Friday, June 28, 2013

A great book raises many questions

It's easy to get lost in Albert Camus's short novel The Stranger. At just a little over 100 pages, one can easily finish it in one sitting. That's what I did actually, this morning when I couldn't go to work.

The Stranger is the kind of book that, as soon as you close it, several profound questions pop up in your head. First, the title. Why title it as The Stranger, when it clearly is about Meursault, a man thrown into the spotlight when he commits an unexplicable act of murder.

Meursault, whom I'll label as our novel's hero for lack of a better term, shoots an Arab one sunny day on a beach midpoint in the novel. When he's asked by the judge for his reason, he just said it's because of the sun. WTF?

The Stranger is a kind of novel that lets you dig deeper, forcing you to "read between the lines" if you will. Perhaps it's Meursault's enigmatic nature that makes the reader feel that he doesn't understand the novel's protagonist at all.

Yes, it's a bit of a challenge deciphering Meursault's reasons for his actions. In the first part of the novel, the reader is informed that his mother has died in a home for the elderly. Why does Meursault refuse to see his mother in a casket? Has he reached a point of being unfeeling toward his parent? The novel doesn't clearly state his rationale. And this is one of the reasons the book will make for a good discussion.

Also, why does Meursault refuse to show any deeper feelings toward the woman he's seeing. He appears to enjoy his company. When he's asked if he loves her or if he wants to marry her, he tells her no. But later on, he thinks that he probably doesn't have any real objection to him being wed to her.

In the last few pages of The Stranger, Meursault is sentenced to be beheaded. Naturally, a priest goes to him during his last remaining hours. And what does our Meursault do? Why he laughs in the face of the priest and throws him out! He feels that everything doesn't matter at this point.

The Stranger is a kind of novel that requires introspection. Reading the final page doesn't complete the reading experience. It forces you to question, to think, to rationalize. And that I think is a hallmark of a great book by a truly gifted writer.

Read this book if:
  1. You like your novels short but pithy.
  2. You're into philosophical novels.
  3. You'll read anything by someone who has won the Nobel Prize.


Rise said...

It also came out as The Outsider, maybe a more descriptive title.

Peter S. said...

Oh, yes! It would be nice to read that translation as well.

Overthinker Palaboy said...

bibilhin ko yan. haha

Peter S. said...

Go, go, go, Overthinker Palaboy!