of his mother, soon unfolds into a tale of crime, punishment and an analysis of personal morality.
I was already enjoying the book, but with a simple dash of murder, I found myself unable to put it down. Meursaults inner narrative is so cold and haunting that it’s almost beautiful. You find yourself entangled in the sheer confusion of a character who either can’t understand, or doesn’t care about the social ramifications of his actions. Meursault is a man who doesn’t morally view the world in the same light as mainstream society, and his thoughts are compelling and brilliantly written right up until the final page. It’s a fantastic read, and highly recommended.