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A worthwhile read
The Outsider - Albert Camus
Member Name: glasgowrachael
The Outsider - Albert Camus
Date: 25/07/10, updated on 25/07/10 (38 review reads)
Advantages: very interesting themes and symbolism
Disadvantages: description gets confusing
Albert Camus was a French Algerian author, born in 1913, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Well known (and often hated) amongst language students, "L'étranger", or "The Outsider", is probably his most famous novel, published in 1942.
I was given both the French and the English versions to read for my French course, and will admit I cheated and mainly read the English one. However if you can read to a decent level of French I would definitely recommend having a try, as some of the imagery is a lot more effective when you read it in its original form.
The Main Character
The main character is a man called Meursault, who is the narrator. From the very beginning, it is obvious that he is not a usual character. He appears to have absolutely no emotions. The very first page begins - "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know." That he is describing his mother's death in such a factual way instantly sets off the reader's alarm bells - what's wrong with this man? It's made more and more obvious throughout the book that he has a very unusual outlook in life. Not even past the first page, he describes talking to his boss, asking for two days off to attend his mother's vigil, and he says to him, "It's not my fault" - possibly the strangest reaction toa mother's death. Surely he would be too distressed to even think about justifying himself? But, as you will find it throughout the book, he's not a normal person.
Just a warning if you're planning to read this book, this paragraph will give away too much.
The plot revolves around Meursault's everyday life to begin with, and personally I found it was quite hard to get into the first few chapters. It follows his attendance at his mother's funeral, and the lack of emotions he displays while there. His girlfriend, Marie, is also introduced. He meets her while swimming the day after the funeral, and instantly begins a relationship with her. It can hardly be called a romance - Marie is confusingly understanding and forgiving of his personality, and it doesn't come across as a real relationship. When Marie mentions marriage, Meursault says that he would marry her - if she wanted to, as if it was unimportant.
The main event of the book is when Meursault goes away to the beach with Marie and his neighbour Raymond. Raymond, a questionable character who had previously beaten up his girlfriend, has a problem with some 'Arabs', family of the beaten girlfriend. This is when Meursault's unusual character comes to a climax and he gets himself in to a lot of trouble.
The book was overall a worthwhile read, especially if you're into a lot of the imagery that Camus uses to portray the story. It takes a few chapters to get interested, but once you're in, you're in. The symbolism can be a little hard to analyse - I needed to do a lot of research when I had to write about it - but it's short enough that you don't get frustrated, and in the end, you don't need to understand every line.
Summary: worth the time if you really enjoy reading
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